Good Ideas Deserve to Exist

On Self Doubt

Last week I participated in an area authors book publishing forum. Me and two other local authors spoke about our book projects, and what it took to get them into the read world. After a brief introduction, we opened up the forum to audience questions. One question really got me thinking, from a thoughtful lady:

“What did you do to keep away the self doubt?”

All of us agreed that self doubt played a role in our projects. What if our books didn’t sell? What if we couldn’t make it work? Was it a big waste of time?

Perhaps more frightening: What if no one cared?

For my part, a large part of my project went into the pre-planning. As I’ve shared before, I thought about having a built-in audience, using my connections to get the word out, and relying on marketing to make my project a known thing.

Even deeper and scarier than getting the word out, however, self doubt means wondering whether a project even deserves to exist. What’s the big idea, and has it earned an audience?

Plenty of artists deal with self doubt. I wonder if there’s extra pressure on those who put physical things into the real world. Ones and zeroes can exist virtually and bother no one – but a book? That takes materials, space, and time in the universe. There’s gravity associated with it.

Good Ideas deserve the atoms that make up a book or print or sculpture or whatever. Getting rid of (or at least easing) self doubt means convincing yourself that yours is a Good Idea.


Photographer Interview: Heather Nash

Heather Nash is a photographer in southeast Michigan I’ve been following on Instagram for almost as long as I’ve been on Instagram. I love her unique view of the world, and the way she captures it.

Where are you and what do you do?

I live in Ypsilanti, Michigan and I photograph people, places and weddings.

How did you get started in photography?

I went to school for photography and received my BFA in 2-D studies/Photography. I learned with film, mostly black and white, some color. The transition to digital came later but I still shoot a bit of film here and there with an old Canon AE-1 that belonged to my grandfather. I love black and white photography, specifically the work of Sally Mann.

What do you like about your photography?

I like watching the evolution of my work. I feel like I’m constantly refining my style, honing my technique and improving the way I utilize light in my images. I’m always reading and trying out new ideas. It’s good to keep learning!

I like how you capture your world, and the people around you. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

I do draw inspiration from other photographers and visual artists, and I’m often inspired by nature. I also love to people watch and observe daily life as it’s happening. I’m very curious and kid-like at times!

You do some paid gigs as well. How do you balance professional vs. personal photography?

I always try to leave room for personal projects, like portrait work, where I can try new things and challenge myself creatively.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I just returned from a trip to Bali, an island in Indonesia. I took a small Fuji travel camera and documented my whole trip with the goal of putting together a small show this spring. It was an amazing experience to say the least!

Follow Heather on Instagram, or check out her portfolio site and blog for more of her work. 


This Old House

Almost six years to the day, I’m saying goodbye to my first home.

We’re getting a weird spell this winter, in late January and early February, where the weather is warmer than seasonally appropriate. Foggy, rainy, or in the 60s. Not your typical Michigan climate.

The upside is that we’ve enjoyed a few play days outside. This past weekend, I even had a chance to take down our backyard swing set – much better than trying to unscrew frozen bolts in the bitter cold. Hopefully the warmer weather holds once it’s time to move.

I’m doing my best to capture this place before we head out. Not that it’s been a problem before, but there’s an extra sense of urgency lately.

Time’s running out.


Going Home Again

Home Sweet Home

After six months of house hunting, we picked our winner and are in the midst of closing the deal.

For those that have never purchased a home, house hunting can be a long, grueling process – especially if you’re selling a home at the same time as trying to buy one. Lots of waiting, making pro and con lists, weekends spent wading through strangers’ lives, cleaning up the house to show it. It’s stressful.

And the idea of packing up and moving is never my idea of fun. I moved a lot (no really – a ton) as a kid, so I equate moving with hardship. Staying in one place helps me feel secure.

Relocating does have benefits. We’re moving closer to town, and closer to family. Our work commutes will be shorter. Trips to the grocery store won’t take as long. Living back in the city means we can be more involved in local culture and politics.

As you can see, the new place has great natural light coming in. The yard is nice, and there’s a bit more room. It’s a good house in a good neighborhood, with lots of opportunity to make it our own. And it’s a quick walk to the local park system, ice cream parlor included. As I said: benefits!

The Lawrences are coming back to Jackson.


Photographer Interview: Neil Thain-Gray

I first discovered Neil Thain-Gray’s work through Self Publish Be Happy. His photo book, Personal Space, was right up my alley: urban landscapes in the Eggleston/Shore tradition, but more up close and personal, with nods to design and patterns. And the colors! So good.

Where are you and what do you do?

I live in Glasgow, Scotland with my wife Rachel and our seven year old son. I earn a living working in Learning & Development for a national charity. Photography is my creative outlet that I fit in between work and family life, whenever the Scottish weather permits.

How did you get started in photography?

Both of my parents have a background in the arts, and my dad as a photographer encouraged me to get to grips with an SLR in my teens. However, I didn’t really connect with photography until after I had graduated from art school when I found myself without access to studio space or equipment. I picked up a camera just to stay creative and suddenly photography seemed to fit into my life.

What do you like about your photography?

I like walking with a camera without any particular purpose or direction, especially wandering somewhere new, even if it’s just a short cut or side street. I don’t drive, so I’m always walking or on the bus or the train. Photography helps me to be attentive and open to the world around me. On a nice day, with nowhere in particular to be, having a camera is just a great excuse to exist.

I love your use of color, your consistent style, and your view of urban spaces. What kinds of themes do you like to explore with your work?

Thanks! I don’t know about themes and I don’t really have an idea of where my photographs fit in the world. Any sense of style probably comes more from a consistent process than any intent. I shoot with the same camera, the same lens, the same films. I am generally just looking for interesting light, shapes, and colours to make a composition with.

You recently put out a great little photo book. What inspired you to do that, and how has the experience been for you?

Thanks, glad you like it! I’ve been buying self-published photobooks for a couple of years and figured I should publish my own. The process of editing and designing was challenging, but I learned along the way. Setting up an online store was fun, too. The biggest hurdle has been the marketing, but it has been great to mail copies out around the world, to get feedback and a sense of connection.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I am trying to pull together funds to self-publish my next photobook. There are a few drafts in progress on my desktop! I recently gave a talk at a photobook event at Streetlevel Photoworks in Glasgow and FfotonWales have posted videos of the event online. I will be trying to sell some copies along with postcards and prints at GlasgowZineFest in April so the next book better be ready!

Otherwise my camera will always be on me whenever I have some time to spare.

Thanks for inviting me to take part Dave, it’s been fun! Happy shooting all!

See more of Neil’s work on his Tumblr blog, and follow him on Twitter.


Make Time For Beauty

Just Because I'm Weak

Good advice in general, but maybe especially these days, from Jon Ward:

A healthy perspective on politics, and life in general, requires time away from politics…

Creating is a big part of making room for beauty. But so is making time for enjoying and appreciating beauty, through art, nature, music, etc.

Losing yourself in something other than politics is good medicine.


Keep the Story Going

Family Photo Book

It’s that time of year again – time to get our annual photo book featuring pictures from 2016.

Making a family photo book is one of my favorite yearly rituals. Each holiday season, I gather up the photos from the year and assemble them into an album, usually 8″ x 10″ and 20-40 pages. The cover image is always something from our summer vacation.

This year, I went with a Blurb book instead of Apple’s Aperture/Photos options. Here’s a tip: Follow Blurb on Twitter to get periodic discount codes. At 35% off, my photo book was a good deal.

Keep your story going long after you pass away, or your hard drive dies: print your photos. Make a book of your photos. You’ll be glad you did.