Fighting Labels

Daytime Moon

I hate labels. I always have. Labels create boxes that we then feel the need to try and fit into. The problem comes when you realize that the box for your Label #1 isn’t the same box as someone else’s Label #1. If you aren’t x, y, & z, then you don’t fit their Label #1. Then another person says that  you need to be p, x & z to fit that same box, but you are b & z and purple and 5 and emotions and you associate all of that with Label #1. Labels do serve a purpose. They help us to understand other people, but more often than not, we use them to stereotype and judge rather than to understand. We use them not just to judge others, but to judge ourselves as well.

That has been part of my struggle to claim the label artist. I have always viewed an artist as someone who creates. Painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, baking, photography, music, dance, silversmithing. All of those are various different (and not all encompassing) types of art. Theoretically, someone who does any of those things would then be an artist. My hang up has always been that the person doing it actually DOES it. They have a focus to do it. They spend time on a regular basis working on their craft. I don’t even really think they need to be making money, just as long as they do it. Me? I don’t sit down and regularly work on any of the things I do. I don’t have any kind of what I’d call a body of work that shows I’m an artist. I have a disparate portfolio of all of the various different things I’ve worked on over the years and that covers a broad spectrum of mediums and genres. The bulk of those areas fall into my silversmithing work, which I did focus on for a few years, but haven’t done in a long while; the cake baking/decorating, which only happens once or twice a year; and photography. There are one offs all over the place that I consider, for me anyway, to be more like craft projects. Because of that, I’ve always felt a bit wrong in saying that I’m an artist as my own definition of the term doesn’t exactly fit. Hobbyist seems to fit better, but it doesn’t quiet feel right either.

I do not claim to be a photographer either even though that is the bulk of the art I do create. I don’t because, honestly? I don’t exactly know what I’m doing. I was asked how I managed to get a photo the other day and I cannot give any kind of a precise answer. I can tell you the camera I use. I can tell you the lens. I can even tell you if I used a tripod or not. I know when to use all of those various different tools. Ask me the f-stop or shutter speed and my brain starts to glaze over (because they are numbers and my brain and numbers just don’t work well together). I don’t know that I could accurately even tell you what each one does. I know in a kinda way, enough to know what I need to adjust to change something if I don’t like what I’m seeing, but not enough to know how to get the settings right the first time in a lot of situations. The two settings I almost always adjust are the film speed and the shutter speed and that is almost always after I’ve attempted to take a couple of test shots first and only if the situation will not allow me to take the kinds of pictures I want on one of the auto modes. Even then, I’m not sure I can clearly explain why. Most of the time, I just think I’m really lucky. Yes, absolutely, it takes a certain eye to be able to see what will make a good photo. You have to understand composition and lighting and color and see when you have the right mix and when you don’t.  That part is a skill and has nothing to do with luck. I think I normally do pretty good at that part. It is the rest I struggle with and why I tend to say that I do photography as a hobby and not that I am a photographer even though I do consider it as one of my art forms.

There are lots of labels I’ve struggled with. Either to claim or to try and shed. Many of those struggles are because I do try to be honest and if I feel like I’m not doing that by using a label, then I won’t be comfortable with it. I am much more comfortable now using the label artist than I ever have been, but I think it will be a long time before I feel comfortable claiming photographer.

Author: TJ Fox

Slightly sane artist, book addict, wife and mom who is forever rethinking her place in this world.

5 thoughts on “Fighting Labels”

  1. My moon I took last night looks a lot like this just not as big. I wonder if I can enlarge it. Do you use an app to alter or enlarge yours?
    In my post stick piles that I wrote a few days ago it was about how my muscle disease label put me in a box that was a death sentence. This post really rings true for me.
    Also someone made it clear that just becaue I take pictures does NOT label me a photographer because she is a PROFESSIONAL photographer and took classes. I told her I never claimed to be a photographer. EVER. I simply take pictures to try to find happiness while struggling with PTSD and this disease. Why does their even need to be a label for that. If you don’t like my pictures then don’t look at them I wanted to say, but I didnt.
    The PTSD label was helpful only because with it came an understanding of symptoms. But so many other labels like you said you have to “shed” or even accept and it just plain makes things complicated

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This image is cropped out to make it bigger than my camera/lens capabilities. I have Photoshop, but there are other programs that will allow you to do that. You can even do some minor edits here on WP and cropping should be one of them. Depending on the original quality of your image, this works fine, but sometimes you just loose detail. I think your better programs will retain more of that, but I haven’t played with enough to say for sure. I do make sure my camera is taking images at the highest resolution it can handle and I think that makes a huge difference in quality, especially if I’m going to do any cropping at all.

      I cannot stand when people use labels to judge others as “worthy” or not and is one of the biggest reasons I dislike them. I don’t claim the label photographer for that very reason, but at the same time, really pretty much anyone that takes pictures, by technical definition, is one. There ARE differing levels, ie professional or amateur, but they are both still photographers. I just avoid using the label to avoid the drama because that is not why I do any of this. It isn’t for recognition or to make money. It is because I enjoy it and I like to share with others that may also enjoy it. Like you said, you don’t like it, then don’t look. I follow several people that also post pictures, but I don’t always like what they take because their subject or style just doesn’t appeal to me. I’m not going to judge them or tell them they are wrong because of it. Besides it goes against my #4 rule of “Don’t be an asshole.”

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      1. I LOVE your rule #4. Where is the other list of your rules?
        I agree with everything you have said.
        I’m going to work on cropping what I take tonight. Headed out now to see what I can get.
        I really appreciate your support.
        I don’t like judgment either. Not one bit. And I don’t do this for a label either. I am just out trying to find things that catch my eye and make my day feel joyful.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I had to look for the post where I explain it a bit, but this is it… https://tjfox.net/2017/08/31/trust-and-conditioning/

        My rules are pretty simple. Be safe. Be healthy. Be happy. Don’t be an asshole. It is kind of a guide for me personally and how I choose to raise my kids and what I teach them. They seem simple, but it isn’t always easy, so I often have to remind myself.

        I’m glad I can help. I’m not one of those that thinks hoarding knowledge somehow makes you better or superior because you had to figure it out all on your own (this ties in closely with labels for me), so I share what I can. Helping someone to find things that can help with something that gives them happiness or joy feels awesome.

        I can’t wait to see what you take. I don’t know if I’ll have time tonight, but I’m hoping I can squeeze at least a little bit in. I think we’ve got clouds again, though.

        Like

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