40 Days | Catharsis

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

– Ferris Beuller

I haven’t posted online in 40 days, by far the longest stretch I have ever gone without writing.  It would be an understatement to say that the last few months have been a little surreal, with life’s rollercoaster of highs and lows moving at a breakneck pace.  All of this necessitated taking a break from my creative work and from this community of people that I love so much.

But here we are now, just 5 days away from Christmas, with so much to catch up on:  Meaningful stories from a small documentary project that I worked on with Fujifilm, my thoughts (and a new article) about working with a pre-production copy of the Fujifilm X-Pro3, a new interview that was recently published on The Phoblographer website and, sadly, a few thoughts on the recent passing of my father.

Let’s get started, shall we?

 

CREATE FOREVER – HOW A PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT SAVED LIVES:

In early October Fujifilm and Muse Storytelling launched Create Forever, a new series that focused on the reasons behind why we create art.  It wasn’t a series about shutter speeds or apertures.  There was to be no discussion about lens choices or off camera lighting.  No, this was to be something different… Create Forever is a celebration of the humanity behind what we all do.

My journey with PTSD, and how photography helped save me, was one of the mini documentaries that was released as the project rolled out (when it first launched I wrote about it HERE).  This video was actually a bit of a capstone for me, coming on the heels of more than a year of talking about my journey in interviews, on podcasts, and on stages all over Vancouver.  

Immediately after the video came out people reached out to thank me for telling my story, to tell me about their own journey, and occasionally to ask for help.  I am talking about hundreds of emails and messages within days of the release.  Every one of these conversations has meant so much to me, but this one was particularly special (I share it here with the author’s permission):

“I worked in law enforcement, but had to take an early medical retirement due to chronic anxiety.  I lost my wife to divorce and my closest friend to illness.  For the last year I have thought about ending it all, but today I went out and took photos instead.  Thank you.”

I stared at the screen for a long time after I received that.  It is one thing to save lives and care for people as a paramedic, or to tell your story on the hopes of inspiring others, but what do you say when you receive something like that?

I am so proud to have been a small part of this project, and to work with my friends at Fujifilm and Muse Storytelling.  This campaign has touched lives.  If you haven’t seen my video yet, or the street photography tips video that accompanies it, you can see them here:

Create Forever with Ian MacDonald
Create Forever Tutorial – Street Photography

 

THOUGHTS ON THE NEW FUJIFILM X-PRO3:

In September I spent a few weeks with a pre-production copy of the new Fujifilm X-Pro3.  This was the fourth or fifth time Fujifilm has asked me to work with them on a product launch, and it is always an exciting process.  

My chaotic fall meant that I didn’t post anything when the X-Pro3 initially launched.  A lot has already been written about this wonderful new camera since then, so I will just echo the thoughts of my friends that also tested it:  The camera is amazing, featuring cutting edge technology in an elegantly simple design. 

Here is an article on the Fujifilm website where I talk about my initial thoughts on the camera:

The Best of Both Worlds – The New Fujifilm X-Pro3

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PHOBLOGRAPHER WEBSITE:

In November I had the pleasure of speaking with the fine folks over at The Phoblographer website, who wrote a series about the Create Forever project. You can read the interview I did with them here:

Photography helped Ian MacDonald overcome the darkness of PTSD

 

SAYING GOODBYE:

On November 21st we lost my father to a massive heart attack.  Dad was an amazing man:  the head of our family and a leader in our community.  His loss will be felt for a long time to come, but his legacy will last much, much longer. 

Twenty years as a paramedic taught me that life is uncertain at the best of times.  It taught me that we need to live the best life that we can now, because we don’t know how many tomorrows we have left.  Dad was starting his 80th year when he passed, but he somehow managed to pack hundreds of years of accomplishments into his time here on Earth.  His was a life to be celebrated.

He taught me how to be a man / father / husband.  He supported my love of creating art, and served as a moral compass when I needed it.  I have a lot to unpack before I can write about him properly, but one day I hope to tell you all about the man that he was.

 

LOOKING FORWARD:

It feels good to write again.  I feel rusty, but it feels good.  It feels cathartic.  Next week I will publish my year in review as always, but for now I just want to say thank you to everybody that I interact with through this site and on social media.  Your kind words of support have meant the world to me over the last month or two.

I started this post with one of my favourite quotes from Ferris Beuller:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Last month life dictated that I stop for a little while.  Now, I encourage all of you to do the same over the next couple of weeks.  Spend time with your family, friends and loved ones.  Celebrate life, do what you love, and remember those who are no longer with us.

I wish you all the very best over the holiday season.

Cheers,

Ian

On collaboration, community and being true to yourself as an artist…

Hey everyone,

Just a quick post to say that I am the guest on this week’s Hit The Streets podcast with my good friend and fellow Official Fuji X Photographer Valerie Jardin. This is the third time Valerie and I have spoken on her show and this week we talk about three of our favourite things: Collaboration, community, and being true to yourself as an artist.

The episode and podcast can be found on iTunes, but here is a direct link to it on Valerie’s website:

http://valeriejardinphotography.com/podcast/2017/3/10/hit-the-streets-26-on-being-true-to-yourself-with-ian-macdonald

I hope you enjoy the themes we discussed this week!

Cheers,

Ian

p.s. There are very few spaces left now for my June 2-4 Vancouver Street Photography Workshop, and only one or two spaces left for my July 21-23 Toronto Street Photography Workshop. If you are interested, more information can be found via the links in the sidebar. I’d love to work with you in these exciting cities!

On Creativity, Perspective, and Acceptance

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I have a young, beautiful, talented friend who is working towards a career as a full time creative, and who recently expressed frustration over where she was with her career versus where she wanted to be.  I get this.  It is so easy to feel like you are behind the 8 ball when you don’t get the gig after an audition you thought went well, or when you see others on social media living the life you want to live.

This is a common theme:  In this day and age of social media we are inundated with information;  it only takes 60 seconds to jump on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and see someone having huge success, showing off new equipment, talking about their latest travels, the new gig they got, or being liked and followed by tens of thousands of people.  It is so easy to compare our own lives to this and feel like we are coming up short.  It is easy to become jealous and then to let that jealousy guide our actions.  I see this a lot in the photography world.  If you pick an immensely popular photographer, I will show you 100 people copying that person’s style in an effort to re-create that person’s success for themselves.  This is a trap.  These feelings can get even more magnified because we are really comparing our day to day lives to someone else’s highlight reel.  I know a lot of people who are extremely popular on social media, and I can say that in many cases their day to day lives differ quite a bit from what they choose to show on social media.

Then, there are the times when you put yourself out there, only to encounter the inevitable internet troll or person who begrudges you your success, and who goes out of their way to let you know about it.  It is amazing how one negative comment can decimate that feeling of success you were having… if you let it.

I suspect all creatives go through this.  Heck, I suspect all people go through this.  No one is immune really.

Speaking personally, I have had huge successes in my life in almost every endeavour I have pursued.  By all accounts I am successful in my photographic pursuits:  I am an official brand ambassador for a company I love working with.  I have the joy of presenting and teaching.  I have the honour of photographing weddings and working with other clients, and I have wonderful conversations every day with people I respect from around the world that I know through social media.

Perspective is everything though, and one of the funny things about perspective is that it can easily be lost.  And, when it is, it is so easy to go astray.

Do you see that photo at the top of this post?  99% of the time I feel like the rocks on the left are where I started, the buoy in the water is me and the rocks on the right represent my photographic destination (my creative and business goals).   Like you see in the photo, I currently feel like I am about a third of the way to where I want to be, but I know I will get there because I am passionate about my craft and I am determined.

Sometimes though, rarely, I feel more like that buoy (me) is just floating and getting bashed about in the waves.  I feel lost, and I tend to struggle to regain focus.  This is where it becomes dangerous.  It happens to everyone from time to time, you just don’t see the struggle posted on their social media that often.

Recently, ironically enough during a period where things were going extremely well for me, I went through this exact thing:   A good friend had huge success with a project.  This is a project that I was also given the opportunity to do, but which I passed on due to life circumstances at the time.  When my friend was experiencing their success I should have been happy for him, yet instead I felt jealousy.  And, once I felt it, it started derailing my other efforts.

At the same time, I had a negative experience with a couple of internet trolls.  For clarity, I usually just shake my head with a smile when I encounter negative people.  I spent 20 years on an ambulance as a paramedic, responding to about 15,000 911 calls, and I know better than most what real problems are.   I think there are few things in life that give you perspective on what really matters like working as a paramedic does because of the hurt, confusion and fear you see in people.  Negative comments also usually don’t bother me because it is a truth that when you put yourself out in the public’s eye you are going to encounter people with many different points of view, including negative ones.  The first thing I do when I get negative feedback from people is to follow this advice:

“Consider the motivation of the person who is giving you the feedback:  Are they sincerely trying to help you?  If so, then think about what they are saying.  Or, are they just trying to get under your skin?  If that is the case, simply ignore it”.

This almost always works for me, but for some reason it didn’t this time.

All of a sudden, just like that, I found myself derailed for a day or two.  Derailed by jealousy over a friend’s success (how crazy is that), derailed by a sense of not being far enough down my path, and derailed by some unknown person on the internet who doesn’t agree with my work and my thoughts (and who went out of their way to let me know about it).

Stupid, right?  Stupid, but also human as some very good friends pointed out (thank you Patrick and Valerie).

Why am I sharing this?  Because I want my friend, this brilliant and talented young actress, to know that she isn’t alone when she feels like this.  We all feel like this from time to time, just not everyone talks about it.  Success is really an iceberg.  On the surface you see the rewards and accolades, but underneath it is nothing but blood, sweat, failure, hard work, frustration, set backs, disappointment, and resistance.

So what do we do, as creatives, to get out of these funks we occasionally find ourselves in?

The first thing has to be to regain perspective.  Step back, step away, re-connect with family and friends.  We need to remind ourselves of what really matters in life, and to remind ourselves that happiness is intrinsically driven.  We own it.   We have the ability to create it, and others can only destroy it if we allow them to.

And, as I was recently reminded by my friend Patrick Laroque, we need to create art.  Not art guided by what we think others want to see, not art guided by trends, not art created to satisfy the needs of the internet and social media, and not art to further our business pursuits.

We just need to create art.  For ourselves, because that’s what we do.

The only way to truly be satisfied as an artist is to create for the sake of creating.  Create art for no other reason than we love the process.  Create art because it brings us joy, and create without giving a sh*t about what other people think about it.

If I consider all of my successes, I achieved them because I was being true to myself.  I created and shared work I was happy with and some people responded to it.  That is where we need to keep our focus, because that is the path to being happy and feeling satisfied as artists (if artists can ever truly be satisfied).  If you chase trends you are selling yourself out.  When you purposely edit your photographs to look like today’s popular artist, when you become photographers of a certain genre because it is currently popular, or when you connect with people on social media for no reason other than they are the “cool kids” and represent where you want to be you are only setting yourself up for failure in the long run.

So, to my brilliant friend I say just continue to create art that makes you happy.  Put it out into the world and don’t worry about what other people are doing, just be the 5 year old with the box of crayons and make art because you love it.  If you remain true to yourself you will find satisfaction as an artist and, when the time is right, people who respect and are aligned with your vision will also find you.  Trust the process, as it is really the only true option.  Everything else is just chasing the rabbit down the hole for all the wrong reasons.

Just my two cents.

Cheers,

Ian