When I started writing these blog pieces about my journey in photography and art I didn’t think that I would share personal information. However, it turns out that I can’t separate self from artist as the thought that goes into my work is personal and, for photography, my camera is an extension of myself and doesn’t operate in isolation from me.
A few years back my old school decided they wanted to feature me in their end-of-year magazine. A bit of background; I didn’t have a great time at school and left at 16 after the career advisor ruined all hopes of me going to University (apparently I wouldn’t survive). Never-the-less, four qualifications later, the school approached me and asked me to write my story. So, I did. Then they wrote back to me and asked if they could change my story so it would be more positive (for the school). To which I responded “NO” (although, I didn’t actually shout); I just told them my life experiences were my life experiences and not fiction. They could publish my story as it was or not at all. And there ended the communication with the school.
The point of all this reminiscing is not to moan about my school (the world has moved on) but to think about integrity. For me, my integrity is always about being true to myself, not compromising. I found the school’s desire to re-write my history (while I can see why they would want to) as a personal compromise, I would not be being true to myself. I should say that what I had written was not at all negative and focused on encouraging students to be strong and true to themselves.
The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour – Japanese Proverb
The same principle applies to my photography. I have no desire to copy others, my aim is to use the camera as a tool to express what I see - to show other people a different way of looking at the world. I’m not into manipulating my images but I don’t have a problem when other people do (as long as they don’t try and pass something off as un-manipulated - thinking here of those ultra saturated blue skies). I have never been prepared to compromise on what I believe is right. That may mean that sometimes I don’t get published but, honestly, they are not the publications I want to be in.
The lessons have been hard over the years but my take-homes are:
never compromise your integrity - if you do it is a hard position to recover from
be true to yourself (and by doing this you won't compromise yourself)
accept that it is ok to be different, go against the grain, be odd - however you feel comfortable describing it. It is when you try to conform that you compromise who you are
stand your ground. You don't have to justify your position to anyone but yourself. If it doesn't feel 'right' then it most likely, isn't
It's easy to write these things and much harder to do. I know. You are, however, not alone.