Follow Your Path

Follow Your Path with Joel Grimes

I’m on a mission. For some unexplained reason, I relish in seeing others experience the joy of being an artist and living their dream of making a living with their camera. Hang out with me for any length of time, and I will ask you a lot of questions. Such as: What do you love to do more than anything on the planet? How many non-paid, non-client self-assignments do you do a month? Are you working on a body of images in a series? How do you feel if someone tells you your work sucks? What are you doing to market your work? My goal is to get photographers to get off their butts, get out, and create their own path.

I attended my first photography class back in 1972. I was a freshman in high school, and at the time I had no idea that an elective would set me on a life long journey. In college, I struck gold with my very first photography teacher. He began my first day in class by making this statement: “Photography is not just a way to document the world around you, but it can open the door to be an Artist and have an outlet for the creative process.” After that, I was hooked, and for 42 years, I have been chasing photography as a creative process.

The photographic process can often be a challenging world in which we navigate. There is this tug-of-war that happens between the technical and creative side of things. Most of us gravitate to one side or the other. In years past, I generally gravitated toward the technical side of things because it was more tangible, something I felt like I could master. The creative world seemed too nebulous, too subjective. I often wondered if I was on the right track, and if I was doing it right. This, in turn, fueled my insecurities. I used to think: maybe I’m not smart or talented enough. My experience now has revealed that I was not alone and that many of us have those same thoughts.

Once I started to master the technical, I soon discovered the most technically proficient photograph on the planet could be a complete bore. So, I had to accept the challenge of learning how to create images that go beyond f/stops and shutter speeds or flash meters and lighting ratios. My biggest problem was not knowing where I wanted to end up. I was like a dog chasing my tail. I looked to others to define my direction.

Today, as I am working through the creative process, I ask myself a question, “What do I like, what fits me?” What a revelation! This insight bridges the gap between the two worlds. If we can come to an understanding that the creative process is a thousand times more about what we like or dislike, the creative side explodes into a constant stream of ideas. Instead of the creative process being a gut-wrenching process, it can be the most natural thing we will ever do.

The challenge comes when we step outside of what happens to us naturally. We fail to see our uniqueness and move into the realm of trying to please those around us. Once I formulated what I liked, it was really easy to be me. The problem lies in my humanity, in my inability to believe that being me is what is right. When someone is born with curly hair, they generally tend to straighten it. And vice versa, if you have straight hair, you curl it. We all have been there. Our humanity tends to want what we don’t have. As a result, we tend to spend a great deal of effort doing the opposite of what comes naturally.

I have this saying, “Your intuition will never lead you down the wrong path.” Never! This is because your intuition is a culmination of a lifetime of testing what you like or dislike. You have repeated the process millions of times. You are conditioned to respond in a certain way. It’s built into the very marrow of your bones. Your intuition is the greatest asset you possess as an Artist. It drives you down a path of uniqueness. It separates you from the masses. You stand out because you are you. And being you is a whole lot easier than being someone else. Learn to trust your intuition.

However, being you, or working from your intuition, opens the door to criticism. Someone will not like what you like. Someone will tell you that you did it wrong, that you suck. You quickly discover that not everyone loves what you do. And you hate that feeling. Sometimes it hurts so much that you want to quit.

You learn that it is much easier to stick with the status quo. You follow trends because it is much safer. You hate to be criticized so much that you will avoid it at all costs. So you hesitate to let your intuition guide you, and you end up copying someone else’s uniqueness, and you blend in. You become boring, nondescript, and uninteresting.

So stand out, be you. Believe you have something to offer, that you are something extraordinary. Don’t be swayed by the critics, the insecure bystanders that don’t want you to succeed. Stay true to you, and let your intuition be your guide, and great things will follow.

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