7 May

Self Awareness as a Barrier to Seeing

This article originally appeared in Outdoor Photography Canada – subscribe to the magazine to get my articles years before they appear here ūüėČ

One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome as a photographer was me. I was constantly sabotaging my own progress in photography by worrying about how I looked to others. This wasn’t about fashion (I have none) or the gear I owned (I have too much) or whether my hair looked good (when I had hair); it was about my preoccupation with what others might think of my photos.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

¬©Darwin Wiggett – The more self aware you are when you make images, the less likely you’ll make original work.

Whenever I went out shooting with others, I was always watching to see what they were photographing instead of concentrating on my own work. Were they seeing something I was missing? Were they using a lens I had not thought of? ‚ÄúWhat are those filters they are using?‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThat is a weird angle of view, maybe I should try that!‚ÄĚ In short my head was full of constant distracting chatter and my insecurities had me watching everyone else instead of concentrating on just making images. I was in a self-imposed competition.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

¬©Darwin Wiggett – This photo was made in direct competive response to the presence of a famous American photographer who was looking for Abraham Lake bubble photos. “I’ll show him – there is more here than just bubbles!”

Even when I shot alone, I was still thinking things like, ‚ÄėIf I do this funky thing with the flash then people will think I am amazing‚ÄĚ Or, ‚ÄúThis is awesome! I can‚Äôt wait to show people this image; they‚Äôll love it‚ÄĚ. In short, I was still worried about my audience. I was shooting for other people and not shooting for myself! And of course I never grew as artist.

©Darwin Wiggett - this image of Balancing Rock, Nova Scotia was made specifically to wow! The audience was considered first, my needs as an artist were put way don the priority list.

©Darwin Wiggett Рthis image of Balancing Rock, Nova Scotia was made specifically to wow! The audience was considered first, my needs as an artist were put way down the priority list.

Only in moments when others were not around, when I was not in ‚Äėtrophy‚Äô photography territory (the grand landscape in iconic locations) and when I didn‚Äôt have a camera with me did I start to notice things beyond my preconceptions of what a good photograph should be. I started to see the light and shadow patterns of the window blinds, the play of light through a water glass, the brush of light across the carpet. In short, in quiet moments, and in forgetting about how my photos would appear to others, I started to see.

©Darwin Wiggett - There are amazing images everywhere if you just close your mid to yourself and start to really see.

©Darwin Wiggett РThere are amazing images everywhere if you just start to really see.

In my nature photography, I still searched for the grand landscape and the big light and the rewards of accolades by others, but more and more that pursuit was ringing hollow. I was finding more pleasure in making images that were softer, quieter and more introspective. I found great pleasure in making something from nothing and that pleased my sensibilities the most. As soon as I let go of self I became a better photographer.

©Darwin Wiggett - This picture is not about getting 'likes', it is about making an image that pleases me.

¬©Darwin Wiggett – This picture is not about getting ‘likes’, it is about making an image that pleases me.

Now I just shoot for me and worry little what others will think of my photos. As long as the photos are true to my vision and represent who I am and what I saw, then the photos are a success for me. Letting go of self, competition, and concern for audience is really about letting go of insecurities. Finally, I can fully pursue my creative vision. And in doing so the joy of creation has come back full force.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett Рpersonal seeing at Abraham Lake

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett  Рpersonal seeing in the Canadian Rockies

©Darwin Wiggett - personal seeing in the Antarctic Sound

©Darwin Wiggett Рpersonal seeing in the Antarctic Sound

If like me, you suffer from a bad case of ‚Äėyourself,‚Äô then maybe it‚Äôs time to let go and make pictures purely for you and not with others in mind. Stop submitting so many images to online forums, stop hoping that others will love your work and start shooting for you. In the end you‚Äôll be a better artist for it. Happy shooting! (Thanks to Freeman Patterson and Samantha Chrysanthou for valuable lessons in ‘barriers to seeing’.)

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

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