Putting Fears to Rest

Camp is now at capacity and we will be filling all the beds at Westerbeke Ranch! The reason to celebrate is that we have a fabulous group of women coming to camp! We are 42 campers (including 5 camp counselors) + 5 resident teachers + me! We also have 4 teachers coming in to teach one or two classes. Some stats on our campers:
-       Ages 35 - 72
-       From 12 states
-       1 from New Zealand!
-       Encompassing a wide range of experience with photography offering many perspectives!

The reason I wanted to host two camps each year (Fall camp for more experienced photographers and Spring camp for beginner-beginners) was to offer the appropriate classes to each group of photographers. In our upcoming November camp, we have photographers coming with a wide range of experience and EVERYONE is welcome.

Camp is a non-competitive sport! Remember that I come from the very competitive and male world of photojournalism? One of the reasons for making this camp all-female was to remove the element of masculine competitiveness. My deepest hope is for Firefly Institute to be a welcoming, nurturing, safe space for all women photographers, regardless of experience with photography.

I've been hearing campers' concerns about their level of experience, as well as other concerns. I'm writing today to hopefully put these concerns and fears to rest.

Some of the fears I've heard about coming to camp:
-       I'm intimidated by such talented photographers
-       I'm probably the least experienced photographer
-       Coming to camp is way outside my comfort zone
-       I'm scared to share a room with strangers
-       I need peace and quiet and time alone

While we're at it, I'll share some of my own:
-       What if camp is a complete flop?
-       I'm not funny or witty enough to host this whole thing
-       I'm scared I'll get so excited/ungrounded, I'll speak too loudly or quickly
-       Yikes, bathing suit!

All of these thoughts that go unchecked in our minds ... They are unfounded insecurities. They are not true! Let's catch ourselves when these painful comparing thoughts come up and turn our minds toward something positive. I know, easier said than done. There are things we can do, though, read on ...

Comparison is so human. We view others' photographs and decide ours suck. We see everyone's "perfect" lives on Facebook and feel like failures. We see her body and criticize our own. We do this all the time, hardly conscious of our inner dialogues and the damage we do to ourselves, unaware of the way this causes us to be small and timid. "Comparison kills creativity and joy. Stay in your own lane." - Brene Brown

Regarding experience levels with photography at camp ... This is not a competition. There is no portfolio review. There is no one you need to impress. There will always be people with more and those with less experience than us. Can we remember that we are here to learn from those with more experience and to share our experience with those with less experience? Can we remember that we each need to find a way to be comfortable with where we are on our photographic journey? On our life's journey?

If you think someone's photo is fabulous ... Instead of comparing yourself and your work to hers, ask her how she made that photo! Tell her you find it beautiful/interesting/insightful... Tell her you'd love to try and make a photo like that, that she has inspired you!

Regarding coming to camp ... Of course it can feel awkward -- for all of us -- to suddenly live/eat/sleep/learn with others. What can we do to ease the awkwardness? How can we help each other and ourselves?
-       Try reaching out instead of letting shyness take over
-       Be kind and generous to each other and to ourselves
-       Offer a hug -- ask for a hug
-       Treat each other gently (every one of us is harboring pain and challenges ... relationship issues, health issues, self-confidence issues, etc)
-       Be accepting of people's idiosyncrasies and our own
-       Keep sharing your fears/concerns. When you share them, you release them!
-       Assume that we love each other -- warts and all -- already (so we don't waste time, because we WILL love each other before this thing is over!)
-       Watch Firefly Teacher and Camp Love Guru Meghan Davidson's talk on exactly this topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPdB8OYnNzQ.

I just returned from a grand vacation in France. On the plane ride home, I read a quote that has stayed with me: "Go toward those who love you."

So let us befriend each other, shower each other with kindness, and have fun in the process. We all love photography so much, we find creative freedom and the joy of self-expression doing it. Let's celebrate that, love each other, and put our concerns to rest. We're gonna have a great time together!

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” 
- Dr. Suess