Be Yourself

Kullgruvearbeider ferdig med dagens skift

About two weeks ago I came across a very interesting post. It was the Canadian photographer Tony Fouhse who wrote about dos and don’ts as a photographer. It appeared on Colin Pantall’s blog, which has had other photographers write about the same subject before. But while others has dealt with various themes like ways and means to promote yourself or how to position your work to get a good client base, Fouhse focused on the basic recognition about what it means to be a photographer. He wrote about the necessity of being yourself – and follow both your good and your bad instincts. This goes straight to the core of authenticity.

Tony Fouhse writes in the post: «If you embrace your contradictions and work hard at being yourself, you will end up in a surprising place, one more authentic than if you just do what you think you are supposed to do. And in these days of ubiquitous photography what we need, more than anything, is authenticity. People recognize it.»

I cannot agree more with Fouhse. The core of being a true photographer is being authentic and keeping your integrity both as a photographer and a human being. Being yourself. For that to happen as a photographer, you have to explore the depths of your being as that is where the source lies. This requires opening the vital centre of yourself – the heart. Many are reluctant to go to this vulnerable, intimate place but by doing so you will discover that the uncovered heart reveals both vulnerability and strength. A closed heart, fearful of intimacy, lives in the world that may appear clean and uncluttered – that is until you check under the carpets. Without your true self, you will be living in a superficial way – with much dirt under the carpets – keeping the act of creativity dormant. You can be the problem, but you can also be the solution.

Alas, according to Tony Fouhse being yourself means follow both your good and bad instincts. As he writes: «In my experience most people’s good instincts are remarkably similar, while their bad instincts are often particular. By embracing your good and bad ideas and impulses, by figuring out how to incorporate them into your life and your work, you somehow become more yourself. Plus, you’ll probably end up in unfamiliar territory, a place that will engage you in ways you can’t imagine, make you feel more alive.»

Tony Fouhse is a professional photographer based in Ottawa, Canada. He was featured in a story about intimate portraits in the latest edition of American Photo. The magazine showed a story he did about the heroin addict Stephanie – which also made it into the book Live Through This. Fouhse surely had to embrace intimacy to be able to photograph this project. Check out this strong story on his blog.

Colin Pantall’s blog is made by Colin Pantall, a photographer and writer based in Bath, UK. His blog is great, so if you are interested in photography, check it out, too.


88 thoughts on “Be Yourself

  1. Otto (may I call you Otto?),
    Your essays on creativity and authenticity immediately crossover from the specifics of photography to any medium, any creative process. However, today’s “essay” struck an emotional chord on a personal level. Probably not something I should confess publicly…but there it is…along with my thanks.

    1. I think it’s fantastic if the post can stuck an emotional chord, because that’s exactly what I am talking about. And yes, of course you may cal me Otto. Thank for sharing your thoughts, Jots.

  2. I love your posts on the creative process, Otto… Always very thought provoking and full of insight. And this particular one has really got me thinking!

  3. Really interesting to ponder… and it rather follows through with this blogging thing as well. We must be true to ourselves and put out there that which we are proud of, and not try to fit our posts to an unknown audience. If a post only gets minimal attention that doesn’t make it a bad post. One must work from the heart and have confidence. Thank you for a thoughtful story. ~SueBee

  4. A very nice approach! Thank you for this post as well! I agree with Tony, but I would like to ask him if people with no time, no money and no photographic education can recognize authenticity as such and not simply dismiss it as weirdness. But I agree because what matters most is being in perpetual motion and true to your self. And I also understand what he means by bad instincts!

    1. It’s an interesting question. If you ask me, I don’t think it necessarily matters, but it depending on each individual it certainly could. But if you are not interested in photography as such, most likely authenticity is less important, too. I suggest you raise the question directly on Tony’s blog… Anyway thanks for asking this important question, Vassilis!

  5. Such a good post Otto. There’s something sadly destructive about trying to be what you’re not in any creative process. Authenticity certainly lies at the heart of all we do. Thank again.

  6. You write about such cool aspects of photography and art, always so interesting to read! Really great thoughts! Art that comes sincerely from the vulnerable intimacy of the heart is the best and most interesting.

    1. I can’t really answer for Tony, of course, but for me the answer is yes. I do want others to view my work – but I wouldn’t do it to please them. Does that make sense? Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. Thank you for that. People always tell should start taking portraits to do weddings. Ugh, that’s the last thing I want to do! I’m still finding my way but I try to take photos of what attracts me. Then I know I’m being authentic.

  8. Thanks for your usual insights and the focus on authenticity, which is a path traveled slowly and sometimes not even with intention. If we achieve it, it is in various different ways and different time tables.

  9. Ja du, tänk om vi alla kunde leva så, då skulle vår värld vara den bästa av världar…
    men, tyvärr, så är det inte.
    Många, för att inte säga de flesta…fotografer, konstnärer…ja, You name It…vill hela tiden vara någon annan, uppnå någon annans mål och värderingar och det är så sorgligt.
    Jag blir lika glad…och förvånad, varje gång jag möter människor som står för vad de är, står för vad de uträttar och förmedlar…kort sagt har en egen identitet. Du är en av dem…tror jag i alla fall…och det uppskattar jag. Dina tankar och ditt engagemang sträcker sig långt utanför din egen horisont och det är möjligt enbart om man känner sig trygg i sig själv…och står för den man är…
    Och apropå att vara sig själv…bilden talar sitt eget språk…outstanding…tala om närvaro och stolthet:)

    1. Jeg vet at det ikke er lett å leve opp til idealet om å være oss selv, men vi kan i hvert forsøke. Det med å tørre å stå for det en er, henger kanskje også sammen med alder. For ikke fryktelig lenge siden var jeg også mer opptatt av hva andre tenkte om meg og min kunst eller foto. Men nå har jeg kanskje funnet en tryggere grunn å stå på. Det betyr imidlertid ikke at jeg ikke kan tvile på meg selv – og på det jeg lager. Som jeg også har skrevet om på bloggen andre steder. Men når jeg tviler på meg selv på det meste, vet jeg innerst inne at jeg likevel må gå min vei – uansett hvor usikkert det noen ganger kan kjennes.

      For bare å ha sagt det. Jeg opplever også deg som en person som står for det hun er, en person med stor integritet. Og det er ikke bare noe jeg sier for å gjengjelde dine ord. Uansett takk for det flotte innlegg, Gertie. Jeg setter veldig pris på dine ord.

  10. Thank you for fanning the flames of my spirit as well as inspiring me to capture images – and for this post which expresses so eloquently how the spirit and the image are inter-connected. You have encouraged me to strive for transparency and authenticity. Thank you!

  11. A great post, Otto. It is through trusting our own instincts and making lots of mistakes that we find our visual voices. Tony lives in my city and though I’ve never met him I know his work and find it exceptionally compelling. I guess I am on the fringes of the city…

    1. It does take both work and mistakes to find our voice doesn’t it? I would believe there is a big art community in Ottawa which means it’s not possible for all to know each other. Thanks for your comment, Karen.

  12. It seems like the easiest most natural thing to do and be, no need to gain remarkable skills or new knowledge. And yet,many of us run away from revealing ourselves. Many hide behind cloaks and masks. Some have done it so well, the masks have become a part of them. We feel so vulnerabe, like mollusks unshelled. But it’s also the pathway to self-discovery and likely, happiness. Everyone wants to be happy.

    1. In a way it should be easy to just be yourself – but in reality it’s quite hard. I still think developing new skills and knowledge is not contradictory to being yourself. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

  13. A fascinating and provocative post. I suspect that my reluctance to explore that dark inner core of myself is what interferes with my ability to take worthy portraits.

  14. Interesting blogpost. Exploring the depths of your being, being authentic and just be yourself. That is for everybody essential, not only for photographers or other creative people.
    If you are not you than who are you? You can never ever really be happy (or creative etc) if you are not your authentic self. This is your life, be your self and do what you love.

      1. I know ;-). That’s why I meditate every morning and often go for a silent walk in nature. Just to hear my own inner voice again instead of the voices of others 😉

  15. This article spoke directly to my heart, Otto! Following one’s heart is risky, but it is the only real and true way. It will peel away the layers of falsehood and liberate the photographer or artist from its shackles in more ways than one. It is a very spiritual process.

  16. Wonderful to find a thoughtful blog by a generous professional photographer. I’ve just spent time going through all the critiques and your latest posts and really like what I read and have learnt much just by the reading. Thank you for all that you share.

  17. Reblogged this on Ninagrandiose's Blog and commented:
    Otto von Munchow’s blog about photography is an open invitation to the creative essence that lurks hidden in each and every one of us. His “Picture Critique” page is a gem. He currently is critiquing your photos, if you dare. I dared! He is so positive and the process so productive that you you end up feeling good about your blunders.

  18. Hi Otto,

    The ability to link one’s visual imagery to a conversation and words is a hugely creative process is it not? You appear to have gained mastery in that and I wish to acknowledge you.So what kind of creative challenge do you see for yourself next?


    1. Mastery? I am not sure about that, but thank you for your confidence in my abilities, Shakti. I am just trying to keep improving my skills and become better at what I do. That is also the creative challenge I see for myself next year, to keep expanding and not become stuck in the same place. A more concrete challenge will be video, I really want to start doing video-projects.

  19. Another priceless post with so much to give and teach. Being ourselves, with both the good and the bad, makes our work so relatable to others. Thanks. Best wishes to you and your family.

  20. I am going to really think about the comment to embrace both the good and bad ideas. I understand that within the context of being free to make mistakes, but I’m curious to know where else “embracing the bad ideas” might take me. As always, you’ve given me something a bit more. 🙂

  21. That is one riveting stare and it seems to reflect the demands on and vulnerability of the life of a miner. At any rate, it seems to match the subject of your article. Artists come in all varieties and they produce work on many different levels of expression and quality (that old question again “What is art?” comes into play.) Creativity demands more than mere production; it calls out for the involvement of a good piece of our minds, emotions, and spirits. Knowing those things well is a life-ling endeavor, but then, we work while we are on the journey, don’t we?

    1. Well, I think to get the most out of your creative potential you need to work – hard. So, yes, we do work while we are on the journey, or should. And I agree with you in that creativity involves the mind, emotions and spirits. Thank you for your thoughts, Phil!

  22. so much to think about here and that is a good thing – you keep the mind active by having us really think on things that normally, for me anyway, just never come about or maybe it is laziness.☺ thank you for sharing both Tony and Colin’s work. Tony’s thought – a highlight for me: “By embracing your good and bad ideas and impulses, by figuring out how to incorporate them into your life and your work, you somehow become more yourself.”

  23. A lovely post, Otto. Our photographs are definitely an extension of our own personality. If we are not true to ourselves, we end up taking images that may be ‘technically correct’, but devoid of any soul.

  24. I was just talking to someone about this concept the other day. My mom took pictures but was not a photographer. I have yet to discover the heart and soul of the camera but can find it in what I want to photograph. You have discovered both.

  25. hello, sir… thanks for dropping by and leaving a thoughful message. i hope you are well… 🙂 btw, i’d appreciate it if you could point me how subscribe to the sites of Tony and Collin Pantal…. their works are admirable, cool sites also… warm regards. 🙂

  26. Otto, thank you for introducing me to my fellow Canadian,Tony Fouhse. He certainly has some powerful images on his site. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to follow his blog so I will have to make a note to myself to check it once in awhile. Great post, Otto.

    1. Yes, it seems like it’s not possible to subscribe to Fouhse’s blog. Maybe one of us should write him an email and see if he would want to change that. Thank you for the feedback, Michelle.

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