Building on our last article, "The courage to be disliked", this time we delve deeper into what it means to be yourself.
Changes happen when we least expect them, catching us by surprise and altering the course of our lives or circumstances in ways we couldn't have anticipated.
Here is a story of resilience and determination that took place in Seattle. When Edith Macefield’s beloved town was going through significant changes and plans for constructing a massive mall were well underway, Edith found herself at the center of it all.
At the heart of the transformation, Edith's small, 100-year-old house stood in the way of the mall's development. A company eager to demolish it approached her with a tempting offer of one million dollars. They believed that the hefty sum would be enough to convince her to relinquish her property and make way for the grand project.
What happened? See below:
The construction had to progress around her, and Edith's home became a symbol of resistance, standing firm amidst the surrounding changes.
Despite immense pressure from the construction company and the peer pressure from her neighbors who had already moved out, she stood strong. She chose to hold onto the memories and history that her house held.
You say, what does this story have to do with photography?
Just a few months ago, no one was expecting to lose jobs because of A.I., no one anticipated such a massive disruption it caused in the creative sector. There is much talk these days about A.I. and the threat it poses to photographers. How can photographers survive against technology in the future?
The pressure is mounting, with people already claiming that A.I. will replace photographers and that original, real photographs are perceived as 'boring' compared to the imaginative A.I. art. Why buy expensive cameras when you can create new images within just a few seconds without leaving your comfy chair?
In a world where 90% of images will be A.I.-generated in the next few years (maybe even months?), the only way your photographs can stand out is as creations of the real you. To withstand this pressure, not fall victim to the trends, and continue doing what you love—photography—staying true to your photographic vision and yourself is essential.
In photography, to find our style, we often look for what others are doing, trying to replicate. But each photographer must choose how to convey their photographic vision. It is not a personal vision if one is merely recreating compositions and processing methods of those who came before them.
Looking at the industry in general, we are heading towards a visual conformity of images and styles, thanks to the popular trends and filters. Social media influences the behavior of the photographers, causing people to gravitate to the same iconic sites, techniques, styles, and compositions that seem to be popular on the internet (long exposures anyone?).
So how will you be able to prove that your photo is not A.I. and it is completely different from the visually similar photograph taken by a fellow photographer sitting next to you?
Most importantly, you won’t even have time to prove it. All you have is 3-5 seconds that people will see your photo before scrolling to the next one.
What makes one vision unique is understanding what your values are, what is driving and motivating your inner self, and how you reflect it in your images. Your authentic self is who you really are deep down. The part of you that doesn't care what others think. This is not easy though.
The truth is that the only authentic self that exists is the one that is present right this very second.
Everything else - your actions, reactions, your photographing style, the photographs you take, your view of the world - reflects your entire lifetime of being programmed.
With the help from your parents, siblings, peers, other photographers, teachers, influencers out there, and everyone else who had some kind of influence on you, your vision of your authentic self was formed. In other words, you are the product of who everyone else has told you to be. But it’s not authentic. To find your true self, you need to become aware of who you are now and who you want to become. The fact that we can discover ourselves suggests that there is more to us than we know, and we are mostly a mystery to ourselves. We do not know “all we are”.
Once you realise how the complexity and depth of your life programming are playing out today, you become aware. Awareness creates the "space" you need to redirect your attention. Any amount will allow you to begin your journey into your new life. As you learn to take full responsibility for creativity, style, vision without judgment, you can create any reality you want by consistently making better choices. This new evolving person is still your authentic self.
Ralph Waldo Emerson gives the best advice: “Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”
When in doubt, think of Edith Macefield. There will always be new technologies, new A.I., new photographers. Don’t bend.