Yesterday I was walking with my camera around the Island of Utila, a Bay Island belonging Honduras. It was a glorious day filled with sunshine, cool air and the vibrant laid back atmosphere that is so often linked to island living. With my camera in hand I thought to myself that I could do this everyday (which currently, I am). I then started to think about what motivates me to do street photography, and more so, what motivates me to create my best work.
The answer is not as straightforward as I initially thought it would be. My instinct told me that my love for the art, the people and the story telling was clearly going to be my motivation. It’s certainly why I enjoy it so much, but sometimes those three entities are not always enough to get me from my couch to the streets. My mind started to explore different, deeper, elements that contributed to this craft being such an influential part of my life.
Aside from the three components aforementioned, the other motivators included; self therapy, exercise, colleague validation, a desire to be accepted, money.
I have written in my both my articles on my site and those published elsewhere, that I am a person who lives with anxiety. From obsessive thoughts to deepened worry, anxiety is something that has developed in my mind over the years. Previously I would be someone who “suffered from anxiety”. Today I use the term “lives with” as I have been able to develop ways of coping in order to ensure I don’t allow anxiety to take control over my life. Part of those coping mechanisms is street photography. Being out on the streets keeps my mind concentrated and makes me feel a sense of freedom. The combination of a camera in my hand and the discovery through exploration helps eradicate the symptoms that anxiety has brought me over the years.
As many of you will be already aware, street photography can involve an insane amount of walking. Personally I have walked non stop all day, sometimes to the point my muscles start to cramp. Of course any form of exercise will have a positive affect on both body and mind. For me street photography allows the exercise to take place without being fully aware it is happening. By that I mean if you’re in the gym for one hour then you know why you are there. To pump iron, burn fat and drop down and give it 50. The exercise is at the forefront of the activity, something which I find can put me off going to the gym. When on the street the priority is the content, allowing my brain to give that my main focus and my body being able to get the benefits.
I consider anyone who is serious about street photography to be a colleague. Like any field some people are interns, others reliable employees, and a small group have earned the right to be considered top executives at the the world of Street Photography Towers. Everyone has their place and everyone's contribution and thought process is as important as the other. That is why when I have a shot and those within the bubble validate that, I get a great sense of pride and euphoria. The feeling motivates me to want to get that feeling again (if you are getting that feeling with every shot you take - you’re being lied to), thus meaning I’m out on the streets trying to get the best work I can.
A desire to be recognised
Anyone who creates content, puts it on the internet, enters it into competitions or promotes it through other avenues, is doing it through a quest for recognition. Where this desire stems from is different from person to person and is a topic that could be explored deeper in a future post. Recognition is similar to colleague validation, however from my perspective I see it to be a more deeper, consistent level of validation. In the future I would love to be a go-to person who had firmly cemented themselves within the upper quarters of their field. Firstly, it is a clear sign that I have worked hard and been able to get the benefits from doing so. Secondly, and more importantly, it means I will have an artistic voice that carries value, a voice that people can trust. Having that recognition would be very important to me. The desire for this pushes me to get out and make my errors and failures, because I know I will only learn from them - pushing me closer to be goals.
In any art form, money can sometimes be a dirty word. Often seen as a way of selling out, purists can be bullish in their suggestion that you should only do it for the love of the art. It sounds lovely, but there is really nothing wrong with combing your passion with the financial demands of society. Now in a street photography sense, you will never be rich. The day dream of “if only someone paid me to freely roam the streets as I please everyday” will in the most part remain just that. It is however, realistic that you can source a form of income from street photography. The likes of Eric Kim and Daniel Arnold have been able to forge careers through their love of street photography. If they can do it then those who have a similar desire can do it also*. Personally I have made the odd bit of money from selling prints and from entering local competitions. This does have an impact on getting out on the streets and thinking deeper about the work I produce.
*Both Eric and Daniel have worked extremely hard to get to the place that they are at. If you do want to experience their level of success then do not expect do so without the same level of dedication both these great creators have had to display.
What motivates you?
I have wanted to explore my motivations in the hope it can help you get your brain thinking about what motivates you. The reason I feel it is important to connect with your key motivators, is because it can help you push harder, more so in those times when you are feeling deflated. Reminding yourself why and what gets you out in the streets can be the difference between you having a Netflix binge (which isn’t always a bad thing) and getting out and creating great work like you originally told yourself you were going to do.
Please, do let me know your motivations and if you found this article useful. You can contact me here - Contact Dan.
Thanks for reading.
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