I am often asked, Ayush, what’s your best advice for young creators, fellow photographers or filmmakers who are just starting out?
My answer for the last two years, has always been what’s called the Yin-Yang principle. In-fact the more I’ve worked as an independent Photographer & Filmmaker, the more I realized how big a difference this simple thought can make in helping you stand out.
With the advancement in technology, things have changed a lot especially for the young 21st century creator who is just starting out. Whether it’s the tools you use to create your piece, or the platform you use to find your audience, there has been a gradual shift in what is being consumed and where it’s being consumed. And this shift, can have a negative effect — I’ll tell you why.
But first let me address the Yin-Yang principle of doing creative work. When you’re starting out as an artist, there are two things you need to focus on :
1. Tools and techniques which determines the production quality of your work — YANG
2. Thought-process and ideas which determines the originality of your work — YIN
It’s important to find the balance between these two, and work on both. Life’s all about balance right? But, finding this balance is not easy, especially today.
The common problem I’ve seen is when you begin to grow the first rapidly (YANG), and almost neglect the second (YIN). This is the modern creator’s dilemma, and it’s not your fault. With the quick validation that building an Instagram following has given people, it’s natural to lose focus on the “why you create”, and get caught up with the “what you create”.
When you’re starting, you need to see inspiration through a body of work. A body of work, is the entirety of an artist’s output, basically all the work that they’ve created in their lifetime. And this is where platforms like Instagram (and others) lack. They work on the idea of engagement, if people engage with it, it’s good work. But isn’t that limiting for someone who’s looking for inspiration?
Before you start bashing me, I am not saying artists on Instagram aren’t original, all I am saying is, it’s not the best place to get inspired from. There are clear trends, patterns and categories to what kind of content works well on the platform, and what doesn’t. The more time you spend there, the more your mind is warped into creating to stay relevant, and if that’s what your aim is, feel free to continue. But most people want to move beyond the pretty pictures and epic b-roll.
But then you might say, hey if that trend works on Instagram, isn’t that what brands would want from me commercially?
Well, that’s debatable. Firstly because, like you, brands too want to stand out. Of-course there are formulas that work, and are largely accepted — but the brands that are leading the industry are often the ones who have a unique voice to their work, who are not afraid of experimenting. Because what’s better than following the trend? Starting a new one!
So to summarize: As much as it is my desire to create beautiful visual pieces using all the amazing gear that’s out there and achieve the best production quality —— It is also very important to first find my voice in my work and let it serve a purpose. To do this, you need YIN, and to work on your YIN, you need to spend more time with yourself —- experimenting, reading, listening, and learning from the work of all the brilliant artists that have come before you.
If you don’t take time out to frequently analyse the purpose of your work – you might end up with an existential crisis sooner or later. The world right now has gone into a mini-pause, and I think it’s the best time to focus on your Yin. But hey Ayush, what about the Yang? Yang or the tools/techniques you need to make quality content, comes naturally as you do more and more work.