What I Would Tell My Younger Self

Note to self, at the beginning of the New Year

A couple of years ago I was at an event at Symposia bookstore, in Hoboken, New Jersey. By the way, thanks to its dedicated manager, Carmen Rusu, Symposia is the place to be while in Hoboken. A block away from the waterfront, Symposia offers an oasis of arts, culture, and peace of mind through books, readings, open mics, art, yoga classes taught by Carmen herself (she’s a yoga master, too), and all sorts of fantastic workshops and social gatherings for every taste and every special day of the year.

It was at Symposia, during one of these social events that a young woman with a point-and-shoot camera in hand, asked me something that I should have asked myself a long time ago. “What advice would you give your younger self?” she asked.

That got me thinking. First, did that mean that I wasn’t young anymore? I had to smile at that particular thought. And second, why didn’t I ask this question myself? Maybe I did but did not quite have the courage to answer honestly.

The Photographer. A self-portrait in black and white. ©Alina Oswald.

So, now that 2017 is still fresh and resolutions are still on our minds, I think that’s a great question to ask oneself, to ask myself. What advice would I give my younger self?

To believe in myself more. Be more sure of myself.

Take advice with a grain of salt, especially from certain individuals (we all have those in our lives, don’t we?) Also, make sure that you surround yourself with people whose advice you cherish. It’s always important! Mentors, people you admire, people who can help you stay on the right track.

Be aware of trends and styles and movements and all that, but don’t follow blindly just because someone said so. If your heart is not into it, if you’re not interested at all in the story you have to write or the picture you have to capture, and if you do it solely for money, that’s okay. And sometimes we have to do just that. The result might be a soulless piece of artwork or one that truly carries the signature of your soul, the artist’s soul.

Self-portraits in black and white.
Self-portraits in black and white. ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

When I started out as a freelance writer, I would often hear the advice: “Write what you know.” Well, I would have been done after my first two articles. So, I’d say, write (or photograph) what interests you. Become an expert at it and cover it with all your heart and might in your work, through the art form(s) of your choice.

And that takes me to another piece of advice I’d give my younger self: don’t be afraid to be different, to cover or be inspired by subjects that are considered (by some) completely off-mainstream, unpopular, or unconventional. That is okay. It actually is!

So, if you’re into photographing flowers and babies, that is fine. But it’s also okay to rather be shooting through the open door of a flying helicopter to capture an aerial image of live lava gushing out of a volcano crater. Or, rather than photographing family portraits (unless they’re vampire family portraits) to rather be capturing fabulous drag queens or portraits of men rather than women, that is also perfectly fine.

“Think different.” Be different. Stay inspired.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

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