Photographers are a fickle bunch. In many ways, we can be supportive, kind, and well-intentioned towards other photographers. I like to think that we all want to help others succeed and enjoy themselves, but unfortunately, not everyone has the same approach. Photographers are competitive. I totally get it. And very few will say what they really are thinking to your face.
Have you ever become discouraged after seeing something posted by another photographer? I know I have. It’s tough to feel accomplished when you see your counterparts out in the field, traveling the world, making beautiful photographs and having even more amazing adventures. I do my fair share of travel, and I post the photos I create on my journeys as well. Many of us are just sharing our fun experiences with our family and friends, with no tidbits of boastfulness about it.
However, there is still a lot of arrogance in this field (I’m not sure why, all we’re doing is making pretty pictures). But pride (and the creation of envy) may still be there. It may be subtle, it may not be intentional, but it still exists. Sometimes it can be as simple as a post on social media, something outwardly neutral but filled with hidden subtleties. Or an educator who teaches for fame or acknowledgement, filled with arrogance and disrespect for the people they are serving. The good news is that most photographers are not like this, but the few that are out there are very loud.
There is also another possibility, one that is even more likely, that our perceptions of others’ success negatively shapes how we feel about ourselves. We may look at a person’s travels, book sales, or workshop attendance and wish that we could do the same. Or maybe you look at what others are doing and feel that they don’t deserve it (but you do). We see all of the wonderful things posted by other photographers (who do, in fact, have well intentions) and their success and happiness brings to light the fact that we are sitting at home, and our camera has collected dust for weeks.
For this I have five simple words: Don’t let them crush you.
Don’t let anyone, whether they are malicious or supportive, well-intentioned or arrogant, find their way into your bones, draining you of your will to create. It is easy to look at others’ success and think that you could be doing more, or will never amount to that level of success.
Social media doesn’t make it easy, especially when you follow those of us who only post the happy stuff. Doing this makes our lives look gold-plated with lollipops and rainbows at every turn. But I assure you, things are not always as they seem. What we share online does not always reflect what is really happening behind that curtain.
What I’m trying to articulate with this long rant is to take everything with a grain of salt. So what if so-and-so photographer is making tens of thousands of dollars doing something you wish you could do, too. It’s likely that they have been at it for years, if not decades, and have made (or are making) many sacrifices to accomplish their goal. We don’t all write best-sellers with our first publication. We don’t grow organic social media followings overnight. And every career starts at year one. Maybe this is your year.