I love a good quote to put things in perspective when I'm having a crisis of confidence in my creative output, or feeling like a project or goal is taking too long to reach. There are many lessons you, and I, as photographers can learn in these 5 quotes from famous artists, entrepreneurs, and sports stars. Get ready for a boost of inspiration and a mindset shift!
“You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them.” - Micheal Jordan
Arguably the most dedicated, talented, and obsessed sports person of all time, iconic basketball legend Micheal Jordan wasn’t short on confidence and self belief. This quote speaks to the defeatist side of me that can often come out when I want myself to believe that I am not worthy or capable of producing great work.
This feeling washes over many of us, especially creatives who have a tendency to be extremely critical of their own output, and doubt they will ever get to where they want to be. Our mindset has the power to take us from ordinary to exceptional, if we are willing to harness it that is. For years I have put myself and my work in a box, and kind of stayed there, squandering away any potential I might have had in the photography field. I wasn’t big on self belief, put others' work on such a pedestal and viewed my own as just something that added to the noise. How can anyone else value your photographs or your body of work if you yourself don’t believe it’s good?
One thing begets the other in this scenario too. As soon as I started thinking, hey my work isn’t bad, I have a style, a unique perspective on the world, my photography followed suit, and started to naturally get better. When children draw pictures (that are clearly no masterpiece) we give them the utmost encouragement and positive reinforcement, and guess what that does? It makes them feel good, draw more, and inevitably improve through practice. As adults, we seem to lose this ability to believe in ourselves and keep creating despite the outcome.
Take a leaf out of Micheal’s book, give yourself more “hang time” and start expecting some hoop shooting greatness next time you fire the shutter. Confidence can take you a long way, and often it’s yourself that is holding you back, not anyone else.
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” - Reid Hoffman
This quote from Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, is one I've heard on podcasts, read in all sorts of books, and seen posted on social media rather frequently, and I love it.
We often hear these little gems in the form of quotes from people who have built successful empires that have made them millions. We forget that they too were once a person like us, who simply had an idea or inkling to create something. You are certainly not the first person to pick up a camera and neither am I, which is all the more reason you should be sharing your work, now! In this image saturated world you don’t have the time or the luxury of waiting around for perfection before you apply for that photography job, submit your photos to a competition, start a YouTube channel, or launch a photography course or preset. Soon isn’t the right time, now, definitely is.
As Reid says in his quote, even if you are embarrassed by it, it’s better to get the ball rolling and have started taking a step towards your goal, than standing still and watching everyone pass you by, snapping up all the opportunities along the way. If you need a little push in this area I reluctantly, and cringingly suggest you go back and watch my first few videos on YouTube. I either waffle on about 35mm film stocks in my fridge, or swan around neighborhoods taking photos on my Nikon F60 unaware of pace, the algorithm or anything other than just sharing my photography and love for it. If I had waited until I got all that perfect, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now.
“Ideas are easy implementation is hard” - Guy Kawasaki
The man behind the marketing of the 1984 Macintosh computer and silicon valley venture capitalist speaks some real truth here. I’m sure Kawasaki has witnessed many brilliant ideas but seen only a handful make it to the other side. Implementation is by far the hardest part of any intention or idea. I have a theory that everyone probably has at least one really genius idea up their sleeve, however making that idea come to life, or getting it to translate in the right way is the difficult part.
This is relevant in our photography in a huge way. Being the visual artists we are, creative ideas are often abundant. Having ideas flowing constantly is great, don’t get me wrong, but a bunch of ideas on paper that never reach their intended end point are kind of futile. At the end of the day an idea is just an idea until you make it a reality. Did I just come up with a new quote? Feel free to reuse that.
Seriously though, this is worth giving some thought to and maybe reassessing that journal full of scribblings that you open every time you’ve had an idea for a location, a video/article topic, or photo project. Understanding that implementation is hard is also a handy thing to be aware of. You won’t get so frustrated with yourself when it takes months to get a series together, create a portfolio, collaborate with a model or photographer, and that's okay.
So get implementing, but know that this can be the grindy part, and the ideas are the fun part.
“Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself” - Seth Godin
The quote machine and acclaimed author of many best selling marketing books, Seth Godin is full of pearls of wisdom, especially when it comes to making your passion your job. Safe to say I think any side-hustling-creative can learn a thing or two from Godin.
Do you wait for someone to anoint you with opportunity, or do you manufacture it and then grab it with both hands? In 2021 I gave birth during a pandemic and became a mother. In turn, I lost so much of myself and my identity so I went into overdrive trying to get it back. This ended in me accumulating a YouTube channel that has just hit 5K Subs, a photography podcast of my very own, a writing opportunity at Kosmo Foto and Fstoppers, and also for the very first time in my life, I have sold prints of my work that hang on peoples walls all over the world. Do you know what I didn’t do to achieve all of that? Wait for someone to pick me.
For so long I thought the photography gods would give me a sign to let me know I was ready to sell my work, write about my passion for photography, and appear on others’ podcasts. Instead I went the Seth Godin route and picked myself. You should pick yourself too, because you are great, and waiting is boring.
“Art is what you can get away with” - Andy Warhol
The man behind the soup can. Andy did a bit of everything and he definitely utilized the talented artists around him, and spat them out when he was done with them. Obviously I am not suggesting we take on these cruel Warhol ways. But I am suggesting we look at that Campbell's soup tin and think, hmm am I making my work more complicated than it needs to be?
I am guilty of thinking that for my photography to be meaningful or even taken seriously, it must be born of some elaborate idea that is tied to another idea, that is holding all this weight. This in some cases is true of course, and as humans we are naturally drawn to a story or intrinsic meaning. However, don’t underestimate the power of both simplicity and the ability to re-purpose an idea or notion. Warhol was famous for his reworking of popular figures in our history, and items like the iconic soup can, but he did very little to really augment them and make them his own. What stood out was the idea and even the audacity of what Warhol was getting away with.
Art is complex, and these musings on Warhol and even his photography work could go on for paragraphs. What I am trying to get at here is that yes, he did something that in a way anyone could do, but the difference is, he actually did it. Have you ever sat there and consumed something, a video, a photograph at an exhibition, a set of photos on someone's Instagram account and thought to yourself, I could have done that? Well the difference is, you didn’t and therein lies the art, and as Warhol puts it, what you can get away with. So what have you gotten away with lately? For arts sake of course.
So What Now?
Hopefully this leaves you feeling inspired, motivated and ready for action. Or maybe it’s given you some food for thought on your own photographic journey towards greatness. Pick yourself, implement your ideas, don’t wait for perfection and go out and start getting away with it. Andy Warhol style.