Be an Artist, Not a Tourist

When I used to work at a camera store, I would be dumbfounded by the number of people that would buy cameras and lenses worth thousands of dollars, but would rarely come into the store to make prints. And when they did, they would only purchase 4×6 prints, even though the cameras they owned allowed for poster-sized prints with very little resolution loss. On top of that, they brought in touristy vacation photos that could have been taken with a disposable camera. These people weren’t photographers or artists. They were just rich people who wanted to own fancy equipment. They were just tourists.

Being an artist is about being immersed in work, and not about surrounding yourself with products. Owning a Hasselblad camera doesn’t make you a photographer. Owning a Moleskine notebook and a Montblanc pen doesn’t make you a writer. Owning a Bösendorfer piano doesn’t make you a musician. If you want to be a photographer, start shooting. Use your phone camera if you have to. If you want to be a writer, just write on anything with anything. If you want to be a pianist, buy an electric keyboard at a garage sale if that’s what it takes. Immerse yourself in the process, not the product.

Being an artist isn’t about what brand of product you own, or what kind of studio workspace you work in. Being an artist is about the process of creating and producing art. It’s that simple. If you buy fancy equipment and own a blinged out studio, but aren’t producing or creating anything, you’re not an artist. You’re a just consumer. And that’s no different from being a tourist. You’re either living the dream, or you’re just visiting.

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