Getting into photography for me was a process of tinkering and curiosity. I found an old camera and started experimenting with it in high school. But my tinkering started years before when I was in elementary school.
My first tinkering memory is from my grandma's house. They recently purchased a VCR, but it wasn't working quite right. So I fiddled, clicked a few buttons and - VIOLA - it was fixed. A few years later I was tinkering with the stereo system and accidentally fixed that, too. I remember my parents asking how I knew what to do to fix it ... my reply was an adolescent shoulder shrug, or something like it, because I had no idea. I just tinkered my way into the solution.
And I've been tinkering ever since. Tinkering with business start-ups, website design, painting. If it grabs my attention I'll tinker away. Sometimes for fun and temporary amusement, and other times it develops, you know, into my life's work (like photography).
To this day, when people ask me, like my parents did, how I knew to do XYZ, my response hasn't changed much: "I don't know. Got curious and tried a few things." That's not to say that all my tinkering is "successful"--there was the failed ad sales job, and the sports physical therapy internship (I nearly fainted at my own broken finger). But I can see how those experiments led me to where I am today and I'm grateful.
Im curious though why we've made it so difficult to fail in our society when the best entrepreneurs and life game-changers have royally blown it, and later written best-selling books on the topic. And I wonder, what holds you back from tinkering away at your curiosities? What could happen if you did? And perhaps more importantly, what will happen if you don't?
I'm angry with myself for the times I've let myself believe that creativity is a luxury, that it's a wasteful expense, and that it's completely unproductive. But here's the rub: as much as those thoughts are lies, there's a little truth in there, too, because we don't live in a utopian society. This is the paradox I'm learning to embrace in spiritual direction.
Just this morning I was talking with a person who was born, raised, and currently lives in Mexico. He was telling me that his city (and the larger culture of Mexico) doesn't have room for creativity or art. He said that in Mexico's second largest city there is only one functioning theater house. He said the "middle-class" don't have the funds to afford such "luxuries." And yet he believes it is a tragedy that it is inaccessible to everyone because it's so necessary for human flourishing to engage with beauty and art. There it is: it's necessary, but it's an economic luxury.
Therein lies the problem: due to economic realities we've elevated art to the elite. The solution is moving towards taking art-making and art-engaging back to the people.
For the people who need beauty the most--because it gives hope, encourages innovation, and creates more connected communities--have the least access to art. It's being taken out of education, and some museums are moving to "for profit" models of keeping their doors open. And those who have the most access to these galleries, museums, cathedrals, and opera houses have intellectually removed art from its context as a tool to lead to revelation, creativity, and awareness to the realm of anesthetized aesthetics.
So we need to do something dangerous: we need to create covertly together in our communities. We need to subtly and courageously bring beauty with us. We need to lean in to our creativity and show it off to the world. We need to spread the contagion of our unabashed and unashamed art-making. Dangerous not because it's life-threatening, but because it can be life-altering to you and those around you.
Think of the places in your community and life that are in need of beauty. Maybe it's at work, or in a public space where you live. Here are a few simple ways we can say yes today and take action:
What else?!?! I'm sure you all have a million great ideas. Share them with all of us in the comments here or on my Facebook page. I can't wait to hear what you come up with.
Today's post started as a Facebook post for my photography page, like they do every so often. Here's what I wrote:
I see it all the time in my photography practice - people longingly looking at my camera, as if I've done something magical to make a little money with it through the years. But it's not magic in the sense that it happened by chance, or only to the lucky few of us privileged to follow our passions in our work life. It is magic in the sense that when you touch it, something true about yourself becomes revealed through photographs that only you can create. #gomakemagic#whatdoyousee #goshootsomethingtoday
Let me continue by saying it's a work in progress. I have days where I doubt, where I fret, where I go look for a day job. It's hard 1) owning your own business, 2) running a business based on perceived luxury, 3) that requires you to put yourself and your craft out there for praise and criticism. In short ... it's not easy to follow your passion into your work life. So I'm not advocating that everyone quit their day job to go open their artisan business tomorrow.
I am advocating the demise of perceived elitism in the work of the arts. I create amazing photographs that change me, inspire me, and sometimes help others with my camera ... and so can you. Whether you start with your iPhone or your new DSLR, start. Because you, and the rest of your community, are missing out when you don't. When you leave your camera on the shelf, or in the car, we miss out on the world you see; we miss out on being transformed by your perspective; you miss out on the same, and the joy of sharing in it with those around you.
Given what I've learned about life and beauty and how we grow spiritually, art isn't a luxury -- it's often a deprived necessity. Beauty has a power to go in deep inside and transform us, bring us hope, and inspire courage. I need more beauty around me, and I wonder if you do, too.
Oh, you do? Great. Go make some today. Join me in capturing the truth and beauty of what's around you today--maybe a sunset, a piece of fruit on your table, the patch of grass outside your office. When you do, please share it with me on my Facebook page. I want to see what beauty you find today. I'll do the same.