My Texan uncle often asks, ‘Where’re you at?’ on the phone. Lately I’ve been using his twangy accent to ask myself what I’m on about these days with my creative work.
Since moving to Sydney I’ve been rethinking how and what I shoot. It’s confronting. I didn’t want to make images like I have been.
When I started a mentorship that completely questioned my style and approach, I began to shoot differently, but still didn’t have footing.
I’d say things like… I’m not that anymore, but er, ah, what kind of photographer am I now? Meanwhile, with every month my ‘About Me’ page became a carbon date of me before.
So I decided to rewrite my bio - but with the help of Ann Bolch at A Story To Tell. Why not tough it out myself? I had done this previously, and my profile reflected who I was for a while. But at this stage of my life I needed a deeper exploration as the words were a bit thornier to work out. I needed someone else to see what I couldn’t.
The process gave me space, time and emotional distance to ask the tricky questions. I’ll emphasise the giving of time, here. In the busy of everything that so many of us have, each ‘free’ amount of time becomes a log jam of which-thing-to-complete. For me, carving time from first thing in the day is one of the most successful ways to actually get this hard shit done.
The profile writing was made up of a series of exercises, some to complete ahead of the prompting exercise, so that you’re clearer on your knowns and fecked-if-I-knows.
The first part of the exercise involved quiet, slow breaths and sinking into the space. I heard the waves lapping nearby on the waterfront, the café’s afro-Cuban music, felt the chair underneath me, my feet on the ground. It was lovely, like a gift to me from me.
When I was ready, I could open my eyes.
Complete this sentence. “I’ve always thought …” Scribble scribble scribble. Breathe. “…but then it seemed…” scribble scribble scribble. Breathe. Don’t question, just write. Writer in, editor out.
It was important to not know what the next question would be.
Sitting back, I noticed themes that had been covered for so long, like my work desk with books, bills and toys obscuring the many notes I’d written to myself on ‘what I’m doing next, what I did before and how it’s all connected’ that I’d lose and write all over again …
Going through the bio writing with Ann helped me dig out that repeated message, have an outside ear help make sense of it, and nail that sucker to the wall! Now I look at my bio and think – yes. That’s where I am, for now. And I proceed.
Artwork by John L. Curtis for Pictorial Australian Education, September 1963.
This blog originally appeared over at A Story To Tell, here.