We’ve all been in a position where we see something that someone made and think, “Well that’s nice, but anyone could have done it.” It may be an abstract painting or a white horse picture in an online art gallery. When we think about what we see hanging in front of us, we think of just that snapshot of it. The reality of it is that there’s a whole body of work that goes into creating it, before even getting to that point. No artist has just started painting or stood in front of an animal with a camera and made a perfect piece of art. Instead, it probably took them years of art school, photography practice, and undoubtedly lots of failures.

There are plenty of elements that go into the final products we see as art that we never think about. And if we all did, then we’d know how challenging it really is. After all, if it were that easy, everyone would be making art all the time.

The Elusive Nature of Focus

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Early Morning. 

I have spent a lot of time in this small town on the Southside of France. Once the initial charm of the pretty seaside had worn off, I found it harder to stay focused on what brought me there. Like so many before me, I was enamored by horses. Equine photography was nothing new, but I was trying to find my own vision and style. Amongst the sea of pretty girls in horse riding helmets doting over their mares and foals in bright red barns, I was trying to bring images of the Camargue horses to the table. Despite having this vision, I had the hardest time trying to focus.

Photographing a horse in the ocean has not been one of my favorites. Whenever I’ve been shooting in this location, I usually find myself playing around and not focusing. I tend to be present physically, but not mentally. I have never been happy with any of the equine photographs I’ve taken here. While there had been plenty of chances to capture white horse pictures, they always seemed very underwhelming to me. Perhaps, there was a reason that people liked pretty girls in horse riding helmets doting over their mares and not wild horses. Whatever the reason, I always blamed it on the elements of the setting. The quality of the light, the location, or even the horses. I never took responsibility myself.

The Favor of Fate

That should have been a red flag. No artist, or person for that matter, is fault-free. More often than we’d like to admit it, we’re the ones responsible for our own failures. While circumstance and luck can be elements to the hardship we face, what defines us is how we navigate them. It hadn’t occurred to me at the time that plenty of other equine photographers had been to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for the same reason I was there. Many had been successful in capturing the white horse pictures that had inspired me to come down in the first place. They all faced the same elements that I did, and yet they were successful. There was no reason that fate would favor them over me.

It took a wakeup call from a friend for me to understand this. That is, after all, what friends are for. One day I was joking around more than usual, and distracting him. He wasn’t able to focus on his tasks and was understandably irritated by me. He finally snapped at me and said, “Why are you here if you don’t want to be?” That hit home for me. I hadn’t thought to ask myself that question. Instead, I had been repeatedly asking myself why I didn’t choose to photograph something easy like pretty girls in horse riding helmets doting over their mares. His criticism stung at first, but then it brought me some much-needed perspective. I was here to build my online art gallery with white horse pictures that I felt inspired by. I needed to work for those images.

 The focus was my photography and to make it work, even if I wasn’t in the most accommodating location. I had decided to come here for a reason and I had to focus on it now. After looking at some of the images I did get from this location, I realized that it was all in my mind. It had nothing to do with external elements.

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