What Motivates You?

Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.

- Melinda Haynes, American novelist


This is the first entry in a new multi-part series, called 'A Selfish Art'.
It is not about writing.
Well… it could be. It could be about any art form really.
Needless to say, you found this post on a photographer's blog, so that is the slant I am going to take with it.
Of course, should you find it an apt translation for your art, translate away.
What motivates you?
What motivates your photography?
What is your end goal?
Why do you take photographs?
Who do you take photographs for?
What drives you to get out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to be on location before sunrise?
Why do you create?If you haven't asked yourself these questions, now is as good a time as any.This is the fundamental question each artist should answer, before creating art.Ultimately, our motivations, and not our creations, define us.The advent of Facebook, Google+, and Twitter have created a new kind of photographer. It may be similar for other arts, but photography especially has seen a huge transformation through the development of 'Social Media'. Call it 'Fame via Facebook' or 'Greatness via Google+'. Regardless, this was the dawn of stardom through social media marketing. Otherwise unknown artists were making a name for themselves through their social acumen. Some were truly gifted, and deserved much greater attention. These few stories of success have spawned thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of clones - searching for the backwash-tainted limelight, all the while straining for a path out from under the shadows of the previous 'generation'. A generation that had the foresight, networking ability, and yes - talent to beat them to the proverbial spiked punch that is internet stardom. If only by a few months.

But as we know, a few months is an eternity in the Internet Age. And the rest of us were left scrambling for (for lack of a better term) sloppy seconds.

Myself included.

A ruse began to set itself in my mind.

I could join these ranks. Not the ranks of clones. I could join the ranks of the elite.

I had a distinct advantage - at least that's how I figured it.
I lived in Alaska. Land of glaciers, bears, incredible mountains… and Sarah Palin, fer gosh darnit sake!
I led an adventurous life. In an adventurous place.
Who wouldn't want to follow along? Who wouldn't 'like' me?And therein lies the rub… What was I willing to do, to get people to 'Like' me?'Luckily', I wasn't alone in my quest for recognition. A close friend, who shared my love of Alaska, visual arts, and yes - quest for recognition, was chomping at the bit.Over the next several months, we worked on fleshing out multiple projects that would garner us income and notoriety. The more notoriety, the more money would follow. Logical progression. Illogical mindset.Here is an excerpt from what I wrote in an earlier piece (one that has become my personal manifesto):

Friendships built on passions for the same creative process began to suffer.
Collaborative work took on a fiscal urgency,
rather than a shared zeal for the medium.
Motivations of profits upstaged what had brought us together in the first place.
Love of wild lands and wild life, our conservation ideals for natural places and their inhabitants,
capturing moments and documenting instants when the sublime and finite meet.
Moments of harmony went untold, as we schemed an entrepreneur's dream.

In this search for money, I lost my passion for my art.

I lost myself.I didn't make any truly meaningful art for several months. When I did find the will to go outdoors, I felt completely unfulfilled. Unfulfilled might be the wrong word. I felt… empty.

Uncreative. Not in a rut. More accurately, I felt like I had fallen off an artistic cliff. It was a free fall. Pilots would call it a 'flat spin'.

As an artist, the only thing that matters is that we create. When you take that away, it is difficult to call oneself an artist. When an artist loses to the ability to create art, to be an artist - what  takes hold?Most of the time, I didn't even want to get off the couch or out of the office.

I reasoned that I should be spending my time deciphering how to make money from my art.

For too long, I followed the wrong path. An unforgiving and, ultimately, demoralizing path. The path of 'popularity & profit'.

Let me be clear. Profit from one's art is not a negative or evil thing.

Profit as the impetus… that's a whole other story entirely.

You don't make money from art. You make money from a product.

That product may be masquerading as art, but it is still a product that needs an investor.
Art doesn't require an investor to be worthwhile.
Art occurs because of the artist's investment.
Investment in the form of passion.

True - fans, critics, and collectors will judge us by our 'library' of photographic work.

But if we are honest, that is simply a cursory perspective.For those of us involved in a selfish art, there should be something deeper to seek.

Why do you create?

Your answer is more important than your technique or tools could ever be.

I'd love to hear about your selfish art(s), and your motivations behind them.
Please consider leaving a comment; I respond to each and every one. Please share this post if you enjoyed it, and believe that it could benefit others. Watch for another entry in 'A Selfish Art' coming next week.