Creating the courage to change your life is just getting used to being in the unknown

Spring, Anthony Epes

It’s a beautiful day here in London. The birds are going for it, chattering away in the trees, even in the dense urban centre of the city. You can hear their sing-song in the odd quiet little breaths the city takes, in between the cars and the noise of the people.

There is sunshine, warm and deep sunshine on my skin as I am walking from place to place, jumping on the tube and buses, doing something that I love — organising the printing, framing and delivery of prints.

There is so much excitement for me when people buy my photographs. To know that my image has created something that speaks to people so much that they want to bring that something into their homes, that they want to see it every day.

Havana, Anthony Epes

It goes beyond the immediate gratification of being paid (which of course is amazing in itself!) It is a beautiful validation of what I love to do most — create images.

I have some big plans afoot. I feel like I am at a bit of a crossroads and I am being asked to choose. My natural ‘sensible’ decision is to pick the easiest thing; the thing I know about, the road that is known and more travelled.

But something is also niggling at me. There is a more unknown road I could take. One that really excites, electrifies me even, that will create more meaning and satisfaction for me. Can I summon up the courage for that road?

Because after all — stepping out into the ‘unknown’ can feel laden with fear and anxiety. It’s why we don’t do those things we deeply yearn to do, not because they are necessarily any more difficult that what we are doing right now — but because they are unknown.

Now how might my life decisions have anything to do with your photography? Well, there are interesting correlations here: whether you’re creating a photograph or a new life or a new job — you are involved in the act of creating something that didn’t exist before.

Light on water, Anthony Epes

It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult — Seneca

I have used this quote before because it really speaks to me. I see regularly that unless I am being driven by what I love to do, then I am trapped. Trapped by the things that I yearn for, but maybe don’t have the courage to step towards.

Perhaps this is because from a very early age we are encouraged on to be sensible. To err on the side of caution when it comes to living our lives and the choices we make. Who are we to step outside of how most people make choices — and do something wildly different?

And before we know it we are knee deep into our lives, having made our sensible choices, and the wild and crazy ideas we may have had of what we wanted to do, the exhilarating experiences we yearned for, the adventures we wanted to have, the people we wanted to me, the interesting ways we wanted to live, have all but seeped away.

It makes me feel shivers of fright to think of the big things that Di and I wanted to do when we first met that we haven’t done yet. Things that feel deeply important to ourselves as humans, to our true purpose in life.

And I ask myself — what are we waiting for?

Peace, Anthony Epes

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray — Rumi

I read this recently and it really affected me. I have always thought that doing what I loved was a bit decadent, a bit self indulgent — not the wise and sensible choice that one makes when you a have a family or are being a responsible human.

There are plans and projects that I’ve had brewing in the back of my mind that require tremendous amounts of courage for me to enact.

And should I?

Courage is an essential component of creating. Because when you create you need to step into the unknown. You can’t keep creating the same thing over and over. That is not creation, that is simply repetition.

To create requires doing something new.

Colour, Anthony Epes

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for — Oprah Winfrey

Most of things that inspire me in my photography have nothing to do with photography. What I need to remember every single day as a photographer is that I need to be courageous and take myself out of my comfort zone if I want my photography to evolve.

It’s not really an issue of ‘getting better’. I mean, of course, in the back of my mind I’d love to be called the world’s greatest photographer (!) but any creative act should be driven by what it does to you — how it adds to your life — how it creates new experiences — how it helps you live in a more interesting way — how it reveals aspects of life previously unseen — how it makes you feel overwhelming awe at all that surrounds us — the magnificence and sheer abundance of life.

Anthony Epes

Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences — Roy Ascott

This quote is actually talking about looking at art, but to me it really talks to me when I think about creating.

I like to think about being led by new experiences as a way to start the creating process. That doesn’t mean you have to travel to another place, but it means to try something in a new way.

It’s about rising up from habit, from the habituated states that we live in, that cause us to not see or experience the feeling of new, of awe, in our surroundings.

All of my best images are ones where I have forgotten about myself and stepped into the present moment, capturing the heady energy of that moment.

It’s the energy of fun and excitement as you pass a bar on a warm summer’s evening with people spilling onto the pavement. It seems to ooze a feeling of frivolity and freedom.

Summer, Anthony Epes

It’s the energy of the opulence and abundance of life by the river on a spring morning, flowers bursting with colour like they were bursting into song.

It’s the energy of a Monday morning in winter, the day made heavy by the dark grey skies, the energy of isolation in the wrapped-up-tight individuals crowding the streets but not acknowledging one another.

Anthony Epes

I would love to see all of you create something this week that you never have before. Whether that’s going out shooting when you hadn’t planned to, going somewhere you haven’t been, trying to shoot in a new way. Anything to inject something new and different into your experience.

New experiences will trigger new thoughts and ideas, leading you to who knows where!

And as always, because

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream — Aristotle

Anthony Epes

I think if Aristotle said it, then it’s a totally valid reason to throw everything up in the air and do something crazy and new and wonderful. Case closed.

So I hope this is an interesting collection of thoughts. I hope it prods you out of your chair, away from your computer and into the arms of the unknown. Get that camera out of its dusty box; mute your phone and open its camera — and get out there and take some pictures!

Use this one incredible life that we have to create something that could inspire another human being. Make art because of the sheer fun of it — and because it helps you to do new things by shaking up your habits and the sameness of your routine.

I aim to do just that.

I would love to know what you think! Please comment below.

Happy photographing,

Anthony and my writing partner-extraordinaire Diana (she who turns my simple thoughts into beautiful words)

Anthony Epes is a photographer whose work has been exhibited and featured internationally; including on BBC, French Photo Magazine, Atlas Obscura and CNN. With his wife Diana he is also a teacher — writing in-depth free articles on their website and teaching photo workshops in the worlds most beautiful and interesting cities.

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