Overcoming Cynicism

Other than doubt and discouragement, cynicism is probably one of my worst traps. Do you ever think there is nothing left to do or no use trying to do it? Overcoming cynicism is a constant battle.

It’s been done

It has been done already. Everything has been photographed. Trillions of photographs are taken every year (“Trillions”, not a misprint). How can I find something new and interesting?

It is hard to look around at all the work that is out there and not be cynical. And depressed.

But occasionally I see something that looks new and fresh to me. That gives me hope that there are still opportunities to be creative. It can be hard to hold on to the hope, though.

Nobody wants it

There are probably millions of people with web sites selling photographs. And there are probably thousands of galleries carrying art, including photography. This is in addition to the limitless supply of photos on social media. It is an over saturated market. What makes me think my work can stand out and be noticed and bought?

It seems like most photographers who have to support themselves with their art do workshops to earn enough money. There seems to be more money in teaching than in sales.

Why try?

Given all this discouraging news, it sometimes seems like none of us should even try to sell photographic art. The probability of success (however you measure it) seems remote.

It appears that an artist needs to become a marketing machine to survive. Marketing has to be an almost full time job. Promoting our self, contacting outlets, getting recognition, talking our self up constantly seems necessary to be noticed. But a lot of us are rather introverted and would almost prefer a root canal to doing these things all the time.

So why bother? It seems useless.


When I am feeling like this, one of the things that will sometimes pull me out of it is going back through my image catalog. When I do, I sometimes decide maybe I do bring something to the market that is useful. Maybe I do have some occasional creativity. My point of view, my vision might be fresh and different enough to be welcome by some people.

I find that reviewing some of my favorite images can, if not cure cynicism, at least diffuse it enough for me to go on. It can reinforce my faith in myself and encourage me to believe I should keep on, because I have something for people to see.

Sure, a lot of my work is mediocre and “me too”, but some, well, seems to me to be extraordinary. When I can get out of my own way, when I can take the pressure off to try to produce great images, I can occasionally create something nice.

I find that feeling like I have to create an outstanding image in a given situation is self defeating. It is like sitting down with the goal to write a world class bestselling novel. Too much pressure.

Instead, my working style is to let it flow. If I can get excited by what I am seeing, it draws me in and inspires me to create. Feeling too much pressure chills that creativity. I am better off to relax and just be me.

For me, that is what art is about. Being myself, expressing my vision, my point of view in my art. If I am doing that, maybe that is enough. Maybe I don’t have to be famous or rich. The first and most important person to please is myself.


Being creative and producing art that pleases me is the reward. That is what I can control. I cannot control how it is received or if galleries are contacting me to get me to exhibit with them. The internal reward of being satisfied with my work is for me to create in myself. No one else can give it to me.

So the way to combat cynicism is the same as the way to combat depression or fear or inertia: get up and get moving. Being in motion – doing something constructive – will help overcome the doubts and negative thoughts. Doing something positive almost always beats sitting and feeling sorry for yourself.

Today’s image

This is a train. An “ordinary” fright train. Actually, they are extraordinary. Have you ever seen one like this? Probably not. You would have to be stupid close to a fast moving train and shoot it with a slow shutter speed a certain way. I think it captures the moment in a creative way. What do you think?

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