Vincent van Gogh didn’t sell a single painting in his life — does that make him “unsuccessful”.
The traditional view of “success”
We have all been spoon fed a common notion of “success”— big house, BMW car, white picket fence, millions of dollars, and smiling housewives.
In photography and art, the common notion of success is having big exhibitions, millions of followers, selling prints and our works for thousands of dollars, traveling the world, and being written about in history books.
But friend — how do you define success for yourself?
My personal definition of success
For me, I define success as:
Making stuff I like.
Ultimately for me, I’m the ultimate judge of myself. Even if I have a billion people liking my stuff, but if I don’t like my own stuff, I won’t feel successful.
Often, I make stuff that people don’t like. Does that make any less successful? I don’t think so.
When Picasso was innovating with cubism, a lot of people didn’t like his work. A lot of early innovation is resented and hated, because people just don’t understand it.
As a trailblazer, or an innovator/visionary, a lot of people won’t understand you. But the most important thing — do you understand you?
The Greeks didn’t care about success
I’ve been reading a lot of ancient geek literature — Illiad and Odyssey from Homer, and The Histories from Herodotus. They never mention this concept of “success”. They talk about glory — which is usually only happened by dying a valiant death in the heat of war for your own country.
Even the ancient artists and artisans of the past (according to Herodotus in ancient Egyptian times)— the artisans and artists were seen very favorable by the king. They were given 5 pounds of bread everyday, 2 pounds of meat, 2 pints of wine, a small plot of land (the same allotments given to the private guards of the king). Which means to me — all you “need” as an artist or artisan is just to have enough food, somewhere to live, and in today’s day — good coffee and WiFi.
What is the biggest blessing?
The biggest blessing we can have isn’t material possessions, money, or admiration from others.
The biggest blessing we have as artists is having the opportunity to make more of our own art.
Even a lot of these famous rappers making millions of dollars are just slaves to their record labels. They can’t rap about what they want to rap about. They have no control over their schedule, they just constantly do interviews, photo shoots, and tour and do concerts. They have no freedom.
Freedom is happiness
For us, as modern visual artists and photographers — what we desire is freedom. Freedom and control over our art above all.
Realize friend— you already have the best situation in life. Don’t fantasize about the future. Appreciate the blessings you have in your life RIGHT NOW — and don’t hesitate, make more of your art.
Make art which causes your heart to sing. Create your own reality in your pictures. Use whatever medium. Use your camera, iPad, iPhone, Film, digital, whatever.
The most important — for you to keep your passion of photography and visual art alive.
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