At the beginning of 2020 I reached a bit of a crossroads as an artist and found myself asking a lot of questions. Questions such as: What is the actual purpose behind my work? What are the reasons I make photos, write poetry, and anything else I put my name to. Why do I do it? Why do I put so much time and energy into it? What is the point of it all?
For around the next 12 months I tried to find my way and conclude in my own mind what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and where I'm heading?..
Here is my thought process, my "thinking out loud" to how this year long conversation with myself went..
I suppose the first stage to my thought process in answering these questions, was just realising what I actually want to do as an artist. Removing all influence, trends and popular opinions - and just realising what I want to do myself.
I've always enjoyed creating from a very young age. Whether that was drawing, writing stories, designing, making music, writing poetry, or taking photos. There's always been something, always a new creative phase I went through.. but the two things that have stuck with me, that have always been my best forms of expression, were poetry & photography. Those things have never got old, never fizzled out, never stopped inspiring me. So I knew quite a while ago that these would be the arts I pursue.
My poetry has always been something that has come quite naturally to me. I rarely sit down and plan to write a poem, the subject and words I write always come out of an experience, an emotion, a moment of inspiration that quickly leads to words on a page.
With photography, it's slightly different. I suppose I am more intentional with some of my photo projects, with an idea or concept that I'd like to explore and create, to ultimately express, explain, preserve or give voice to something I feel is important. Although intentional with projects or photo-essays, I still place a huge importance on the process of making photographs, ensuring I take my time, slowing down as much as I can, naturally observing what I see and feel around me. I consider it vital that I really immerse myself in the authentic process to making any kind of work, so that I can better capture small parts of a story, finding a feeling, and then really understanding what it all means.
And I guess that was my answer to "what I want to do", in both of these art forms.. Really the goal has always been the same... I've always tried to find and encapsulate a feeling, a segment of time, to tell a story and to create something meaningful. And now I realise, that is the seemingly simple purpose of my work - in a nutshell.
Next I started to ask myself why? Why do I actually feel the need to create? Why do I go to the lengths that I do to make something? To tell a story? To express a feeling?.. Why do I want (or need) to do it so much?
The initial conclusion I came to was that I didn't really know why, I just knew that I had to do it. It was just something inside me that gave me the strong desire to put the things I think about, the things I experience, the things I feel, in to something I can actually see. Into something real, something that represents it.
But the more I thought about the "why", the more I realised that it's likely just down to the person that I am. I've always had a very active imagination, not one to sit still or let ideas pass by. From a young age I would write stories in my bedroom until the early hours of the morning, and I would often write poems or draw things from my imagination. Thinking back, it's true that I always needed to put my thoughts and emotions into something, so that I felt more at peace with them. I'd also just love documenting, or holding onto things to look back on in years to come, I was a little obsessed with it in fact, and I still am today, just maybe in a different form.
So I guess the "why" is to do with the person I've become, the mind that I live with, and my ongoing need to document, create and put my thoughts or emotions into something I can see and make some sense of before me. This in turn inspires me to continue, and helps me keep on top of my mental health.
After realising the "why", I suppose my thoughts then gravitated toward "who am I creating for" exactly? Is it always just for me? Or is it for other people? Who will want to see the things I create? Does it even matter?
I feel like this question gave me the most bother. Before asking myself that I was quite content in just creating with no real audience in mind - I suppose it was always just for myself, spontaneous and honest, with a sort of "take it or leave it" kind of attitude.
But then as I pondered on what others may think, or see it as, I started to question my work and what it all meant. For a number of months I felt like I needed to gain some sort of acknowledgment from people, some sort of acceptance or recognition for my work. And this kind of thinking actually made me doubt myself more and stop creating what I really wanted to. It made me care too much about what others might think, and even consider short-cuts on 'how to be recognised' as an artist, when in reality, there is no short-cut.
Thankfully I snapped out of that vicious cycle fairly quick and returned to my care-free creative attitude before it got much worse. In fact from then on, I've cared even less, created more freely, and felt more inspired than ever before. I now feel at peace with it all, happy to continue as an unknown, unrecognised artist, just making what I want to make.
The truth is, my art doesn't need to mean something to anyone else in this world but me. I do it for me, for my mind and my heart. I always have done. That should never change. My art is quite honestly INSIGNIFICANT, and that's okay. I do not need the world to say "yes, that is meaningful", "that is art", or give any acknowledgement to feel that what I create has more worth.. and that's not to sound arrogant or self-proclaimed, it's just to simply explain the reasons for what I do, and that I am happy in what I do, in what I make.
Realising this final part was the key to really finding my way. It made me feel fully content in my art, and eliminated any expectations, helping me accept my place and to just keep on doing what I love.
Since then I have found more of the things that inspire and drive me in this art, and also the things that do not. I found that there is no "destination" to my work, but instead a mindset that keeps me on the most meaningful road I can go down as an individual. A road where I do not compare my work, I do not judge it, I just DO IT, and let it give me what it gives me. I let it flow naturally. I write, I make photographs, I make something meaningful.
Ultimately, through my work I endeavour to preserve and give significance to the unseen & the ordinary. To find a feeling and capture small parts of a story, leaving room for thought & interpretation. Giving a voice to the obscure and documenting the fleeting moments of time in an honest, heartfelt and meaningful way.
In essence, to speak the insignificant beauty of life.