I was watching an interview with Liam Gallagher the other day. Do you know Liam Gallagher? He used to sing in a band called Oasis, which I always thought was a terrific band though, by most accounts, not nearly as terrific as Liam thought they were. This particular interview was from 2005 when Oasis was still pretty huge. In fact, the record they released that year, Don’t Believe the Truth, went triple platinum in the UK the first week it came out. So yeah, they were big. And Liam was (and still is) quite a character. The interview was recorded backstage at the the V Festival, which is a big summer music festival in the UK. The interviewer was asking Liam what he thought about some of the other bands and she mentioned how much one band in particular looked up to Oasis for what they stood for and for their confidence. And without missing a beat, Liam said “Well that’s what it’s about. If you’re not confident in any walk of life, you shouldn’t be doing it. I definitely won’t back down in believing in myself.”
And honestly, while it came out as a very off the cuff response, I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. How many of us move through our lives, regardless of whether we’re talking about our creative lives (whatever that really means) or our regular day-to-day lives, with that level of self-confidence? And having seen and read a number of interviews with Liam over the years, I really do get the feeling that he means it. That’s him, especially the bit about not backing down in believing in himself.
Now, before we get too far down this rabbit hole, I want to be very clear about something — I’m talking about self-confidence, not certainty. Those two things often get conflated into one and the same and are actually very different. I think most of us would agree that there’s very little certainty in life, and that’s especially true when we’re talking about creative expression. Speaking personally, the vast majority of the things that I have made, regardless of the medium that I was using, contained their fair share of happy accidents, synchronicity, and just plain luck. But most of the time I knew going in that I would be able to produce something and for me, that’s self-confidence. The end product may not be exactly what I had in mind — it may not even be any good (there’s that word again) — but that’s okay, because I think not getting it right serves the work just as well, maybe even more so, assuming of course that there is such a thing as getting it right when it comes to art.
For example, I’m in the pre-production stages of a new project that I feel like I have been circling for years. The core of it is tied very deeply to my own family history and doing it right (or at least the way I currently see it in my head) means reaching out to and hopefully connecting with people who may not be familiar with the processes and mediums I’m using to capture their stories. I’ll need to fairly quickly establish a rapport that creates space where people can share bits and pieces of their lives with me — the more personal the better — and I only get one chance to do it. On top of that, I’ll be taking environmental portraits of the subjects. And while I’ve been taking pictures for more than four decades, I’m hardly what you would call a portrait photographer. That’s another area where certainty is challenged. There are a number of variables, both technical and aesthetic that are simply out of my control and exist apart from whatever self-confidence have around my own abilities. So while certainty is potentially outside of my control, I have to trust that whatever skills I have as an interviewer/conversationalist combined with years of taking photos of all sorts of subjects will provide the bedrock on which the project will rest. As someone who often gets stuck in his own head, this is challenging to say the least. Remember, I’m the type of artist who builds a digital pre-viz of most of my paintings so I have a roadmap of where to go — and always at least loosely attached to a grid. In this new project, I have to surrender to the process in a way that I am not necessarily comfortable with and I also have to trust that the project itself will be a self-dialogue of sorts, hopefully telling me where it wants to go and what it ultimately wants to be.
It’s funny how we spend our creative careers building and refining our skills, but if you’re at all like me, you also spend a good deal of time questioning those skills, rather than trusting them. There are enough barriers and obstacles in the creative process that stand between creating and releasing — our abilities shouldn’t be one of them. Believe in yourself. Trust in the process. Do the work.
Has any of this come up for you? If so, how did you work through it?
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NASA just released an incredible animation of Juno’s recent flyby of Jupiter. The clip was assembled from still photos captured by Juno as it flew past Ganymede and Jupiter on June 7th and 8th. “For both worlds, JunoCam images were orthographically projected onto a digital sphere and used to create the flyby animation. Synthetic frames were added to provide views of approach and departure for both Ganymede and Jupiter.” Gorgeous music by Vangelis complements the fabulous imagery.
If you are a fan of sci-fi, check out a channel called Dust. It’s got feature films, shorts, series, and even podcasts. I’ve watched a few things that were pretty good, including a short called FTL and a documentary about artificial intelligence called More Human Than Human (you can’t expect me to ignore a Blade Runner reference). It’s available online and as a free channel on most smart televisions.
With interest in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) becoming such a big focus in the tech sector, here’s an interesting article from Art in America that takes a look back at some of the history of “immersive” photographic devices and technologies, some dating back to the 1600s. One of the examples they feature is the stereoscope, popularly known as the View-Master. I actually had a couple of them as a kid, one of which was the Talking View-Master, which used special reels that had a transparent plastic record that played little audio clips about whatever image you were looking at.