Kevin Stenhouse

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Letting go of expectations in photography

Surrender to art and your muse

Freedom From My Worst Enemy; My Expectations

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”

I live by these words, mostly. When I step away from my work I definitely get a new perspective. Attachment and ego fall away, I observe it more objectively and begin to see it a new. Without judging it too harshly I see the parts that ring true and the parts that are pretentious. I hear that’s a trait of creative types, seeing yourself as faking it, or being a fraud but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true… sometimes. We pretend. We get inspired. We steal. One week I’m amazing followed by a month of never wanting go shoot again.

I see the flaws in my work, I want to better but where to start. Well, I start looking for inspiration at this point. I’ll dig deep into the web finding inspirational work that makes me want grab the camera and start shooting again, but I don’t. I keep searching, I keep refining ideas and leave the shooting for some other day. When that day comes I’m disappointed with the results. I was inspired, sure, but the ego took the reins and said “you have to be this good or else you’re failing” It’s a shitty cycle to get into and a hard one to escape. Soon I’m back to not wanting to shoot, looking for inspiration that I’ll never measure up against.  So how do I break the cycle.

I remember something important that seems to get lost. I love what I do.

How the hell do we forget this? What kills the connection? We can blame Instagram algorithms and a whole host of other reasons but here’s some more quotes. Pick one you like.

Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed, that is. ~Yoda

“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.  ~ Epictetus

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. ~ Reinhold Niebuhr (likely)

When you finally surrender your ideas
of how you imagine things should be,
then you can at once embrace
the beautiful reality of things
as they truly are.
~ Taoist thinking

You can only lose what you cling to. ~ Gautama Buddha

From my own point of view I’ll add the following. I enjoy photography the most when I’m curious and  exploring new ideas and techniques; simply for the pleasure of creating. Like this image. I free-lensed an old Soviet era projector lens on the front of my mirrorless camera. I wasn’t trying to achieve any specific results and the image is unplanned. It’s authentic though, it’s exactly the type of work I want to do. I enjoy being spontaneous and a certain amount of serendipity. I’m in the moment, working with an amazing person, and detaching from ego as much as possible. Surrendering to the act of creation and letting the results manifest without expectation. For me that’s the definition of joy and the process I love best.

This is what happens sometimes.
Work within a set of limitations.