Sunday, June 10, 2007

A working space

I have purposefully tried not to talk about my personal life in my blog. I am going to make a slight departure in this posting. We are not able to do photography as an isolated activity from the rest of life.

I am easily affected by emotions and my emotions are an important component to my own creative process. However, emotions can also overshadow one's life and work. Too much euphoria can cause me to take my eye off my work. Too much turmoil and things can become dark and depressing. As an artist, I need a stable calm base to work from. I need to be able to face my brightest and darkest emotions squarely and still function. It seems like a paradox. But the trick is to live through the emotions as they arise and let them go when they start to ebb instead of hanging on. Emotions are a natural part of life. It is when we obsess, refuse to move on, that we get stuck in a rut.

I am in a good place right now. I have not arrived, I hope I never to arrive, it means that the next step can only be death. I have a good mix of commercial portrait work and my personal shoots, dance and portraits. It is a slight struggle financially, but I maintain three staff. And the three staff help me focus on being creative. They help me take the grind out of work and I hope that we are all learning and having fun together. I am the boss and this is a big plus. On my part, I try to be fair, and treat my staff well. I give them fair payment for their services and hopefully give them the opportunity to grow themselves. My staff not only do their work, they are learning as they work. I hope that my two assistants will eventually be photographers in their own right. They certainly have the potential. They push themselves. My office manager is conscientious and really know how to take care of details. If you have to do the work you are paying your staff to do, that is bad. If your staff are not interested in what you are doing or where you are going, that is bad. If your staff want to only collect the pay check and get out of the office, that is bad. In summary, I have a team of people with with a good attitude to work, who are willing to work with me to create images. The main lesson is to work with people who will give you the necessary support to push your boundaries not obstruct your growth. Treat them well.

My greatest supporters are my parents. They have let me pursue my dreams even though I have a doctorate in engineering. My father has more faith in my photographic career than I have. It is amazing to have such personal support. When I ask my father whether I am doing the right thing, he assures me that as long as I am not doing the wrong thing, I am doing the right thing. They have given me the space to pursue my work as well. I make the effort to spend time with my parents and they let me do my work when I need to.

My personal relationships have been the most disruptive to my growth. I have always been drawn to tempestuous relationships. Talk about living life to the full, I guess that in some ways I have. But I can assure you, that this is bad for long term growth in my creative process. There may be people out there who thrive on emotional roller coasters, I have finally come to the conclusion that I am not such a person. At this point of time I am single. Although I am lonely sometimes, the peace and freedom allows to focus on growing creatively.

What I think is important is to find people who will support you. Don't take people who support you for granted, they are very precious. Treat them well and help them grow as well. People with constructive criticism are hard on our egos, but they are true friends. People who are unquestioning fans are good for your ego, but lull you into a sense of false security. Beware! People with continuous destructive criticism are to be avoided like the plague. They can destroy your life and make it a living hell. Choose your company well.

You have to find a way to take the worries and nitty-gritty problems out of your life. You cannot live life without challenges, but you can mimise the annoyance. Part of this is simply accepting that there are challenges in life that you have to overcome them. I was just telling a friend recently that reaching the top of Mount Everest sounds grand, but the trip up is a bitch. If you are unable to accept the challenges that climbing a mountain poses, don't expect to reach the top.

What am I saying here? I am saying that you need to create a stable foundation from where you can grow creatively. To me, the best way of doing this is choosing good companions on your journey and treating them well. And at the end of the day, the journey is more important than the destination. I hope that not only are my images meaningful, but all the people involved with the process enjoy the process and have good memories of the journey.

A working space is not just for working, it is where you define your humanity.


Charles Sng said...

Thanks for sharing a more personal part of you. It is a thought provoking read and prompts me to do some introspection of myself. Thanks again!

Jeff L. said...

though i find some of the content in ur writing to be disturbing, i also find another person on this tiny island operating at the same frequency :)

dun let the emotions run away, although i understand sometimes it's almost impossible to control once the beast is unleashed. e sun helps, e shadows doesn't.

Heng said...

Hi Charles, you are welcome.

Jeff, what in my writing do you find disturbing? If we are on the same frequency, it cannot be that bad? :) lol.

Jeff L. said...

"I hope I never to arrive, it means that the next step can only be death."

D is not the end. what ur heart desires is near e "end" to find a new life. remember the pheonix cycle i cited sometime ago? the cycle can become shorter and shorter until it totally disappears

e viewfinder has afforded me a different kind of world. the day i put it aside and view my world through my naked eyes, i know i have arrived (but which level?). my world that all will see through my eyes

or probably u r not seeking to arrive, more like looking for enlightenment. at least that's what i see in ur writing. it's all inside the skull.

Heng said...

Well Jeff, I have a T-shirt that says life is a journey, not a destination. The camera helps give me something to do and helps me produce something tangible to show others. But yes, enlightenment is in the skull. There is also a zen saying,

Before enlightenment, carrying water chopping wood. After enlightenment, carrying water chopping wood. :)

The goal is not to reach a destination, but be enlightened to the experience of being alive.

Jeff L. said...

"The goal is not to reach a destination, but be enlightened to the experience of being alive."