I recently jumped into a book by a fellow photographer, a book that delves deeply into this artist’s personal odyssey through the world of photography. He generously shares his formative experiences, recounting how he was gifted his 1st camera at the tender age of 8. Within the pages, he unveils some of the snapshots he captured as a child with that very camera, weaving his life story through the chapters, which document an impressive and unwavering evolution in his photographic prowess as he aged.
As I immersed myself in his narrative, my initial response was one of genuine admiration, a whispered “That’s rather fascinating!” But lurking beneath the surface, an insidious notion began to creep into my thoughts—a comparison, pitting my own photographic journey against his. My introduction to photography was not at the age of 8, but during my high school years. I did not maintain a lifelong dedication to the craft as he did; in fact, my true commitment to this art only blossomed around a decade ago, punctuated by periods of fervent activity and intermittent lulls. My collection doesn’t preserve every single photograph I’ve ever taken; quite the contrary, many have been misplaced or lost over the years, thanks in no small part to my abysmal file organization. In sum, these unsettling thoughts led me down a path of self-doubt, questioning the very essence of my capabilities as a photographer.
This is precisely why comparing oneself to others is fraught with peril.
The unassailable truth is that there exists no universally correct or erroneous route to becoming an artist. Some commence their artistic journey in their tender years, perhaps at the age of 8, while others, like myself, embark on this path in their thirties. Still, others may not kindle their artistic flames until well past their retirement years. The crux of the matter is that there is no singularly correct or incorrect moment to begin, no unequivocal roadmap to follow. The only veritable imperative is to remain faithful to the passions that stir our hearts and fuel our creative spirits. We must craft art that resonates authentically with our own souls and has the power to evoke emotion, even if it’s solely within ourselves.
The point of all of this is to emphasize that it’s absolutely acceptable to learn from and draw inspiration from fellow artists. Nonetheless, we must remain steadfast in our understanding that just because their artistic journey appears distinct from our own does not render our own path any less meaningful or legitimate.