It Just Is: How My Son's Birth Changed My Photography (Part 1)

Originally the title of this was "How My Son's Birth Taught me To Break Through The Suffocating World of Value Judgments Placed On my Photography"...but that was a bit long.untitled (13 of 15) It was close to midnight on May 3rd, 2014. Naples had just won the Italian Cup. This might seem like a really strange event to mention, but it is a critical part of my story. At the time we were living in downtown Naples, Italy. Whenever there is a birth, death, soccer/football victory or loss, random holiday…or basically any reason at all, Neapolitans like to celebrate with fireworks, like the kind that should only be trusted to professionals, but instead are just sold freely in this metropolitan area. On the balcony next to ours, people were shooting off mortars…as well as almost every other balcony in Naples. The streets had turned into parking lots as people left their cars to celebrate, or sat in them and honked non stop to celebrate. At this time I was laying in bed with my husband while my sweet doula was taking a rest on our couch. I was deep in labor. The horn honking and fireworks meant it was difficult to remain peaceful and it also meant we weren’t going anywhere for a while. I remember focusing all my energy on staying with my breath and trying to block out the noise…but I couldn’t block out the noise because it was deafening. Then I tried something else. I acknowledged the noise, accepted it, and moved forward. I thought, “So this is what it’s going to be”. There was no value placed on this statement or the situation. It just was and I was just going to deal with it. This was one of the most freeing things I have ever realized. Things were what they were going to be and all I needed to do was carry on. This realization in one of my most intense life moments has changed the way I operate with regards to my photography.AAvoelker000217-R2-E017 As photographers we pour our souls into our work. When people judge our photography it’s also judging a piece of us. When WE judge our photography it is also judging a piece of us. This isn’t always bad. We need critique and we need insight into how we can improve, but it is easy to get disheartened by this and have our creativity squelched by these value judgments when they are of the negative variety. The flip side is that often times acclaim and self appreciation can have the same creative effect. “My work is so amazing” can take away the drive to move forward and carry on. If we are already “so amazing”, what’s there to learn?Untitled-1 Here’s where my story comes in. All of these value judgments (facebook likes, features, etc.) are often referred to as “noise”. People talk about silencing the noise and while that’s all well and good, the noise is pretty freaking loud. Unless you unplug, you are going to get slammed with value judgments all the live long day. Chances are even if you unplug YOU are going to slam yourself with these judgments too. After my experience in the cacophony of that Naples night, I realized that while I couldn't block out the noise or even ignore it, I could decide whether or not I would let it affect me. I could acknowledge the noise, both from myself and those around me, think “so this is what it’s going to be”, and let that wash over me as I moved through it. I realized that while I have ZERO control over what the world says, I do have control over what I think. I could decide to listen but not hear and I could decide to keep moving forward through it.  20150307-079-Edit I invite you to STOP and take a break from value judgments on your work. Just work, let people say what they will and let it be what it is. Do that in your own head as well. Take a week and just shoot. Don’t worry if it’s good or bad, just work and let things be. The horns and fireworks around you aren’t going to stop, but you have total control over whether or not they affect you.IMG_7080-Edit