Jan 122015

Art & Fear

Part 3


Art & Fear, San Giorgio Entrance © Michelle Leung

Art & Fear, San Giorgio Entrance © Michelle Leung

Fears about myself

“…Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about the gap that inevitably exists between what you intended to do, and what you did. In fact, if art-making did not tell you (the maker) so enormously much about yourself, then making art that matters to you would be impossible.” - Bayles and Orland, ‘Art & Fear’

Perfection in a photography project comes when the idea is still in my mind - before I jauntily throw the loop of my camera strap around my neck, and long before I adjust the settings on my camera. And then I get into the flow of using my camera to make images that I imagine are going to be gallery masterpieces. Click. Click.

But then my world comes to a grinding halt when I look at the images. What on earth went so wrong? How did I overlook the pole growing out of the subject’s nose? What mysterious force has taken over to completely mess up the focus? Why don’t I have a serviceable image after concentrating so hard on what I wanted to achieve? What happened to the light? Where were those magical photo gods?

Art & Fear, San Giorgio illuminated corner © Michelle Leung

Art & Fear, San Giorgio illuminated corner © Michelle Leung

Photography is one of my skills. But if the quality of my photography is so bad, it seems fraudulent if I call myself a photographer. Yet, ”Inept Photographer” is not a position title I have seen on a business card - it wouldn’t market well. Should the quality of my photography define me?

It turns out that photography is a religion without a god. There are photographers who are god-like, but they are not magical. So if there are no magical forces at play, why does my idea of perfection always seem to lie tantalizingly just beyond arm’s reach? Why does photography taunt me? Am I good enough to call myself a photographer?

Art & Fear, San Giorgio Maggiore flash of light © Michelle Leung

Art & Fear, San Giorgio Maggiore flash of light © Michelle Leung

The answer is within me. That’s the answer. This leads me to more questions, and thus my learning continues. My failed photography is not me.

I continue to work on my photography. It’s my priority to maintain my relationship with the art of photography. I’ll ride through the troughs because the highs are higher than the clouds. Managing the fine balance between my art and my fears sustains my vision of photography and motivates me to keep working towards the perfect defining photograph. I commit to making the relationship work. I do.

–Michelle Leung

  11 Responses to “Art & Fear: Part 3 Michelle Leung”

  1. Ohhh! “Inept Photographer” such an apt description of how I feel. And then, I mentally flagellate myself for NOT seeing that pole and a growing list of photographic “sins”. Thanks, Michelle – exactly what I feel and what keeps me from posting photos on the Workshop page.

    • Rebecca,

      I found that Michelle’s words spoke to many of our inner thoughts. It is too easy to fall in the traps of self-defeat.

      From now on, just go for it. Your pictures are winning recognition, they would be eagerly accepted on the workshop page.


  2. Hi Michelle,

    Looking at your photos I feel that your fear creates the attentive attitude of a real artist in you.

    Have just read about Giacometti – in the book on his friendship with Cartier Bresson:
    “..he cannot but escape the feeling that such ongoing creation instant by instant rests entirely on his intuition, on his personal will: whence, inevitably, angst. Giacometti lived this angst to the full.”

    Am happy that you overcome your fear and share the beauty of your images with us.

  3. I have a box of those ‘Inept Photographer’ business cards. Thank you Michelle for both your inner thoughts and your inspiring images…San Giorgio illuminated corner is really beautiful!


  4. Hi all,

    I found out an interesting thing when I looked through my archive: In those times when I was just taking photos, without the intention to create masterpieces, those images were really good.

    Then I started thinking: “Oh, I can be a photographer” and maybe “I can make a living from this”. Then you _want_ to make good images and that’s when it becomes hard and the images change.

    I think one must go through this period, because if one makes a living from photography, one must deliver images above a certain quality. But it’s hard to make art with intention, I found out.

    Love to all,


    • Dear Karl,

      Thank you for sharing your experience…

      Many photographers reading this, have surely asked themselves the same questions. Curious to hear how others made out?


  5. …now only if there was a paying job with such a job title…lol.

    Rebecca – I have share the same fear of posting on the workshop page. Then again, if you break it down rationally, whats the absolute worst that could happen after posting a pic on a private group page. I suspect nothing worse than what our imagination might (mis)lead us to believe. Go for it Rebecca!

  6. Monika – you will remain always, too kind for words. Please let me know the name of your book about Giacometti. Can you imagine being friends with Cartier Bresson. I might be too intimidated to talk with him.

    Ian – i need these business cards printed for myself!

  7. Hi Michelle,
    The book about the friendship between Giacometti and Cartier-Bresson is called la decision de l’oeil and The Decision of the Eye. Zürich. ISBN 3-906574-27-X
    It is from 2004 – and the last project Cartier-Bresson worked on himself – published only after his death.
    Adam recommended it to me for one of my projects. I loved seeing how both share some thoughts on art and life – like the feeling of transience and discomfiture – and how different they are on the other side.
    You are in best company with your thoughts and with your art as well

  8. Thank you for the book referral Monika. I managed to find a copy online and will be waiting patiently by my letterbox for it to arrive. (I love internet shopping!)
    Stay well, xx

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