The weekend of Momocon 2018 was turbulent for me personally. Were it not for the photo ops and the great people I’ve met, I would have probably thrown the badge away.
But, why focus on the bad when there was so much to celebrate?
First off, I’ve been trying to get out of my shell by setting a photo quota. Being social is getting a little easier now: while I’m still heavily shy, it’s not as cumbersome. While I didn’t meet my personal quota, I set a personal record for the number of unique photos taken at any convention I’ve been to. 148 is huge, at least for me. I didn’t get half that last year.
Speaking of last year (nice awkward segue, Allen)… it’s been a year since I first started reaching out on Instagram. I have Momocon 2017 to thank for my modest number of followers, so I wanted to devote time and work to honoring the followers that were here first, and have been supporting me ever since. To that end, I think I was successful, but I’m still searching for ways to say thanks. 130 people watching this journey is much more than I thought I’d get, especially in a year. I owe you all a great debt.
I’m putting together a book of the pictures I took at the convention. I wouldn’t dare offer it for sale: on top of it being a major economic sink, the idea feels like a humongous legal nightmare. I will, however, give a PDF of the book to anyone who wants it.
I have a lot of practicing to do, but I can recognize now how far I’ve come. This year was eye-opening and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
So. See you all at AWA. Or perhaps, Atlanta Comic-Con? We’ll see.
A friend across the pond asked me who my favorite photographers were, and I was embarrassed because I didn’t have an answer. It meant, in turn, that I had no artists in the field, past or present, that truly inspired me. I was just learning the technical aspects of the craft and not the aspects that make images art. It was embarrassing because, artistically speaking, I am still a nobody. And I had no visual examples, no craftsmen in mind, that inspired me to change this.
But even though I didn’t have a photographer in mind, I did have an image in mind. I saw this image, shot by Italian photographer Paolo Roversi, a long time ago on Tumblr (a fine place where no one credits anybody). WIth only that image to go on, I tracked the source of the image and I dove into the rest of Roversi’s work. The way his images look and the mood that they give both make me wish I started on film. Makes me wish I had the courage to even work with film. They’re mostly dark, unsharpened images, mostly desaturated. It’s a vintage feel that I didn’t know I liked, not until I saw the image.
One thing that has bothered me is that there is a clear difference between a “photographer” and a “kid with a camera,” and I’ve spent an uncomfortable about of time being the latter. I’m learning how to better myself: how to better compose shot, how to better frame subjects, how to match a lens to a situation and how to better edit the results of my exploits, but I’m not reaching towards becoming a better artist. I thought that after my time at the Art Institute, the “art” of photography would come to me naturally, but so far, no such luck. I could take all I’ve learned, have hours to get it right just to deliver an image that is ultimately without a soul, without artistry. But I’m reminded of what I was told before I even started college: They can teach you the trade they can give you the tools, but no one can teach you how to be an artist. We’re going into 2018 without a clear idea of what it means to be an artist. I use this idea to build myself and keep myself from falling into doubts: I’d hate that I’ve wasted time, writing all my life, drawing all my life, and teaching myself photography for three-four years just to learn that I do not have an artistic bone in my body.
But I am in the unique position to further myself in my own interests. For right now, things in my life remain balanced on an uncomfortably narrow tightrope but, nonetheless, balanced. I have my whole life ahead of me and far too much time on my hands. And, most importantly, I’m convinced that the journey to discover who I am as an artist is not a race. Maybe if I can leap the hurdle called “fear,” I can figure it out.
Luckily, in terms of photography, I know where to start. It costs nothing to reach out into the world (before the loss of net neutrality supposedly neuters my ability to do so), collect images and explore what it means for imagery to speak to truly speak, and what imagery speaks personally to me. There’s more to this art form than just Paolo Roversi or Annie Leibovitz. Growing artists owe it to themselves take the time to visit the works of people that came before them. The one thing that school did teach me about being an artist is that inspiration from those who blazed the trail you now walk is as healthy as it is important. There is nothing wrong with visiting the past to inspire your future. In the end, artistry is like a fingerprint–there is not one that is like another.
Funny: I’ve solved my own burning questions in the middle of writing this blog post. What I do with my answers falls to me and my willingness to branch out beyond just pressing a button to close the shutter. It’s not enough for me anymore. I desire the image to speak now. It’s exciting.
Image by Paolo Roversi
Today was a bag of mixed emotions.
On one hand, to descend the hill and to feel the familiar aura of Momocon was nothing short of spectacular. I love places like these, and before today, I had experienced nothing as breathtaking as this park. The marriage of the outdoors with the convention experience felt like an event tailored with me in mind.
However, I had to face another feeling, a feeling I thought I had conquered. All that bashfulness I spent the entirety of AWA conquering had returned with a vengeance. I was in the midst of people more talented than I—photographers and costumers alike. Today my nerves won, and they allowed me only three photos to take home.
Daily, I face the fact that there are people who do what I do far better than I can, and the climb to become a better artist gets harder and harder. There are other insecurities, too. Between being male and black, and looking the way that I do, I find approaching cosplayers for a photo hard. Perhaps harder than it needs to be. But the desire to not cause the common problems plaguing the cosplay community shrinks me down into a person that has no confidence to speak off.
I had fun. I even met some people. But in the end, I feel like I took a giant step backward, and I don’t know how to proceed.
But nothing in my overreacting head will stop me from trying.