This past Tuesday I had the privilege to speak on Capitol hill for an UNAIDS and Together for Girls event. They asked me to display my series "Weapon of Choice" and to give a little insight on the project. They also featured the series in their second issue of Safe magazine. As I was traveling to DC a million thoughts were rushing through my head, but one hit me like a ton of bricks.
How did I get here?
What choices did I make that brought me to this moment?
Then I realized I had come full circle...
Back in 2012 I attended Photoshop World in Washington DC. It was my first PSW, and I thought at the time that I had know all there was to know about photography and photoshop. Little did I know that one single presentation would not only change my career goals but my entire perspective on life in general. The class was given by Jeremy Cowart. Up until this point I knew very little about Jeremy, but the night before I sat in the hotel and went through his portfolio. I started to compare my work to his, and asked my self
"Why don't I get these gigs"?
"I know how to light an image like that!"
"I know how to take a good picture!"
"I have recreated some of the best shots I have found online and I know I can take these pictures!"
The next day I showed up to a packed room. A bunch of like minded creatives hoping for a nugget of info that could help us land the gigs Jeremy was landing. Jeremy entered the stage and started off with an image that I compared my work to the night before. He said "If you want to make it as a successful photographer, stop comparing and start creating"!
It was as if he was talking directly to me! He went on to remind me that I had 8 years of ideas that I had been neglecting and that these ideas were the only thing that separated me from the competition.Think about that, I had neglected my ideas, and not because they were bad ideas, but rather that I was to busy chasing the dollar and recreating what everyone else had already done. And for what? Just to prove I could do what they had already created.
You see up until this point I had watched every youtube tutorial you could find, and none of them, NONE, told you that concept will beat execution any day of the week. For 8 years I had thought it was all about, equipment, shutter speeds, and F-Stopps! I couldn't of been more wrong! After that session with Jeremy I headed home to FL. On the way I started an Evernote account and took a giant brain dump. I started to think about ideas I had from when I first picked up a camera. My perspective was forever changed and my new goal was to only shoot what I wanted to shoot and to stop chasing the dollar. Now don't get me wrong, you have to eat! But if all you do if focus on the how you will ignore the most valuable question...WHY?!
The following week after DC I created this image.
After the success of that image, I realized this is the formula to success as a creative. I kept up the momentum and executed on an idea I came up with while driving home from work one day. The idea was the start of the "Weapon of Choice" series. A fairly simple concept that asked "Would we say the things we say to each other if they left the same visuals as physical contact?" At first I came up with reasons why this project was beyond my scope (subject matter wise), and I would sit on it for a while. Then I thought about Jeremy and his session. So I set a date, and with the help of family and friends we created a series that would speak to hundreds of thousands of people. This series has been used by over 160 nonprofits (at no cost to the organization) around the world and published countless times. Six months after the series was created and two years after seeing Jeremy talk, I was heading back to DC to present something I would have never created if not for Jeremy's inspiration.
With just words, not images, he not only inspired me, but reminded me why I became a creative in the first place!
Head on over to Jeremy's site and tell me he isn't on to something!