In this episode of the Fine Art Photography Podcast — dealing with insecurity and being jealous of other photographer’s work
In this episode of the Fine Art Photography Podcast, I talk about self-doubt and being jealous of other photographers. Specifically in this episode, I talk about the beautiful work of Danish photographer Trine Søndergaard, and Dutch photographer Bastiaan Woudt, who talked about his own feelings of jealousy of other photographers in his documentary, “Capturing Morocco with photographer Bastiaan Woudt.”
Full transcript: The Fine Art Photography Podcast episode 62
In this episode — being jealous of other photographers
Welcome back to another episode of the Fine Art Photography podcast.
A lot of artists, myself included, tend to suffer from self-doubt from time to time.
My photography business is based primarily around selling photographic prints. Prior to the pandemic, things were going really well. Most of my high-dollar clients are interior designers and with the booming economy, they were busy, and so was I.
I’ve had work bought for the walls of high tech companies, banks, gourmet restaurants, hotels and medical clinics, and all kinds of other businesses. I’ve had work collected by people around the world and by a few celebrities, including a very popular young country singer here in Nashville. I’ve had photographs hanging on the bedroom wall of Meredith Grey on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy for the last four or five seasons. My daughter thinks that’s cool and so it makes me happy.
Since the pandemic, business has been hit or miss — mostly it’s been OK but recently sales have tanked. That tends to bring on self doubt. Never mind any other accomplishments I may have had in my career, I still occasionally begin to feel like a failure, like an imposter, like a guy with a camera who has no idea what he’s doing.
The other day, I was looking at the work of photographer Trine Søndergaard (sorry if I pronounced her name incorrectly) but I was admiring her work and my feelings began to transform from curiosity and admiration to pure jealousy. She’s a Danish photographer and her work is so complete — it’s so well-conceived and well-seen, and her vision is so consistent, that it makes me think to myself — why don’t I think of images like that, or why doesn’t my work have that certain something that her work has. So I’ll admit it — I felt jealous and defensive — with a big time case of imposter syndrome.
After pouting and pondering this for a while, I came back to my senses and remembered that, of course, comparing your work to another person’s work is futile. She has her own style and vision, and I have mine. I make my own kind of images, sometimes very well, sometimes not very well at all. For better or worse, I work my own way and I make the images I make and I don’t think I could change it even if I wanted to.
Then a few days later I watched a documentary called “Capturing Morocco with photographer Bastiaan Woudt,” who expressed many of the same things I just said.
Now in case you don’t know him, Bastiaan Woudt is a young Dutch photographer who is very successful and quite talented. I’m also a bit jealous of his work, partly because he’s so darn young and already so good. He’s 34 now, but he’s been working at a high level for years. He does commercial work but also sells his art though several high-end art galleries around the world.
Anyways, in the documentary, we see Bastiaan in Morocco, on a trip funded by prize money trying to make images, and feeling overwhelmed and unable to find his flow. Ordinarily he works in a studio where he can carefully control the environment.
In Morocco, he found himself in the midst of the busy street life — he called it an ant hill, with streets winding everywhere activity on every part of the street. In the course of the film, he was discussing his difficulties achieving the right mindset, and how he was beginning to get moody, feeling like he wasn’t making good work. He said that he watches documentaries about other photographers, especially street photographers, who get good work so easily, and he said it makes him feel jealous. But then — like with my own recent experience — he recognized that’s them — the street photographers have their way of working — and he has to work his own way.
Bingo! My own situation, reflected back to me by someone whose work I really admire.
In the documentary, Bastiaan kept working, and eventually he pushed through that anxiety until he found the — quote — peace of mind.
Eventually he got a breakthrough shot that he was happy with, and it got easier for him after that. For him, it was about getting away from the hustle of the city, and getting into the quiet of the countryside. That helped him achieve his signature look, which has a feeling of bold graphic simplicity.
As his gallerist says in the documentary, the chaos of the city took Bastiaan out of his comfort zone and made him recognize his strengths. Recognizing his own strengths helped him to save himself and the project.
It’s a great documentary. I’ll include a link to Trine Søndergaard and to the Bastiaan Woudt documentary in the description.
This is not the first time, and I doubt it’ll be the last time, that I feel jealous of another photographer’s work, but in the end, it’s all inspiration to keep working and keep improving. And to keep creating my work in my own unique way, because that’s all any of us can really do.
That’s all I’ve got for this episode, thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you again real soon.
Documentary, “Capturing Morocco with photographer Bastiaan Woudt”