10 suggestions to a young artsy fool.

I’ve slept late again. My phone buzzes me awake early again. Instead of snoozing it, I surf Instagram for an hour. Again. My lower back is inflammed. My voice is groggy. My eyes are blurry. Again.

As the dust settles, I look at myself in the mirror and it hits me:

I’m turning 36 in a week.

Right around this time some 15 years ago, I found myself buying me one of the most exciting gifts ever, a very basic Nikon F65 film camera. The total price amounted to what you’d pay nowadays for a high-tech mirrorless camera. The volume of film I’ve shot with it probably surpassed its entire initial worth a mere few months into it.

I still have all of the negatives, tucked in dusty boxes that I’ve since carried with me over the course of 7 different appartments. From the first street shoots to the protests and wedding anniversaries, everything is there in those boxes, waiting for Godot. It didn’t take long before I’d fall in love with using digital in its earliest consumer iteration, a Nikon D70. The rest is, well, history.

Thirty six. And so the need to gaze into the past manifests. Again.

I have a lot to talk about with my older self. A lot to explain, a lot to exclaim.

This is a top 10 summary of that lot.

  1. Measure twice, shoot once. Take the time you need to understand what’s happening and what you’re aiming for, even if it means taking a step back prior to leaping forward. Approach your images with the care of a prowler.
  2. Fall in love with your subject and listen to them with all of your senses. Your vulnerability and empathy will render people to be as lively, objects as appealing, and events as memorable as when you’ve experienced them.
  3. Forget about making a living from it, at least early on. Don’t confuse artistry with business. The two aren’t always compatible and will corrupt and corrode one another if tackled hastily.
  4. Focus, focus, focus. Then, release. Don’t get attached. Don’t get sentimental. Embody the art of moving on. That great shot was great. That groundbreaking project was groundbreaking. What’s next?
  5. Do not skip on technique. Photography is probably the easiest craft to get into nowadays, and that shouldn’t be an excuse to rushing mindlessly into its mechanisms. Learn the rules first, break them later. You will regret it otherwise.
  6. Good artists copy, great artists don’t care. You’re not Annie Leibovitz, Vivian Maeir or Helmut Newton. You’re you. Be inspired, but cultivate your own voice, even if it’ll take a lifetime to do so. In a modern world that thrives on abundance, there really is no room for cheap duplicates.
  7. Travel. Document your travels. Transform through your travels. The stories you’ll live will elevate your work to unimaginable levels. Just make sure to never let that camera leave your side.
  8. However, do not depend on it. It’s just a tool. Sometimes it’ll break, sometimes it’ll go missing. Know to appreciate life without it. Know to see, hear, feel without it. You’ll be a better photographer when you reunite with it again.
  9. Protect your work and copyright at all cost, but don’t lose sleep over it. Sometimes you just have to let the affront go, your sanity and your time will depend on it.
  10. It is not, and never will be about you. Yet, you will permeate through every pixel and atom of your images. You’ll figure that one out eventually.

I hope some of it resonated with you, whether you’re a budding debutant or a hardened veteran. It’s time for me to ask, what would you tell your older self if you met up with them today?

AZ.