Art Without Expectations

The other day on Pinterest, I came across this quote:

Act Without Expectations.

~ Lao Tzu

I pinned it because I thought it said 'Art' instead of 'Act'. At my retreat for photographers, while talking about personal projects, I had this a-ha moment if you will. I realized that we all need to take time to create art without expectations.

Now some of you might think that is a crazy easy thing to do, but I would argue that it isn't. Especially in the day and age of social media and the urge to, for reasons not always really thought out, create a business out of a hobby. If you do have a business, there are always expectations being placed on your art. By the client who tells you what they want from the art. By your life that demands that you make some sort of an income from it. By the land of social media that expects it to be good enough to retweet or like on Facebook or pin on Pinterest. And, then there are the expectations that you place on it--to be good, to be worthy, to be this or that...the list is endless really.

So, what I challenged my workshop attendees to do is find something to create that releases itself of expectation. It is strangely freeing. And, will help you listen to your heart and truly see what you believe is worthy of capturing in that moment you release the shutter. It is hard. People will say 'what are you trying to do here?'...and I'll reply 'I don't truly know'. Or they'll say 'what is this for' and I'll simply reply 'for me'...This is difficult for most people to understand because they assume that I always have some greater plan. Some idea of what the image I'm trying to get is going to look like. But, nothing could be further from the truth. When I shoot, I'm not trying to create something I see in my mind, I'm waiting to see something in you that is worthy of capture. I long to be a part of something that is bigger than just a photograph because I know that it is in those moments that the best photographs occur. I also know that it took me a long time to let go of the ideas I had banging around in my head of what the image I'm creating should look like and just let the images happen. I still struggle with this ALL. THE. TIME.

Documenting Jennie Brade's journey through cancer was one such thing. I didn't have any real expectations just a knowledge that I wanted to capture it. Whatever 'it' would be. I remember at times catching myself thinking 'oh, I know that it will be like this' and then, in the moment realizing that I truly had no idea what 'it' would be like and that THAT was the point. Or, when I went off to Iceland with my family...I had seen so many images of the places I was going to that I had already imagined what the images I was going to take would look like. THAT is utterly ridiculous. I am off to India this week and, in some ways, I feel grossly under prepared. this way, I am ready. I have absolutely no idea what it is going to look like when I get there. And, I can't wait to see it for myself.

So, this winter, take a moment to create art without expectations. Just do it. Just do it for you. I bet you might surprise yourself and learn a lot in the process. :)

~ Dana

PS...the beautiful graphic was made by my online friend, Jen Downer, who saw my comment on the Pinterest quote and sparked a conversation about me writing an article and her creating a graphic. We did it :)

PS#2...follow me on Pinterest here: