Early morning, pre-dawn. I was awake a little more early than I am used to. Driving along the straight-lined backroads of rural Ohio.
It all started with an early morning spark of a thought on that solo drive to a far-reaching festival. Just me and my life’s work behind me (literally, as in filling my vehicle).
It was as if I had nothing left to lose.
It was then that I felt a pang of emotion.
“What could this be called?” I asked myself while still driving along.
That name for the feeling I was searching for was called pride.
“Pride is an emotional state deriving positive affect from the perceived value of a person or thing with which the subject has an intimate connection.“
Even more so, this “intimate connection” is in a way with these pieces of my work. These frames and prints follow me around Ohio as I travel, sharing them with strangers and friends alike. While being inanimate objects, all these photos are ones carefully created and curated.
I have some stake in this game, the perceived value being whether I successfully sell my vision and way of seeing to others. This is a time where I need to stand up straight, not quite like some boring day job or other uninspired occupation.
This isn’t even about tooting my own horn but simply having the pride to go through all the trouble of loading and packing, setting up, tearing down, and everything in between. Anyone with a considerable amount of time invested in a project or career path has had a similar scenario unfold.
“The painstaking exhaustion of entire weekends spent just to share a passion with others.”
For me, photography is a daily reminder to get up early for that sunrise shoot, to stay out late for the sunset light and to get out in between. Like a flowing waterfall, this motivation permeates everything else in life. This effect helps fuel my desire to succeed and “make it” in the photography and art world. The drive to succeed motivates me to try harder in other aspects of life.
To refer back to the title, let’s define what both short-term happiness and fulfillment are..
“Happiness can be a temporary feeling or showing of satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.”
So for one thing, this to me can be a temporary but possibly long term feeling of happiness and satisfaction.
For example in terms of wildlife photography ethics, temporary happiness would be purposely provoking a deer or baiting a hawk or owl in order to get a closer and better shot. I would possibly feel good seeing the amazingly close photo at first (no actually, I would feel pretty terrible) but the guilt of stressing the animal would always be on my mind when viewing the image later on.
Another example of being happy or mildly content would be if I photographed the same exact thing everywhere I go in the same way.
“Fulfillment is to develop the full potentialities of or to convert into reality.”
Now fulfillment to me is the means to an end of this type of happiness. Fulfilling a goal or end result that proved to be difficult or trying on your willpower. Fulfillment is experimenting with a new subject or tricky lighting situation. Fulfillment is knowing you have invested your time, energy, and creativity into a project and can now reap the rewards. Whether those rewards are intrinsic or extrinsic is up to you, but the lasting positive feelings will stick around.
I am here to seek lessons and struggles, for which I come out on the other side with a perspective and sense of “huh, I just did that difficult thing, hiked many miles with all the gear, waited around until way after dark, and took some photos that might’ve been complete trash, but I’m still learning.”
Some of the less exciting parts of my workflow take effect here too, like editing (sometimes can be a tiresome slog but usually is creatively rewarding) but especially keywording and cataloging image files.
At the end of the day, I believe there is a lesson in everything. The mundane and the imperative. The dull and the important.
“Nothing in life is truly time wasted.“
If anything, it is my fans that have made me a more empathetic person. I have realized over time how creating the art is not so much about satisfying myself, but rather to share images I want others to be impressed by. Creating for myself but ultimately I prefer to see the joy in someone else’s eyes who shares the same interest and enthusiasm for what photos I take.
This attention and mild success is never about greed. I take time to appreciate every step of the way and acknowledge those who have been following my journey. Some have tagged along on my travels out in the field, while others got my back by supporting the events I am in.
No one is forcing me to do this, I make the conscious choice and so it is fulfilling to see it happen and manifest. Exactly how I would hope it would.
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