What does it mean to move forward to you? Does it mean a progression? Does it have to be a sequence of events?
In science, moving forward is the physical act of motion of anything that reacts to the laws of physics or gravity. In psychology, moving forward can mean to move past a mental or physical blockade that holds us back from progressing in our lives. In quarantine, moving forward can be how to deal with both mental and physical blockages.
So how are you doing?
As an artist, sometimes moving forward can be something that we need to do in order to get into the right headspace to create our work. What often holds us back from moving forward is not anyone or anything, but the barriers and restrictions in our own minds.
I am personally as guilty as they come in setting my own mental and physical boundaries. There are days that I feel terribly lazy where I stare at the camera or the canvas and have so many great ideas, but just lack the energy to pick up the tools to execute them. But is it energy? What is interesting to me is the fact that if I force myself to pick up the camera for example, and to begin to photograph something -- anything really -- my mind changes its thoughts from whatever state it was in, and I begin to feel inspired as I play with new creations. Some often get trapped in the idea or notion that a certain type of content has to be in front of their lens or canvas in order to inspire them to make work. I have been there before also. But once we realize that all work no matter if in photographic form, or canvas in my case (many different medias can apply) is simply made up of our emotions, shape, light, shadow, texture, color, and what we make of it, a world of possibilities open up.
There are also experiences in our lives that hold us back. For me, it was often feeling like I was never good enough to make what I wanted to make. Or hearing from people in my life that I would never make any money doing things that I love doing. Sometimes emotional currency gets drained faster than tangible currency. And sometimes emotional currency holds value to us as creatives more than the physical.
For me, I paused photography for ten years in order to pursue corporate life. I made a living, sure. Was I happy? Hell NO! It took getting laid off from a supervisor position at a company that I was working at to give me the swift kick in the rear to take a chance at what I really wanted to do. At the time, I was emotionally drained also. I feared what it would be like without a consistent paycheck. I feared what friends and family would think of me without having a "job". I half heartedly applied for other positions similar to what I was laid off from, but my head and my heart were just not there.
There was a job that wanted to give me $12/hr to work for them in a position that would have been full time and mental torture, but my partner at the time proposed an idea to me that I could take the job, or I could pursue going back to school for what I really wanted to do in the first place, which was photography and art.
I thought it over for a while. If life ever gives you a large decision, it is a good idea to weigh out all of the pros and cons before jumping in head first. I have learned over the years that it is not fruitful to act based off of feeling or expectations. Neither often end up where we hope they would get us. But finding facts and weighing out the good and bad of the facts helps us to make informed decisions. I am not going to lie. As someone who wears my heart on my sleeve and is highly empath, it is no easy feat to do the homework persay. But taking the time, being kind to ourselves, and weighing the pros and cons has taken me where I needed to be verses a lot of pitfalls that I could have ended up in.
I made the decision in my early 30's to head back to college. I was going to be that "old dude" in class with all of the undergrads for the degree program that I chose. I was worried about how the younger population of the school would react honestly. I quickly learned though that my worries were unwarranted. Everyone accepted me with open arms, and was more than supportive in my back to school experience.
On my graduation day, I could have walked, but I was already traveling for work by my Junior year of college, and I did not see a graduation ceremony as more than a speed bump on the road to where I wanted to be. I did attend the stadium commencement where there were over 10,000 students in the entire college from all of the different areas of study, but I did not attend the local art school ceremony because I felt that I had achieved what I wanted to accomplish.
I spent some time with my family on graduation day, and I announced that I was NYC bound once again. I packed my things and said see you laters as I settled into an apartment in upper Manhattan where the mice and cockroaches both seemed friendly.
I had taught workshops before in my photographic career that I started before college, but I had never taught in a full time capacity. Post-school as one hunts for the proverbial employment status, you generally take the offers and weigh them in as you do with any other decision. I was offered a position at a local after work style school in Manhattan, and I feel as if my teaching career really began as that led to opportunities to guest lecture at NYU, FIT, and Adorama TV.
I feel as if teaching is sometimes more rewarding to me personally than photography or making art. Giving someone the gift of using their camera, brushes, or pencil to express is something that can set someone on a journey for a lifetime. Over the years, I have had countless students that have stayed in touch. Some go on to become working professional photographers, while others continue to document their adventures, or others share things like family memories. No matter the reason that people photograph, nothing is more rewarding to me than knowing that I helped someone to achieve their goal.
Working as a professional photographer on the other hand over the years was always more about the chase for me. If I achieved a technical skill set in my work, I felt accomplishment. Or if I got hired by a certain company, I also felt accomplishment. I realize these days though that all of the things that I ever have done as a "professional photographer" were just like any job though really. They were things that I did for money just like I did prior to ever returning to school to get an art degree so that I had a fancy piece of paper to say that I knew what the hell I was doing.
If there is one piece of advice that I could share with anyone in these times where we have more time alone with ourselves during lock downs or quarantine, it is to acknowledge who YOU truly are. I personally still struggle with my mind. I am not perfect by any means, and I will never be. But that is being human, and that is life. We deal with what we have been dealt as best as we can to accomplish what we can. And we grow.
The growth factor for me has been something that I am much more aware of and conscious of more so now than I ever have been before. In photography, there are a lot of individuals who think they can take a one hour class and learn photography. Can you learn basics? sure. Can you master or fully understand how to use your camera to capture what is in your mind in ALL circumstances that you ever may encounter? no. That takes a lifetime of experiences, successes, failures, excitements, disappointments, heart breaks, earth shakes, ups, downs, and the most important part -- consistency and finding what helps YOU to move forward.
For me, I know my vices. I can't change everyone or everything that I wish that I could. I can only work on my own goals and aspirations to become better than I personally was yesterday in hopes that it will lead to a better tomorrow.
Some things that I would suggest to anyone to move forward in these times and to learn yourself are: Meditation, using art/photo cathartically, music, adventures (within safety of course), neuroplasticity (change your environment or routine to sharpen your mind), and being honest with yourself so that you can be honest and authentic with others.
I firmly believe that we attract the energy that we put out into the world. If we are fake, we will attract fake into our lives. If we are open, accepting, forgiving, loving, and honest though, just maybe we can move the needle forward.