Authenticity seems to be a big topic these days, and I agree that it’s very important. I will say that, based on my observations, we’ve overall put the idea of being authentic into this tiny little box and make it seem like a grand goal that we have to achieve based on standards that no one has written. You might call it “living in the moment” or “#Folklife”, “#Kinfolk” or maybe even #yolo. There’s nothing ultimately wrong with that, (maybe other than using “yolo" in any other manor than to be ironic) but I do think that we should rely less on these trends to tell us what our “authentic life” should be and rely more on WHY we do what we do.
For as long as I can recall I’ve always wanted to know the “why” of everything. At some point, all of us have been told that things are the way they are “because” and that’t bullshit. No one likes it when they’re told that and we shouldn’t do it either. To others or ourselves. We should absolutely know why we do EVERYTHING. If you don’t know why you’re doing something then it’s time to reevaluate.
Having reasons and convictions behind your actions… that’s authenticity. It doesn’t mean that you can evolve beyond those reasons, and you will if you’re asking yourself these questions and acting on them.
This doesn’t just apply to our daily lives, but our creativity as well.
In the case of my own work, I put great effort into the reason and integrity behind my images. It’s not enough for be to make a pretty picture. There has to be a story or direction behind it. You may or may not know what that reason is, but I find that it translates regardless. Not unlike poetry, the writer will have something very specific in mind as he/she creates their work. That meaning may be translated totally differently by the reader, but the reader can see that there is something to take and does so. That’s because the writer wrote with intent and conviction. With authenticity.
With photography, I see a huge push toward seizing and capturing the moment and calling that true authenticity. Photojournalism was my first photo love. It can be powerful, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the only path to being authentic. A moment created out of your own imagination and then brought to life has just as much power.
Think of it this way… are YOU taking the image or is your camera taking the image. If it’s just your camera working like it’s supposed to then you’re probably not creating something that will stand the test of time. It will probably fade and fall away with time and trends.
We create our own authentic lives. It may take some bravery and courage to do so, but it wouldn’t have the worth without the risk.
In the coming days, I plan on sharing a bit more with you guys about my own creative process. Most of that will be rough sketches and brain-storming notes that I make on a yellow legal pad. You’ll be able to see how I go from that process to how it translates into the actual images. It’s rough and messy at times, and I don’t care about misspelling, but it’s thoughtful.
What does your authentic life look like? Why are you after it, really? Is it sustainable or will it fade?