Leaping to David

After a great meeting with a good friend who I have not seen in far too long, I decided to make the leap and focus on photography and building my photography business. I assure you, “leap” is the appropriate word. I know this because even as I sit and write about it, my heart is pounding in my throat and I feel like I am falling. But somehow in a good way. I have never been skydiving or BASE jumping or bungee jumping, but I have to assume it feels a lot like this. Free falling through space with a clear view of the ground below, but yet not too worried about slamming into it.

My friend asked me why I avoided making a real, meaningful commitment to what is clearly my passion. While I could think of several reasons, I knew that none of them were real. Real in the sense that I am real, you are real and the table I am sitting at is real. Sure I had myriad “reasons” why I had not actively pursued a career as a photographer, but they mostly revolved around FEAR (false expectations appearing real) and spending far too much time believing what others, and admittedly myself too, told me I can’t do. Can’t is a very powerful word, especially when you believe it.

Here is the odd part. There weren’t that many people telling me that I couldn’t be a photographer. Actually there were a lot telling me I should. However, I was afraid to make the leap in a meaningful way. I tried before, but I think I sabotaged myself in a lot of ways for a lot of silly little reasons. So the voices telling me I can’t seemed to be louder than the ones saying I could. And by “louder,” I don’t mean like your uncle who drinks too much and talks way too loud at Thanksgiving. Or even rock concert loud. I mean a stadium of vuvuzelas blown in anger loud. A jet fighter taking off loud. The kind of loud that is past hearing. The kind of loud where every cell in your body starts vibrating at that frequency loud. All consuming silence loud.

But today, with the help of my friend, I heard a new voice. A quiet, but powerful voice. A voice that was always there but that I never heard because I was so focused on the booming “CAN’T” (and admittedly a little complacent in a past career path). You know what it was? It was the voice of my portfolio. It was me showing myself that I can. It was always there, but it was so much easier to hear the chants of can’t than the quiet “yes Bill, you can.”

So now begins the process of editing. When Michelangelo was asked how he was able to create a statue as beautiful and magnificent as “David,” he famously responded that David was always there. He simply carved away everything that was not David. In the modern world, this is called editing. It is something everyone does in life, perhaps less than we should, but it is one of the most critical elements of creating.

In photography, it is arguably the hardest thing to do, but also the most important. Imagine if Michelangelo took the finest piece of marble and generally hammered out a roughly humanoid shape. It would be totally different, it would not be the icon that David is, and we would not be talking about it today.

There is a difference between taking a picture, making a photograph, and building a statement. David is a statement. The Sistine Chapel is a statement. Now I give myself the task of sharpening my chisel and sculpting my library of thousands of images into a statement. While I don’t expect the resulting portfolio to rock the world, I do expect it to accurately and concisely convey my photographic vision to the world. It is a statement about who I am as an artist, an individual, and what I can do for you and your clients. It is a statement that says hire me, and trust my vision to show your vision.

Editing is perhaps less about selecting the images or words that communicate what you are trying to say, then removing all the ones that don’t. Until all that is left is a simple, pure statement. Like David.

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