I didn’t realize it at the time; believe me, it felt amazing. A few years ago I started submitting to fine art gallery calls for submission, and other well respected photography competitions. When I received the email indicating my image was a finalist and would published in the Camera Obscura journal, I was taken aback. Flabbergasted. But, with this success, I was motivated to research more opportunities and submit more. The next few months I feverishly pursued personal projects. I took pictures of road kill, roosters, snow, street scenes, teenagers in angst, and every moment of inspired juxtaposition I came across. I was in love with fine art photography, and with each submission and each new acceptance, new fuel was added to the fire burning strong. I had been eyeing for some time the Centre for Fine Art Photography, watching their calls for submission, and finally found the courage to submit to this Holy Grail of fine art photography. When my winning acceptance email came with the specs to send my work to be displayed, I was over the moon. I felt like this was undeniable validation that I had a voice that others related to, possibly understood. I prepared the image, and though I had not attended any gallery openings before, I desperately wanted to attend this one. I looked through pictures of different gallery openings, with smiling people holding wine glasses, and I panicked. I am not beautiful, I have no tattoos, piercings, dreads or other creative bodily display. I am not young. I am not old. I am not male. I am an overweight middle aged female with highlighted hair, children and a van. I am not interesting. And I couldn’t bring myself to attend. I thought, this is something to work on, maybe next time. And then the next call for submission came across my desktop, and I began to think about my run of success…almost 100% success, now more than a few handfuls of submissions…and I was frozen with fear. This time, I wouldn’t be chosen. And losing never mattered before, but suddenly it did. To the point it prevented me from even submitting. I just knew, deep down, that I was going to be found out for the middle aged boring hack that I was, and I couldn’t push past this. At first, it didn’t change my passion for shooting personally. I found I could work through thoughts, fears, desires, and struggles with my camera. I created ugly images, beautiful images, images inspired by poetry, images inspired by dreams. But, with each submission, I couldn’t press the submit button. I watched as names I knew, respected colleagues, newbies making names for themselves, and artists I admired and revered would show up for chosen artists: Alpana Aras-King, Stacie Turner, Deb Schwedhelm to name a few. And I was excited for them. And I sent congratulations. And I continued to not submit. And slowly, I stopped shooting personal projects. I had every reason in the world for this. Life was insanely busy, my portrait business was booming, my walls needed painted….but I felt like some part of me had been severed. And this amputated part was what I feared I didn’t have…the interesting part of me. So, my greatest fear was successfully achieved without one denial letter to cause it to happen. I had done it to myself.
“We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.” Fulton Oursler