June 20, 2014

what I would say.

Dear H,
You write that you are hesitant to take photos that "don't fit with your style." Here's what I would say: don't worry so much about style. Don't attempt to explain your voice. In fact, forget the vocabulary entirely (I can hear you protesting, but give me the benefit of the doubt and listen). You are like a child learning to walk and instead of stepped sure-footed (albeit shaky), you are staring at your feet wondering what the right way to walk is. This is ridiculous. The right way to walk is to walk. First steps are for discovery, for finding the world round under your feet and what becomes your response to it. First steps are not a time for metaphysical musings on the "assurance of your path" or the "cohesive feel" to your work. What work? I say this gently, but you are too frantic running around to explain a body you don't possess. Do the work. Figure it out later. Take many good photos and take many bad photos. Someday you will know the difference. And this I would say also, don't begrudge yourself dark periods or times when your art comes differently. You, as an artist, will not create or react to the world the same way as anyone else. The beauty of art is that we all arrive at it where we are, so our life experiences, our memories, our deep sorrows, secret tragedies, and raw triumphs, lead us to this place to create. You cannot create another artist's reply to the question the world gives. You can only respond with truth and tenacity in your own way, your own tone and lilt and cadence. There is no wrong answer, but even more than that, no foolish question. You need the freedom of exploration to find yourself, otherwise you are boxed into a cage where the only key is locked inside. You already have the key. Your journey is discovery on the road the open door leads to. So go. Create and make art (remembering making art is intrinsically a messy, gritty, gutsy process) and don't worry about your specific style or voice. That awakening comes later. That you already have. It's just a matter of getting down to the hard work of discovery.

reading through letters to a young artist by julia cameron and in similar fashion, I wrote a letter to my beginning artist self, circa 2010.


  1. Yes. <3 I think my favorite part is "the right way to walk is to walk."

  2. oh this is good. no, really. this is just good. if only everyone had a portion of your wisdom. love this idea, too. :) xx

  3. Wow. This is amazing. Even though I don't know you, these words made my day special.

    my blog: http://why-hello-beautiful.blogspot.com.au/

  4. w o w. i know you addressed this letter to a younger you, but it's like you took a good look at my life as of late and wrote this letter to me. (maybe it helps that my name is hannah too. :P) but really, though. for the past few months, i've been wanting to discover more about who i am as an artist. i'm excited but, like the younger hannah you described in your letter, i'm also hesitant and worried and a little too caught up in things like style and labels and perfection. what you said in this letter really hit home. thank you for writing and sharing this, hannah. i really needed to hear these words. :)