Every once in a while I write a long story. The time is right for a new chapter. I know it’s going to take me long and keep me away from the work that I ought to do instead, but it’s necessary. Connection, vulnerability, beauty and love – these are the subjects that I tackle all the time when I work and live. Life and work are inseparable for me, because as an artist, everything goes through me, believe it or not. I had this story in mind for a long time, but just now I stumbled upon it in so many ways that I can’t postpone it.
Let’s start with an example of a good photograph. I’m not going to speak about the rules. It’s very subjective, but these are the questions I often ask:
“Is it beautiful?”
“Is it personal?”
“Does it tell a story?”
“Does it make me feel?”
In order to make something that matters you need to think about it a lot. It’s easiest to start talking about business first. I get all kinds of requests every day and I answer them the best I can. Some are very personal and I know right away that I’ll have a good working relationship with them. The others are more formal inquiries about the price and other conditions. And then there are the competitions – I don’t know how to call them otherwise. These are the inquiries sent to a large group of different photographers in order to get the lowest price and more favorable conditions for the client.
It works fine in the business world where you have similar ready made products. It might also work with some kind of photography where the aim is to capture only the visual aspects of reality. In terms of business it’s best to be as numb as possible. Being an entity where business and emotional sides are inseparable makes you wonder who you want to be as a person as well as a professional service provider?
This brings me down to where it all started… And where I want it to evolve. It all started with being true to myself. The reason I’m happy today is that I started doing something I loved. Started making less compromises. See where I’m pointing?
I’m very open about how happy photography makes me and how lucky I am to be able to do what I’m passionate about, so every now and then I get asked for an advice. I’m trying hard not to make a fuss about it, but if my example ads to the set of experiences and helps someone make a shortcut, it’s worth an effort. There are benefits for me too that you’re about to discover :)
Thinking back to my innocent childhood when I was not yet aware of limitations, I wanted to become an artist and a storyteller. My favorite children’s program on TV was where the presenter was an artist drawing and telling a fairytale at the same time (Onu Raivo aka Raivo Järvi, Estonian national TV). I was practicing it a lot. (A photo by my dad.)
What happened? To cut a long story short: I got scared. I grew up a nice, obedient, helpful girl that most people liked. I did lots of great and interesting stuff for other people that I don’t regret, but I wasn’t happy. I felt lost and useless, I had no purpose in life, I was not enough. I thought that there are millions of people much better than me in so many ways that I shouldn’t even try anything, because the world doesn’t need me.
Then I almost died. I was diagnosed with so called pre-cancer and had a surgery before I could even realize it fully. After I was confirmed healthy my nerves burnt out: I had depression and panic attacks. I was medicated and saw a therapist for a couple of month.
Then the healing begun. I realized I was given a second chance. I promised to myself that I won’t waste it. I will live for me. The world doesn’t need me, but f*** it! I need me! I started making choices for me, turned down the jobs that made me miserable, moved to the country, took a cat and a dog, gave birth to my son… And photographed the whole way.
I didn’t think of me as an artist until recently. I was talking to an artist in a bar and he addressed me saying: “Artists like us…” I objected him saying I wasn’t an artist, just a commercial and family photographer. I realized only weeks later that it explains everything. Trying hard not to be an artist was what I was doing wrong all my previous life.
Creativity as such has been my interest along the way. First I encountered this iconic essay of Peter Lindbergh and couldn’t agree more.
Then I saw this article by photographer Ryan Muirhead a while after it was published. I cried. But I was not ready to embrace my own condition.
Then a similar piece was written by one of my favorite photographers Jonas Peterson who also used to be a writer before falling for photography. He’s really good. I only try to make myself understood in a foreign language.
The last drop to the cup was that the two photographers announced they gonna have a workshop together in the manner of “hey let’s sit in a circle for two days and leave more confused than when we arrived” also saying that “We want to leave with tools to go forward, to break out of creative ruts and ways to create truly meaningful art.” Sounds really good. If they decide bring it to Europe I consider joining.
Last but not least. If you haven’t cried yet, watch this TED talk by a social scientist Brene Brown on The Power Of Vulnerability. This explains my way of thinking and what’s my benefit of telling too much.
I started this journey looking for beauty, now I’m looking for a connection. I value imperfection and try to develop more meaningful relationships. Curious to see what else is there for me :)