Last year I launched a website for my photography. Most important to me in this endeavor was that every aspect…the images, the fonts, the colors, the language…would be a true reflection of my voice. So imagine my surprise when I sat down to write the “About Me” paragraph and could.not.do.it. I spent hours upon hours writing and rewriting blurbs that could describe the “me” that I wanted to reveal to my potential clients. And I came up empty.
That “About Me” paragraph failure set in motion an inner dialogue of panic: “If I can’t even write a few sentences about who I am, then how am I supposed to create a whole website that shows who I am? How am I supposed to take photographs that show who I am?!?!” I became insecure in my voice as an artist and unsure of my work. And as we all know, that is a very scary state in which to be as a creative professional.
In the midst of this self-doubt (and, let’s face it, pitiful moping) I serendipitously stumbled upon a TED Talk given by Shea Hembrey. In his talk, Mr. Hembrey recounts his adventure of creating the Seek Biennial, essentially a one-man-100-artist art show. And as amazing as it was (and is) to me that Hembrey could create two hundred pieces of art in the unique style of 100 artists of his own imagination, that was not what struck me most about his talk.
What absolutely floored me as I watched Hembrey on the TED stage was that for each piece of art he shared with the audience, he gave a brief, descriptive biography of the “artist” who created that work. Of course, all of the artists were him…and yet each one of them had a distinct story, personality, and force of inspiration. Essentially, Hembrey had managed to do exactly that which I had been struggling to do…one hundred times.
After that seventeen minute video I knew that Hembrey had unlocked something within me. I wanted to be able to look at any photograph I created and be able to give a one-sentence biography of the artist (the version of me) behind it. And so I began to keep an “Autobiography Journal.” Each day, I write a simple sentence about one facet of who I am:
I am Kellie Bieser and I am a mom who is madly in love with her children.
I am Kellie Bieser and I am a mom who is overwhelmed to madness by her children.
I am Kellie Bieser and nothing makes me happier than drinking a good cup of coffee while it is still hot.
I am Kellie Bieser and I love to laugh until my cheeks hurt.
I am Kellie Bieser and I love to watch sad movies just to have a good cry.
What I have discovered in this practice is that really, we are all 100 (or more!) artists trapped inside one body. And by identifying all of that which inspires us, what makes us smile or sad or frustrated or gleeful, on a regular basis, we are equipping ourselves with motivation to create work that is diverse and unique and true to our personal perspective. Each day I write in that journal, I have a better grasp on what I want to photograph, how I want to photograph it, and what my choices in processing will be (before I even touch my camera!). It has become a tool as important to me as any piece of equipment because it holds the beginning of almost any meaningful image I create…it holds who I am.
And that “About Me” paragraph? It finally came along. By writing hundreds of paragraphs about myself, I was able to identify the twelve sentences that spoke to who I am and what kind of artist I promise to be for my clients. But more than what it offers to my clients, that little paragraph provides me insight into the expectations for my work and allows me to exceed those expectations. By knowing myself I have the confidence to create my art.
Kellie Bieser, Ohio
CMU Instructor | CM Mentor
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Kellie, located in Ohio, is the mother of four joyfully mischievous children and the wife of the world’s most patient man. Teacher of CMU’s Photographing Children workshops, she enjoys reading, running, and lemon macaroons when not chasing her kids and clients with her Nikon D700 and lenses.