Along the way: Julie Moses

We reached out to Julie Moses to share her thoughts on her journey after we read this  post: "Finally giving yourself permission to shoot images that genuinely reflect your own personality is pretty awesome. Realizing that here and there, when you weren't busy trying to make something that you thought other people might like, is what you've been doing all along; well, that's just priceless."

We had to know more. We asked Julie to share her thoughts and how she came to this point. We hope that by sharing part of Julie's story, you will have your own Aha! moment. 

“Why did I start this journey as an artist?” Have you ever asked yourself that? 

There’s a place we go sometimes, where we live uninspired, ready to throw creative effort to the wind, wondering if we are worthy of even picking up our creative tools let alone using them. I’ve been there. I visit more often than I would like to admit. More than just questioning why I started, I ask myself if it’s all so frustrating, why shouldn't I quit? Pack up and go home. Journey be damned.

On those days, I ask a couple of different questions too. “What is that traps me in that awful place?” and “How quickly can I escape?” Plainly, I can see the van used in the kidnapping of my creative spirit came from the lot of that sleazy used car salesman known as “comparison”. I tried to fit a mold and suddenly my foot was caught in the snare. Before I knew it, I was bound, gagged and imprisoned with ‘resentment” as my cell mate.

Whether it was a client, a stock photography company, a weekly theme inspiration, a particular group of photographers, or some other arbitrary criteria or opinion I indulged, I chose to compare something that isn’t comparable.

As an artist I am drawn to idiosyncrasy and contradiction. You don’t generally find a client putting together a Pinterest list of images based on these concepts. 

Because of that my client work tends to look quite a bit different than my personal work.  Though I love the genre of photojournalism, the possibility of not getting “pretty pictures” for my clients has left me too intimidated to incorporate it into my sessions. Like a bully on the playground though, the need to please my clients instead of my creative spirit taunted me unceasingly, but sometimes you have to push a bully back.

A fish should never compare his tree climbing ability to that of a cat. Before that fish can realize this though, he needs to learn how to celebrate all of his fishiness. What if you don’t even realize you’re a fish? What if you’ve never even seen another fish? How do you know you are not a cat?  What happens to your perspective when anyone you’ve ever known were cute, cuddly, purring, tree climbing cats? 

One day I saw another fish and I just knew. Sometimes you have to see yourself in another before you discover who you are, recognize your similarities, and by extension the differences too. This is the only value in comparison. When I saw that, my true creative identity began to emerge.

It happened during a Creative Live class taught by Kristen Lewis. I watched to find answers to “How” questions (the technical) but instead I found “Why” answers to questions I hadn’t realized I should’ve asked along time ago. As I watched, it dawned on me that the “Why” must always be answered before the “How” begins to make any sense. It is the “Why” that separates fish from cats.

Why do I feel compelled to create images that break the “pretty” rules? Because I need to create them and I don’t need anyone’s permission to create the kind of images I want to make any more than I need someone else’s permission to breathe. 

That day the “why” became clear,  and the upstream swim of “How” started to look a lot more like a downstream current. I just needed to take the plunge and start swimming.

I expected to have to build an entirely new portfolio. Then I looked at the work in my catalog: not my “portfolio” ,but the many images left on the cutting room floor; unedited, skeptical of despite loving them, and ultimately undelivered. I realized that in fact, I had been creating those images during client sessions anyway, because I needed to. It was like water in my gills.

Giving myself permission to specifically shoot images that genuinely reflected my personality was liberating. Realizing that I had been doing it all along anyway was empowering. 

I looked at those images, cut and rejected and I saw the glorious messiness of life. 

I am the first to admit that my work is often cluttered, full of bits of randomness that seem weird and out of place on first glance, but those bits do belong in those places, if for no other reason than that’s where they were when the shutter clicked. It was part of the story whether I liked it or not and whether I thought it was pretty, or not. Whether or not someone or lots of someones agree, or not. So like the photojournalist, I am ethically compelled to tell the whole story, and just present the (edited) pretty picture.

As the teller of a visual story,  I have the power and a corresponding responsibility to help viewers understand why random bits are part of the story rather than just remove them later,  because of some arbitrary aesthetic ideal , or worse: because I myself don’t know the answer so I just eliminate the question. 

I hope my images show my truth. Complete with weirdness and chaos included, because isn't that exactly what life is? Life is full of messy rooms and we Artists are those objects randomly tossed around in them.  We feel weird and many will tell us we don’t belong in the pretty picture, but we do.  We are part of the story and the story isn’t always pretty. So just as photojournalism demands that each seemingly random object in the frame have an explainable “Why” and connection to the story, we as artists owe it to ourselves to create art in a way that answers our personal “Why” questions to our own creative satisfaction instead of someone else’s preconceived frame.  It is that knowledge that will finally save us from that sleazy used car salesman I mentioned earlier.