This is a syndicated blog post from Nils Kuelper. It and the images here are being used with permission.
We are constantly trying to improve our skills and we fear the harsh critique of our greatest competitor: ourself!
Yes. I am that type of guy who sometime looks at his photos and think: they are crap, you should be more like John Doe or Max Mustermann. Blah blah blah. This feeling of insecurity is good and bad at the same time. Bad if you are to shy to get over this feeling drowning in a sea of shame. Good if you can get over this feeling and create something new out of this. Because there is nothing wrong with it.
There are a lot of paid workshops out there to learn street photography. That is okay, but don´t expect to much from such events. There are some rockstars in photography out there and we think we could get some of the glare when we pay a certain amount of money to hang around with them. But real life does not work that way. You can only learn things you discover and do out of your own. And you have to follow your own road with all the obstacles, fears and even with all the moments you think photography is shit and you are just a copycat in a world where nearly everything is already done by someone else (we often tend to think that).
But the problem behind this feeling is that we think that we have to do all this work to impress someone else. In the times of social media we all have smaller or bigger audience that is watching. We think we have to compete, to be a hero (even for 15 minutes like Warhol said). But this isn´t really important. At first we have to convince our inner audience that we are on the right track or not. Don´t care about what others say in the first line. It is great to get some feedback. But don’t take it too serious. See it as an inspiration or one opinion in a universe of opinions. If you have problem with the quality of your photos, than try to master your tool properly. There is nothing wrong with visiting a workshop to learn how to master your equipment. It is also great to learn how to compose images (rule of thirds etc.) in art, but don´t think your images should look like the works of Bruce Gilden or Saul Leitner or put your favorite artist name here _________.
And don’t take the opinion of the above mentioned photographers too serious. They are also driving down the same road as you do. But the took other shortcuts, saw different landscapes and destinations as you. They have a different life compared to yours. Maybe they grew up in a poor environment living in the streets like Chuck Jines did and they have a different view on the same place like you. So don´t try to copy them. Listen to your inner voice. What drives you through the streets? Maybe you are a coffee addicted and want to do a series about baristas and people drinking coffee? Then do it! You want to do a series about walking feet only? Come on, do it! Go for it!
You think street photography should not be like I said in the last sentences? Then fuck it and do something else. But don’t let someone tell you how it should look like. Maybe the results are not being noticed by other people. But if you love them without a doubt, they were worth all the effort. Hang you photos on your wall at home or work. Think of all the artists out there creating great images without having any real success. And think of Vivian Mayer. She did ten thousands of photos just for her own without exposing them to the public. Even as she was old and poor she kept them as a secret. I think she was looking at her own photos with a feeling of deep satisfaction. They were not meant to be exposed in her lifetime.
And this feeling should guide you through your life. And if you can´t generate an outcome out of this then try to do it in your spare time beside your job or do wedding, reportage, business photography in the first line to gain some money to follow your road. But don´t try to live the life of someone else.
May 2016 be the year were your dreams come true!