The Artist is a Warrior
I recently finished reading Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. I can’t remember where I stumbled upon the title, but it sat on my bookshelf for a while before I began reading it. The book is divided into three main parts, and the first section is titled “Resistance: Defining the Enemy”. Pressfield defines resistance as “any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.” (p. 6) He considers it to be “the most toxic force on the planet” (p. xi), and he argues that resistance affects everyone universally, no matter one’s pursuits. There are many different kinds of resistance including procrastination, self-doubt, and fear. Pressfield explains a multitude of other forms, but these three certainly appeared in full force recently as I began to explore a new area of photography. I am often amazed when I notice that things come to us when we need them most, and this book became a key tool in my backpack as I embarked on this tumultuous journey.
As often happens, I was exploring photo sites on the internet and became intrigued by some photographers who were working with infrared. As I delved deeper, I became eager to try it, so I sent an older camera body to LifePixel to have the sensor changed to one that captures infrared light. It took a few weeks for the intricate job to be done, so I took that time to really research and try to understand what infrared light even is. I felt like I had returned to a high school science class. After hours spent reading, I certainly had more knowledge, but I was by no means an expert.
My camera eventually arrived and thankfully, I received a complimentary consultation because NOTHING, from start to finish, came out the way I expected. I had issues with white balance. The focal distance of infrared waves is different than that of visible light, so most of my photos were blurry. The depth of field is shallower, so all I have learned about that topic was mostly ineffectual. Highlights become overblown easily as well, so exposure required modifications. Over and over, seemingly endless challenges arose, and I hadn’t even begun to edit my images. Not surprisingly, resistance continued to appear. Initially, I needed to learn how to use different software because Adobe can’t process the color profile of the infrared images. If infrared photos are directly imported into either Photoshop or Lightroom, the whole image is a gradation of intense reds and is hideous to look at. Many, many hours and a few video consultations later, I finally figured out a workflow system for managing and editing my images.
More than three months of capturing unsuccessful images have brought me to the project on which I am currently working. In December, I realized I am finally excited about what I am doing, and it is becoming some of the most rewarding work I have done thus far. Pressfield reminds us that “the warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought every day.” (p.14) As we continue our artistic pursuits, we must remember that we can overcome resistance to our creative success, and sometimes we have to fight like a soldier to do it.
Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. Black Irish Entertainment, 2002.