Collin LaFleche on struggling
I should probably start by saying that I have been extremely lucky. Since I was young I’ve been surrounded by supportive people – my family, friends, teachers, mentors. I was able to go to school and graduate debt-free. After graduating I landed an incredible job working for a conceptual artist whose work is very different from mine. I’ve worked for this artist for over three years now, and it’s been an objectively amazing experience, mostly because it has given me the chance to travel throughout the world, taking pictures. Many of the photos from my most recent book were taken on work-related trips.
While I was in college I supported myself through a mix of assisting a commercial photographer, building websites, and shooting party photos at a now-defunct club in Greenpoint. I worked all the time, and it was a lot of fun. But I realized, after a few years, that I wasn’t interested in chasing after a life of commercial and editorial work. It didn’t feel like something that fit with my personality.
My struggle has mostly been one of staying motivated, and staying convinced that I’m moving in the right direction. I’ve been in New York City for several years, and I think it can have a stifling effect on motivation, in unexpected ways. There is a lot going on here, and it’s easy to get caught up in the superficiality of everything that’s out there in the creative scene. There are a lot of interesting, intelligent, imaginative people living and working here. There are also a lot of people looking for their 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the two are typically intertwined and hard to distinguish. It makes for an environment that can at times feel really futile to exist within. You see people getting traction for their work, or their ideas, and you wonder why it isn’t happening to you — Maybe I’m not good enough, or maybe I don’t know the right people, or… In the past few years I’ve grown frustrated with how the arts scene is structured in the city. To me, it lacks a lot of substance, and it moves way too quickly. There is so much pressure on artists to have visibility at a very young age – right after if not during college – and it results in a lot of turnover, and a lot of mediocre work.
I work really slowly, and generally prefer to work only for myself – so producing commercial and editorial work for others has never had a strong pull on me. It’s something I enjoy doing, when I have the opportunity to, but my focus, first and foremost, is my own work. Again, I’ve been very fortunate to have financial support from my full-time (now part-time) job, which has made life easy, probably too easy. Now that things have started moving more steadily for my work, I’m facing the choice of leaving my job permanently and jumping into making fine art alone, or sticking with a more “balanced” approach. I worry about that, too – if I’m comfortable with where I am, will I ever really push myself?
I guess what’s kept me focused and motivated is the knowledge that I work for myself, beginning to end. When people see the work and are excited by it, that’s awesome. If they don’t, you just have to resist the urge to give up. Or like John Baldessari says, “you have to be possessed which you can’t will.”
Collin LaFleche on struggling