Creative joy

When I first picked up photography in earnest, I took pictures of everything.

My camera went with me everywhere, and anything that caught my eye was fair game. It didn’t matter if anyone but me would find the subject interesting; what mattered was having fun and learning new ways to look at the world around me.

Then, slowly, other people began taking notice of my photography, and I started to feel like I had something to prove.

There’s an assertion within certain online photography communities that you should only ever share your best work. For a long time, I bought into this as an absolute truth.

The assumption of disinterest quickly became a burden, to the point where I would hesitate to take certain shots in the first place. If the shot didn’t have portfolio potential—if there wasn’t an obvious “wow” factor, if I couldn’t get the light to fall exactly the way I wanted it—then I tricked myself into thinking it wasn’t worth the effort.

My big mistake here? I wasn’t factoring my own opinion into the equation.

It’s easy to get caught up in megapixels and sensor size or whatever other camera specs are hot at a given moment, but at the end of the day, none of that is what photography is about.

Photography is so much more than technical ability or aesthetic appeal; it’s a visual language that knows no lingual or cultural barriers. The story a photo communicates may vary from person to person, but it has something to say all the same.

Each image I create—even the bad ones—says something about me as a person. The images I choose to post each mean something to me, even if it’s something small, like remembering the way a certain light filled me with calm.

That’s what makes them worth sharing. That’s why the “boring” shots matter.

This is what I meant when I talked on Instagram recently about uninhibited creation: to do something for the joy of it, pure and simple. If there’s a certain “rule” or assumption that’s keeping you from doing something you love, toss out that damn rule.

You don’t have to change the world with your art. You just have to do the work for yourself.


Ah, spring. You make me feel like a real person again.

Y’know… as opposed to a hibernating bear (if a decidedly less hairy one).

Springtime offers the sense of a clean slate in a way the new year never really has for me. Everything feels possible in the spring.

More often than not, it’s when I feel at my personal best: more capable, more resolute, more confident in making healthy changes and big decisions. There’s not a single spring in recent memory I can say I haven’t enjoyed (or at least mostly enjoyed)—not something that can be said for the other three seasons.

Not even close.

Of course, I should admit… I say this as a person without significant allergies.

My allergy-ridden mother tells me she didn’t develop these until her 40s, though, so no worries.

Plenty of time for me to share in sneezy-snotty-special-springtime-suffering in the future.

Mitski / Jay Som @ Mr. Smalls Theatre (March 29, 2019)

I love music. I love going to shows, seeing my favorite artists play, belting out songs so loudly that I don’t have a voice the next morning. Over the past year, I’ve especially grown to love capturing the energy of a live performance on camera. That much is obvious to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with me.

What’s probably less obvious is that, on some level, I also kind of hate going to shows. This has become even more frustrating since I started photographing them.

It comes with the territory of being an introvert. There are sometimes-grumpy crowds to contend with, security guards who might turn your camera away at the door, drunk dudes who threaten to spill beer on your stupidly expensive gear. I’m not always in the mood to put up with the various moving parts, and often don’t know until the day of a show if I’m really going to go at all. More times than I’d like to admit, I have to drag myself out of the house so as not to waste the money I spent on tickets… and sometimes I get in such a funky headspace I can’t even manage that.

Often, though, that anxiety dissipates by the time the artist walks on stage. That was the case on Friday, when Mitski and Jay Som played to a sold-out crowd at Mr. Smalls Theatre in Millvale, Pennsylvania.

I’ve seen Mitski three times in three years, and I swear the size of the venues she’s been in has more than doubled each time. It’s pretty damn cool to watch an artist go from playing a basement hookah bar to selling out an 800-capacity venue within 24 hours of putting tickets on sale. The choreography she’s introduced in her live shows have taken things to a whole other level, to the point where it almost felt like I was seeing her for the first time.

Jay Som, too, was a delight to watch. Their previous album Everybody Works was one of my favorite releases of 2017, and I’m excited to hear what their recently recorded follow-up has in store.

I imagine I’ll be sharing a lot more from the shows I attend now that I have this blog. The next one on the docket is Lady Lamb on April 13th. No chance of me staying home for that one, either—Lady Lamb is one of the rare artists I’d follow to the ends of the damn Earth.

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