Being Authentic

There are certain words and phrases that tend to become over used just because they seem to express the idea so well.  Ironically, the word authentic is becoming over used now in our culture and in a weird way is on the brink of becoming a contradiction to what it means.  So, I cautiously use the word “authentic” in the real sense to say – be who you are meant to be.  Be authentic.

When I returned from my round the world adventure this past Fall after completing the shooting aspect of a personal project, I discovered that people were responding to me in a different way. Perhaps they sensed there was something inside of me that they wanted to connect with.  It’s a very difficult thing to explain but I think what they were sensing, was my contentment.  I was content and feeling a sense of “satisfaction” because I was following “my purpose”, both personally and creatively and in the process I was discovering many other people,  all over the world, who were doing the same.

On the outside what may have seemed like just a very long, exotic “trip”, was really more of a journey.  It was a journey that I had begun a long time ago when I became an explorer, through my eyes and through my camera.  I use the word explorer in a literal and figurative sense. Throughout my life, in my never-ending nomadic need to explore the world and its peoples, I was finding my own vision and how I “saw” and I was sharing that with others.

Ethan G. Salwen expressed it beautifully in a recent post on his After Capture blog:

“We always say that learning photography is really learning to see, and this is true. But we tend to express this sentiment in relation to a very limited sense of seeing — the visual sense. Older photographers seem to continue to learn to see on a much deeper level, in terms of what it is to be a working artist and, most important, how this relates to their continual growth and satisfaction as an individual.”

I think Ethan nailed it by talking about “learning and seeing on a much deeper level and how this brings growth and satisfaction as an individual.”  I use the words “ being on purpose” to describe “satisfaction” within oneself.  I believe that as creative individuals, when we begin to find meaning in who we are and how that fits into the world, it will shine through our work.  Some use the word “vision” to describe that certain something that they see in someone’s creative work. Maybe that’s what was in the back of my mind when I came up with the title of my project and film, Opening Our Eyes.

In a way, I use my “eyes” and my camera to do what I do best – to share and connect with others.  When I travel, it is not to assimilate with a culture, but rather to learn and exchange our cultural uniqueness, embrace that and share it with others. When I’m being authentic and true to myself, that happens in a magical way.  When someone tells me that I’m the “real deal”, that is one of the highest compliments they can give me.

I think Susana Esmoris, one of the subjects of my documentary said it best.  “Live life intensely.  Wear the color that you want in life.  Dance what you want to dance.”

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