Quotes_Calling

Enjoy this collection of quotes on personal Callings.

“I believe there’s a calling for all of us. I know that every human being has value and purpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware. And awakened. To answer the call.” ― Oprah Winfrey

“Emptiness is a symptom that you are not living creatively. You either have not a goal that is important enough to you, or you are not using your talents and efforts in striving toward an important goal.”– Maxwell Maltz

“We are not in a position in which we have nothing to work with. We already have capacities, talents, direction, missions, callings.”– Abraham Maslow

“We shall never learn to feel and respect our real calling and destiny, unless we have taught ourselves to consider everything as moonshine, compared with the education of the heart.”– Sir Walter Scott

“I have brought myself by long meditation to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will which will stake even existence upon its fulfillment.”– Benjamin Disraeli

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius

“Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do. With such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” – Virgil

“Somewhere someone is thinking of you. Someone is calling you an angel. This person is using celestial colors to paint your image. Someone is making you into a vision so beautiful that it can only live in the mind. Someone is thinking of the way your breath escapes your lips when you are touched. How your eyes close and your jaw tightens with concentration as you give pleasure a home. These thoughts are saving a life somewhere right now. In some airless apartment on a dark, urine stained, whore lined street, someone is calling out to you silently and you are answering without even being there. So crystalline. So pure. Such life saving power when you smile. You will never know how you have cauterized my wounds. So sad that we will never touch. How it hurts me to know that I will never be able to give you everything I have.” – Henry Rollins

“Most of us would like to end our lives feeling both that we had a good time and that we left the world a little better than we found it.”– Philip Slater

“The role of the teacher remains the highest calling of a free people. To the teacher, America entrusts her most precious resource, her children; and asks that they be prepared… to face the rigors of individual participation in a democratic society.”– Shirley Hufstedler

“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”– Harvey S. Firestone

“The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head. Often the best part of your work will have nothing to do with potions and powders, but with the exercise of an influence of the strong upon the weak, of the righteous upon the wicked, of the wise upon the foolish.” – William Osler

“Art is the great democrat, calling forth creative genius from every sector of society, disregarding race or religion or wealth or color.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” ― Émile Zola

“I don’t tell you this story today in order to encourage all of you in the class of ’04 to find careers in the music business, but rather to suggest what the next decade of your lives is likely to be about, and that is, trying to ensure that you don’t wake up at 32 or 35 or 40 tenured to a life that happened to you when you weren’t paying strict attention, either because the money was good, or it made your parents proud, or because you were unlucky enough to discover an aptitude for the very thing that bores you to tears, or for any of the other semi-valid reasons people marshal to justify allowing the true passion of their lives to leak away. If you’re lucky, you may have more than one chance to get things right, but second and third chances, like second and third marriages, can be dicey propositions, and they don’t come with guarantees…. The question then is this: How does a person keep from living the wrong life?” ― Richard Russo

“The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.” ― Annie Dillard

“My wish simply is to live my life as fully as I can. In both our work and our leisure, I think, we should be so employed. And in our time this means that we must save ourselves from the products that we are asked to buy in order, ultimately, to replace ourselves.” ― Wendell Berry

“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?” ― Stephen King

“Change makes you find your calling, your legacy, and God’s divine plan for your life. Don’t run from it.” – Iman

“Whatever your calling is as a service, follow it – that’s beautiful.” – Hill Harper

“Every calling is great when greatly pursued.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

“…it sounds like life is calling you to do something BIG and you haven’t picked up the phone.”– Anonymous

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”– Henry David Thoreau

“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.”– Henry David Thoreau

“Let us become the change we seek in this world.”– Mohandas Gandhi

Explore The Essential Collection Of Creativity Quotes here.

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Quotes_Excellence

Enjoy this collection of quotes on excellence.

“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.” – Booker T. Washington

“We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.” – Barack Obama

“It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.” – John Steinbeck

“He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. Dream lofty dreams and as you dream so shall you become.” – James Allen

“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” – W. Somerset Maugham

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Quotes_Feelings

Enjoy this collection of quotes on feelings.

“Art is the concrete representation of our most subtle feelings.” – Agnes Martin

“If there is no feeling, there cannot be great art.” – Ray Bradbury

“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” – William Wordsworth

“Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man.” – Edward Steichen

“Art makes us feel less alone. It makes us think: somebody else has thought this, somebody else has had these feelings.” – Alan Moore

“Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.” – Ingmar Bergman

“I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Olaf Willoughby

The Creative Space, Part One

Imagine yourself in a favourite photo location. Maybe for you that is Street shooting in Bangkok or Brooklyn. Or for this post I’ve chosen a beautifully backlit waterfall in Iceland. You excitedly pull out your camera and start shooting. You already know that you’ll get at least some good images. You smile inside at the expectation of processing, posting and printing. Right. Job done. Where to next?

This is a well trodden path which produces some great images and good friendships. But this time let’s not rush off. Instead let’s pause, rewind and consider some alternative scenarios. Consider that location as an empty ‘creative space’ waiting to be filled with an interpretation.

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Now imagine a painter walks into that scene. How would she see the light, the movement and the colours? She has the advantage of being able to add and subtract elements on the spot whereas photographers can mostly only do that in post processing. Which elements might she accentuate and how?

Now rewind and imagine a poet enters the same creative space. He has more leeway to convey the full sensory impressions; the deafening sound of the waterfall and the delicate touch of the spray. The poet might consider how in Iceland it is easy to feel a deep connection to the elemental forces of nature. How trolls might live in the rocky recesses of the mist covered mountains. Is there a photographic equivalent to this kind of inspiration?

Finally, rewind again and imagine you are a composer entering the space. What kind of mood could you conjure up with the full complement of musical instruments at your disposal, ? How do you capture the majesty of a landscape? As Gustav Mahler said when a colleague enthused about the view of the lake and mountains from his cabin at Attersee in Austria, ‘Don’t bother looking at the view – I have already composed it’. How can we approach a fuller sense of the potential of the scenes in front of our cameras?

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You get the point. When we are in our personal photographic creative spaces we are seeing only one small part of the creative whole. A good analogy would be our eyesight where visible light is only a small part of the total electromagnetic spectrum, only one version of reality. There is more to be seen.

Similarly each of the artists above will interpret the magic of that creative space in very different ways. Whilst this is a simple point to understand intellectually, very few of us are skilled in a variety of artistic disciplines. So to expand into any of these spaces seems in practice almost impossible.

And this is one of the much debated issues in photography as an art form. The instrument itself is quite limited. Yes we can stray into impressionism with camera movement, into the surreal with multiple exposures and blend modes and into metaphor with ‘equivalents’ (http://www.moma.org/ collection/works/44200?locale=en)

But these are ‘technical’ solutions and only slightly change how we think about and see our images. So how can we bring some of that artistic inspiration available to other disciplines, back into photography? How can we enlarge the creative spaces we inhabit to energise our work?

There is a way that Eileen McCarney Muldoon and I have developed and teach in our workshop, ‘Visual Conversations’. The principles are covered in part two of this post to be published next weekend.

Meantime if you’d like more information on the workshop please check here:

Visual Conversations

July 10th – 16th, Maine Media College, Rockport, USA

Aug 23rd – 25th, Leica Studio, London, UK 

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0_Quotes_Color

Enjoy this collection of quotes on color.

“Of all God’s gifts to the sighted man, color is holiest, the most divine, the most solemn.” – John Ruskin

“In nature, light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light.” – Hans Hofmann

“Light is a thing that cannot be reproduced, but must be represented by something else – by color.” – Paul Cezanne

“Color helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that really exists, that in the artist’s brain.” – Henri Matisse

“Color is the place where our brain and the universe meet.” – Paul Klee

“Everything that you can see in the world around you presents itself to your eyes only as an arrangement of patches of different colors.” – John Ruskin

“The fact that the colors in the flower have evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; that means insects can see the colors. That adds a question: does this aesthetic sense we have also exist in lower forms of life?” – Richard P. Feynman

“The painter has to unlearn the habit of thinking that things seem to have the color which common sense says they ‘really’ have, and to learn the habit of seeing things as they appear.” – Bertrand Russell

“Color creates, enhances, changes, reveals and establishes the mood of the painting.” – Kiff Holland

“Color is a power which directly influences the soul.” ― Wassily Kandinsky

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0_Quotes_Authenticity

Enjoy this collection of quotes on authenticity.

This above all:
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

– Hamlet, Shakespeare

“The authentic self is soul made visible.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Be your authentic self. Your authentic self is who you are when you have no fear of judgment, or before the world starts pushing you around and telling you who you’re supposed to be. Your fictional self is who you are when you have a social mask on to please everyone else. Give yourself permission to be your authentic self.” – Dr. Phil

“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.” – Hildegard Von Bingen

“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” – Mother Theresa

“To find yourself, think for yourself.” – Socrates

“Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, “This is the real me,” and when you have found that attitude, follow it.” – William James

“Be yourself – not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

“The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.” – Leo Buscaglia

“Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” – Harvey Fierstein

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland

“I can be a better me than anyone can.” – Diana Ross

“How desperately difficult it is to be honest with oneself. It is much easier to be honest with other people.What is true is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one can see clearly.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“To be nobody but myself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else-means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings

“No matter what your work, let it be your own. No matter what your occupation, let what you are doing be organic. Let it be in your bones. In this way, you will open the door by which the affluence of heaven and earth shall stream into you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Everything will line up perfectly when knowing and living the truth becomes more important than looking good.” – Alan Cohen

“Best keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you see the world.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet – thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.” – Lance Secretan

“The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.” – Simon Mainwaring

“If you think dealing with issues like worthiness and authenticity and vulnerability are not worthwhile because there are more pressing issues, like the bottom line or attendance or standardized test scores, you are sadly, sadly mistaken. It underpins everything.” – Brene Brown

“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.” – Brene Brown

“If any man seeks for greatness, let him forget greatness and ask for truth, and he will find both.” – Horace Mann

“A leader will find it difficult to articulate a coherent vision unless it expresses his core values, his basic identity….one must first embark on the formidable journey of self-discovery in order to create a vision with authentic soul.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“Yes, in all my research, the greatest leaders looked inward and were able to tell a good story with authenticity and passion.” – Deepak Chopra

“Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.” – W. H. Auden

“When you are real in your music, people know it and they feel your authenticity.” – Wynonna Judd

“My work is about the establishment of trust. For someone to share their authenticity with me is a soul-to-soul thing. It’s not a lens-to-soul thing.” – Lisa Kristine

“Being in your element is not only about aptitude, it’s about passion: it is about loving what you do … tapping into your natural energy and your most authentic self.” – Sir Ken Robinson

“Man’s ideal state is realized when he has fulfilled the purpose for which he is born. And what is it that reason demands of him? Something very easy – that he live in accordance with his own nature.” – Seneca

“We are constantly invited to be who we are.” – Henry David Thoreau

“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Don’t settle for a relationship that won’t let you be yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” – Eckhart Tolle

“The accusation that we’ve lost our soul resonates with a very modern concern about authenticity.” – Patricia Hewitt

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” – C.G. Jung

“Don’t cheat the world of your contribution. Give it what you’ve got.” – Steven Pressfield

Read more in The Essential Collection Of Creativity Quotes.

Toilet Paper Face


Highlights From 40 Years


A Short History

“Mummenschanz is a Swiss mask theater troupe who perform in a surreal mask- and prop-oriented style. Founded in 1972 by Bernie Schürch,[1] Andres Bossard (August 9, 1944 – March 25, 1992), and the Italian-American Floriana Frassetto, the group became popular for its play with bizarre masks and forms, light and shadow, and their subtlechoreography. The name Mummenschanz is German for “mummery,” or a play involving mummers. Mummer is an Early Modern English term for a mime artist.”

View more Creativity / Performing Arts Videos here.

Explore The Essential List Of Creativity Videos here.

Refraction_XLI

You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think you have fears. Fear is useful. In certain situations, fear keeps us performing at our peak – it keeps us alive. But, if we let it go too far and panic, fear can kill us, literally or figuratively. This is just as true in our creative lives as it is in our daily lives. In their classic book Art & Fear Ted Orland and David Bayles address fear as a primary force to overcome in the creative process. In her new book Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert starts a list of fears – and then cuts it short. She started a creative exercise we would all benefit from engaging. Ask what fears have us in their grip, identify them, consider them, and start holding them (or not) instead.

Get started with this list of fears.

Does some of what’s on my list sound familiar to you? How can the voice inside your head be so similar to the voice inside my head? Is it really our voice? Is that voice of fear just the mind doing what it does? Is that voice of fear just the mind doing what it has been trained to do? What are the fears we all share? What are your personal fears? Which fears are strongest or most important for you?

This list of fears is incomplete.

Modify and expand this list of fears in any way that’s helpful to you. Get it all off your chest.

Curiously, after making a list, just making a list, most people feel better – freer. Newfound clarity brings more choices.

After you make your list of fears give yourself a break. Later, consider the roots of your fears. Where are they coming from? What foundations do they have? What other thoughts, feelings, and memories are they connected to? Are they changing?

If you consider the roots of your fears, you’re sure to find valuable new personal insights. Don’t judge yourself for what you find. Is judgment useful? Only insight is, if it leads to action. If you do this, you may be better able to choose to change the way you think, feel, and/or act in valuable and significant ways. That’s useful!

Self Worth & Character

You’re afraid you’re not enough.
(Insert a word in this sentence, before “enough.” – good, deep, smart, emotional, significant, important, connected, talented, skilled, trained, educated, political, relevant, funded, supported, hurt, angry, wild, energetic, controlled, disciplined, persistent. serious …)

You’re afraid you’re too …
(Insert a word at the end of this sentence. – intellectual, emotional, insignificant, unimportant, unconnected, trained, educated, political, well-funded, supported, hurt, angry, wild, energetic, controlling, undisciplined, serious, light-hearted … )

You’re afraid that your life hasn’t been painful enough.
You’re afraid that your life has been too hard.
You’re afraid that your life has been too easy.
You’re afraid you’ll have to confront your inner demons.
You’re afraid you don’t have any inner demons.
You’re afraid you may encounter the divine within you.
You’re afraid you won’t encounter the divine within you.

Criticism

You’re afraid you’ll be criticized.
(Replace criticized with any other synonym – ridiculed, mocked, mimicked, embarrassed.)
You’re afraid you’ll lose the approval you’ve already won.
You’re afraid you’ll be called unskilled.
You’re afraid you’ll be called ignorant.
You’re afraid you’ll be called uninspired.
You’re afraid you’ll be called selfish.

You’re afraid other people’s pressures will take the fun out of it for you.
You’re afraid you should feel guilty for having so much fun.
You’re afraid other people will judge you for having so much fun.
You’re afraid that you having so much fun will be take as criticism of others for not having fun.

Significance

You’re afraid what you do won’t matter to anyone.
You’re afraid what you do won’t matter to you.
You’re afraid no one will preserve what you do when you’re gone.

Comparision

You’re afraid that what you do will be compared to something someone else has done.
You’re afraid that what you do won’t be compared to something someone else has done.
You’re afraid that when compared with someone else’s creation your creation will seem less … (Fill in the blank.)
You’re afraid that when compared with your creation someone else’s creation will seem less … (Fill in the blank.)
You’re afraid that when compared with someone else’s creation your creation will seem insignificant.
You’re afraid that when compared with your creation someone else’s creation will seem insignificant.

Money

You’re afraid what you produce won’t sell.
You’re afraid there will be no long-term market for what you produce.
You’re afraid the reward you receive won’t be worth the financial investment you make.
You’re afraid the investment you may now will take away from your family’s future financial success.

You’re afraid you don’t have enough space.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right space.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right tools.
You’re afraid you don’t have enough tools.

Skill

You’re afraid you’re not skilled enough.
You’re afraid skill alone is not enough.

Knowledge

You’re afraid you don’t know enough.
You’re afraid you’ll never know enough.
You’re afraid of what you don’t know.
You’re afraid you don’t know what you don’t know.

You’re afraid you don’t know what really right is.
You’re afraid your right isn’t someone else’s.
You’re afraid your right is someone else’s wrong.

You’re afraid somebody else already did it. (Maybe better.)
You’re afraid somebody will steal you ideas.

Time

You’re afraid you’re too young.
You’re afraid you’re not experienced enough.
You’re afraid you’re too old.
You’re afraid it’s not the right time.
You’re afraid if you do it now, it won’t turn out as good as it could.
You’re afraid that you should have done it long ago and now it won’t turn out as well.
You’re afraid it’s too late to do it really right.
You’re afraid you don’t have enough time.
You’re afraid you don’t know how to use the time you have.
You’re afraid the time you invest will be wasted.
You’re afraid the time you invest won’t be pleasurable.
You’re afraid you’ll give up before it’s over.
You’re afraid you’ll give up before you get started.
You’re afraid you’ll give up after it’s over.

Success

You’re afraid you won’t succeed.
You’re afraid that once you succeed, you’ll never have another success.
You’re afraid your success will make someone else look less.
You’re afraid your success will make someone else’s success look less.
You’re afraid it will bring out the worst in you.
You’re afraid that the worst in you will be the thing most focused on.
You’re afraid the best in you will bring out the worst in others.
You’re afraid success will go to your head.
You’re afraid success will go to other people’s heads.
You’re afraid your new successes will undo your past successes.
You’re afraid your old successes will prevent your new successes.

Sacrifice

You’re afraid you’ll have to give up something.
You’re afraid you’ll have to give someone up.
You’re afraid you’ll have to give up a part of yourself.
You’re afraid what you get won’t equal what you give up.
You’re afraid that the process will change you. (And you don’t know what that change will be.)

Conclusion

And this list continues to grow! Clearly, there’s no end to fear – unless you put a stop to it.

When you say things to yourself, ask yourself, “Would say the same things to anyone else?” If not, why would you say them to yourself? Ask yourself one more very important question. Is it useful to say these things? If so, how and how much and how often? When it’s not useful, stop doing it.

Acknowledging our fears can be quite useful. Pace yourself. You may find it useful to do this in several smaller sessions rather than all at once. Past a certain point, dwelling on fear can become counterproductive. It can keep us from living the lives we want to live. It can be a form of procrastination. Taken too far, catharsis can quickly become reinforcement. Taken to an extreme it can become a matter of fear feeding fear. Don’t feed fear. Look at fear clearly. Learn what you can from fear. And then move forward. Take the steps you need to take to live the life you want. Make the move you need to make to be the person you want to be.

While you can make some pretty good guesses and make some pretty good plans for things to do to ensure things go the way you want them to go and contingency plans for getting things back on track if things don’t go the way you want them to go … The truth is you don’t know what will happen. The truth is you won’t know until you do it.

Creativity is a process of discovery. It’s worth the risk. Dream. Dare. Jump.

Read more on Creativity here.

Explore The Essential Collection Of Creativity Quotes here.

View The Essential Collection Of Creativity Videos here.

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Do you get it?

My free January newsletter Insights is out!

This issue features ways to Plan Your Creative Success.

Making Bucket Lists, Developing Personal Projects, Selecting Your Top Images are just a few of the highlights.

It’s packed with useful tips and inspiration to help you creatively make the most of this year and every year after.

Sign up for Insights enews here free !

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View my Top Images Of 2012 here.

Photographer Paul Strand said, “Your photography is a record of your living for anyone who really sees.” How do you see your photography? Where? How often? What ways? Why?

Performing an annual review of your images is one way to see your photography over and through time. When you do this, it’s useful to make a record of your observations. Consider both the selection of images and the observations you make about your selection a journal. It’s one of many different kinds of journals I keep. Like a journal, to get the maximum benefit, you need to make multiple entries at different times. The frequency with which you do this is up to you. I find I get the most out of this exercise when I do it annually.

An annual review or your images is useful in so many ways. It brings you more clarity. It helps you see what you accomplished. It shows you what is missing or left undone. It reveals new possibilities. It gives you more choices. It helps you set goals for the future. It increases productivity. It leads to greater fulfillment. While it takes discipline and effort to do, the results it produces feel great.

Annual reviews are not a waste of time. Quite the opposite, annual reviews help you spend the limited time you have before you more effectively. Annual reviews can even drive you to greater productivity. Knowing that you’ve got one coming up you may start working earlier, chart your progress over time towards a goal, and/or make a last minute sprint to the finish line to achieve your vision of success.

Record Your Observations In The Right Form

What’s the right form to record your observations in? The one you’ll use the most often. You could use someone else’s system or come up with a complex system of your own, but if it’s not practical and meaningful you won’t use it, so you might as well not have it. Remember what Albert Einstein said, “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

You could keep this process as simple as making a selection of images. Create a collection in Lightroom for fast access and flexible updating. And/or print out thumbnails for durable record that can be displayed for as long as you like. If you want to share your selection with others consider making a blog post, an ebook, or a print on demand book. Giving these types of activities a social dimension can encourage us to maintain them. Sometimes we get valuable feedback when other people see our selections. When, where, and how much you share is entirely up to you.

This process becomes even more valuable when you use words to state the reasons for your selections (inclusion and exclusion) and your observations about your new collections on their own and in comparison to past collections. In this way, what starts intuitively becomes clearer and more actionable, something you can use not just feel.

There are many ways you can record your observations video, audio, and writing. It might be fascinating to look back at and hear your younger self at some future date. Still, for quick retrieval of information, I find nothing beats text, especially when it’s flexible digital text. You can even use the search function to find an item quickly or to find connections between different items.

After you make your selections of and comments about new images, look back at your past selections and comments. The comparisons and contrasts you make between years can be very revealing. Doing this can reveal much more than a personal history of events. Looking back at past successes can reveal changes in level of skill, consistency of results, frequency of experimentation, clarity of vision, development of style, changes in subject matter and theme, shifts in goals and your definition of success, new opportunities, and so much more. In short, it can show you how your vision has developed, where you are now, and where you are most likely to go next.

Missed a few years? While your current perspective will never be the same as your past perspective, it’s never to late to create these kinds of collections. You may find that you will want to revise past selections and make new comments. Keep your old selections and comments for comparison at a later date, either in the same or in a separate location.

Find The Right Images 

Select only your best images. What’s best? That depends on what you’re trying to do with your images. While it can be useful to select images based on what gets a strong reaction from other people, that’s only one kind of selection that offers specific kinds of insights. There are many others. Make time and space for yourself. Define what success means to you before you start your selection process. How you define success will change your results. Remember. It’s your process. They’re your images. You’re doing this review for yourself.

The collections you create from annual reviews are often very different than the collections of images you make to develop a project. When performing annual reviews the images you select tends to be more varied and divergent, share fewer similarities, and contain little or no flow between them. You see core qualities but lose the narrative arc that drives your story forward or the connective tissue that makes it hang together. Subtler, more complex, sometimes contradictory or not fully resolved elements are often eliminated. Often, significant details are lost in this mix. The bigger picture may become clearer.

Select The Right Number Of Images

A very different kind of benefit is gained by looking at all of your images simultaneously. When you become more selective, you cut right to what’s essential. Limitations become useful. I recommend you select your top image (The apex is the bottom.), your top two or three images (Create a generative tension.), and your top twelve images (Confirm your vision and style.). (Read more about this in The Benefits Of Selecting Your Top Images.) There’s nothing special about the number twelve. With fewer than twelve images it becomes more challenging to fully see both the variety and the connections within images. If you choose more than twelve images make sure you don’t set the number so high that you can no longer see the larger patterns at work in your images.

Ask The Right Questions

They say that ninety percent of a solution lies in asking the right questions in the right ways. Not sure where to start? Get the ball rolling with these questions. Are there frequent technical deficiencies you’d like to correct? Are there past technical deficiencies you have corrected? Of all the new skills you’d like to acquire, which would be the most beneficial to invest your time in now? What kinds of images were produced? What common qualities do they share? What would you like to do more of? What project(s) would benefit from more sustained attention? What’s the easiest project to complete? What’s the most important project to complete? What haven’t you done yet? What missing? From these images, how many directions could you go in? How would you rate your overall progress? How would you rate your overall progress technically, compositionally, narratively, emotionally, and conceptually?

While there are some classic questions that we would all benefit from answering, only you can determine what the most useful questions are because only you know your true goals. It’s a healthy sign when you find that you need to ask other questions that are unique to you and your images. Engage the process of asking useful questions fully and repeatedly you will be guaranteed to make important discoveries.

When it comes to answering the questions you ask, remember that in this arena your audience is you. Use the language that you think the most fluidly in and the words that mean the most to you. Do challenge yourself to go deeper and achieve greater clarity. (Exactly what does that mean – to me?) Don’t censor yourself and don’t change your answers to please someone else. How much you choose to share with others in completely up to you. Do it if it’s useful. Don’t do it if it’s not.

Conclusion

Things change over time. So do we. And, so do our images. Nothing else records the change itself like a journal. Records of how our images change (and don’t change) can offer us (and others) valuable insights into both our creative lives and ourselves. Most importantly, we can learn from our past to make our future more like the life we want to live.

Read more on Creative Planning here.

Learn more in my creativity and digital photography workshops.


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