Photo:  Sennia Kyle
Photo Credit: Sennia Kyle

I stand over her shoulder watching as she deletes the accounts and then I pull the plug on the internet, again! She cries, “Nooooo, all my art will be taken down too!” I found out that she had been sharing a Google Plus account with a stranger and there were a lot of inappropriate things being posted. I asked her why she was sharing an account with a stranger and she said it was because the person promised her exposure for her art. Wow!

As a dancer we hear that promise of exposure a lot, but I never expected to hear that from my child. I can understand why artist crave exposure so eagerly. We work hard for our work. We spend countless hours perfecting our art and we want recognition for that. There’s so much noise on the internet it’s hard to get any attention for the work we do and so the promises for “exposure” become alluring.

When I was kid I was called weird a lot. It didn’t bother me. I had my own sense of humor and style such that being called a weirdo was kind of a compliment actually because it meant I was unique. I stood out. Maybe others saw it in a bad way, but for me it was standing out for who I was. Today standing out for who you are is a lot harder to do. The internet has changed how quickly we see, share and assimilate new trends.

I dance, I photograph, I write and in all these genres I see a trend of conformity. A trend to do what everyone else is doing because it gets them accolades. As a dancer this is very evident in the competitions, videos and shows I go to watch. Dancer after dancer coming out with the same type of costume, same sequence of moves and even the same drop to the floor finale. I understand why they do this, because the judges like it, it wins competitions and very often if the dancer has good technique it’s fun to watch.

I see the same in landscape photography as well. The same locale shot over and over, with the same overly saturated colors and overdone vibrancy. These photos get the thousands of likes, shares and the news media loves them! Everyone is a photographer nowadays. How many times have I heard, “oh so and so took that shot, they have a ‘pro’ camera too.” With little understanding of the technique and artistry that goes into composing a good photo, cheap good cameras and photo editing tools makes it easy for anyone to call themselves a photographer.

Conformity is good for when you are starting out. It provides a safe zone for growth until you can develop something you can call your own. Of course only now at this point in life have I realized that conformity is a necessary evil. Standing too far out in left field leaves you standing outside the stadium and no one is going to see you there. Showing that you can conform puts you in view. As an individualist it’s hard to do, but people need you to “prove” that you have mastered what everyone else is already doing, even if you’ve been doing it unnoticed for years.

So I tell my daughter this, continue to do your art the way you like. Be the nonconformist and draw to satisfy the desire that keeps you drawing for 12 hours without eating on a Saturday. That is passion! It’s what makes your art special and unreplicable. But if it is recognition for your work you seek, then you’ll need to draw the boring basic stuff too. Even Picasso started out as a conformist drawing in the realist style like everyone else during his youth. You’ll have to stand in that stadium with the crowd to get noticed, but it is your unique artistry that will get you recognition, accolades and the kind of attention you seek.

Keep conformity in your back pocket, but never stop being the rebel, the outlier, the weirdo.

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