claire gunn children portrait 9

What you gain from looking at your old work

Posted In: Creativity | Photography

Creative people tend to be very self-critical. It is the mechanism that drives improvement so it is useful if kept in balance. An example is looking back at old work and feeling the cringe in every fiber of our being. This is the brain recognizing PROGRESS. The cringe reaction is the biological response to noting that the work we produce now is better than that. We have evolved. Where the self criticism goes out of balance is when you become wary of sharing your work because you anticipate you will cringe at it in a few months or weeks even. When we push our creativity in a photo, sometimes we cannot see if its super awesome or super lame. Knowing that you might cringe in the future, sometimes brings the brain to the conclusion that it may be better not to take that risk and remain safe in what you know. This is self defeating, and not the route of progress and personal and creative evolution.

claire gunn children portrait 9

I decided a few days ago to reignite my offering of children’s portraiture. I had to re-enable the relevant gallery on my website which had been dormant for 4 years and then take a long, hard look at my work. Was it still relevant? Had I moved on since these images were lovingly and painstakingly rendered into rainbows of fairy dust? I realised my technique back then was to really saturate my images into a fantasy land and create more doll-like portraits. While I still feel inclined towards this I could feel the intense discomfort in looking at them. I could see what I was trying to create but I think I overdid it. I laughed so much at myself. I thought…’Oh my goodness! People have seen these photos! And these clients received these photos! And I wanted to re-edit them all and resend them and apologise for my severe experimentation. (I might still do that…and if you are one of my wonderful clients, please let me know 🙂 ).

I re-edited quite a few of the images in my new style and realised that I had been too critical of the SOOC image in its natural state. I thought I needed to do more…be more. I caught myself recognising a feeling of inadequecy at the infant stage of my photographic career right there. Self-criticism out of balance is a sneaky thing, time spent thinking about your thinking is very important. Self-reflection is so vital and clarifying.

Now that I have been looking back at my old work, I have become very inspired to create new imagery in this ‘previous’ genre and create a new style along with it. It has also helped me remember why I create in the first place, it is a wonderful tool for understanding the self. It is my practice to identify my pitfalls and orientate myself toward better behaviours and mindsets.

  • Inez
    March 10, 2019

    The bravest thing … this post and this analysis. A growth spurt right in front of my eyes. Oh Claire … you remain magigical and I can’t imagine my life without you close by. Grow on – wider deeper wiser … but just please never ever grow up.

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A Portrait of Photographer Jim Sullivan