I’ve wanted to discuss this topic for a while now - let’s think about failure.
Never before have I heard so many praising words about my work. At the same time, however, I’ve never been rejected so often in such a short period of time. And for some reason, although I thought the opposite, proving myself in Estonia has been such a struggle. Back at the uni time, I was used to winning grants, getting work opportunities, and having good grades - so the future seemed bright. Everything I’ve tried to achieve in Estonia can be described as a series of rejections and embarrassing failures.
Now I move back to the wider context. I reckon that out of all the photographic contests I’ve entered, 80% have given me a negative reply, 20% a positive one. Some awards have seemed just perfect for me, and when I received a letter beginning: “I am sorry to inform you that your image…” then I’ve felt like a loser.
So life has been tough for some period now, and it is okay to talk about this stuff. Indeed, Instagram seems to be about success stories and I am also guilty about feeding into this falsity. On a brighter note, however, it is great to see more and more voices talking about this problem and making Instagram a positive tool to normalise failure.
Here’s a digital test image from my last visit to the permaculture garden:
I’m going back to the permaculture garden next week to take more images; and only some months ago I thought that I am done with the project. Little did I know that ‘Ta Aed on Tema Nägu (Her Garden has Her Face)’ is going to bring me so much more joy, and I still find it difficult to believe how much attention the work has had.
Although I won’t be spending as much time on taking images as I did last year, I still feel very good about going there. I’m also wondering if this is the last summer I will be working on it… or maybe it is one of those long-term projects where I’m going to see the kids grow in front of my lens. Who knows, I’ll let it develop organically.
I’m going to copy-paste a text from my Q and A with the Photograd platform, maybe someone is interested in finding out more about how I found Triinu and her family:
How did you find Triinu? What were her thoughts on you making a body of work around her permaculture practice? Meeting Triinu actually had a pretty disastrous prelude, or, one of those disappointing moments when you feel that everything you have worked for has collapsed. I won the Reginald Salisbury travel award and my first plan was to do fieldwork in one of the organic farms in Wales. It did not work out as my informant, at one point, was not interested anymore. Then I had to find some other means to go through with my project proposal, and I thank my lucky stars that things ended up as they did! I just could not have asked for a better experience as Triinu herself was passionate about sharing her story.
I’ve started a new summer-long project, the second one I’ve initiated myself. The swamp project (that’s not the name of it) is about people and space they inhabit - their relation to it - as much as ‘Ta Aed on Tema Nägu (Her Garden has Her Face)’ is. But while making the latter project I became gradually more familiar with its people, then in the case of my new work people come and go. It is daunting to constantly start interactions with strangers but at the same time, it is very refreshing - when you live alone in an isolated place and your social skills are starting to degrade, then having these occasional adrenaline kicks is much needed.
Estonia has loosened its coronavirus restrictions and I was surprised to see how normal everything in the city seemed. Cafes, bars, museums are open and people are enjoying themselves; but at 10 PM comes a drone to notify that the party is over, go home. Very futuristic, isn’t it?
In the countryside, however, life has been similar throughout corona months. With the only exception that suddenly everything has started to blossom now that the weather has finally gone warmer.
Life’s pretty good.
Some time ago I saw a documentary about the mapping of the universe. Have you ever thought about your address like this - I live in Estonia, which is located in Europe, on Planet Earth, in Milky Way Galaxy. Here it goes more bonkers. The Milky Way lies in a supercluster called Local, which is part of supercluster Laniakea, which is formed of around 100,000 galaxies! But oh my, Laniakea is just one unit in the web of superclusters!
Is there an edge to the Universe? And just think about the possibility of the existence of life that operates in a similar way to us.
But now back to Earth - there’s some unfinished business here.