It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Joel Grimes!

The Human Condition

Life has its way of weeding out the weak, fragile and insecure. The problem is, there is not a person on this planet that is not to some degree exactly that. The truth is, the human condition puts us at a disadvantage from the very start.

It is said that if you are lost in the wilderness, the first thing you need to do is recognize you are lost. The great philosopher singer/song writer Paul Simon once wrote, "I am the first to admit it, but the last to know." As a general rule, we are often totally oblivious to our human condition. When it is challenged, we panic, come undone and often just give up. But there is hope.

The single greatest reason we fail in fulfilling our dreams and succeeding in the marketplace is the fear of rejection. To overcome the fear of rejection, we need to understand our human condition, that we are all to some degree easily influenced by other's opinions, and that we are not as strong as we might think. To prove how weak, fragile and insecure we really are let me give you an illustration.

Most of us have posted images on web sites such as Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, etc.. As a general experience, the majority of us receive positive feed back. We read things like, "this image rocks," "love this," "you're the greatest," etc…. Praise after praise. Then there is that one bad critique. Someone sticks the knife in and turns it. They say that, "your image sucks, it's a total bore and you should quit taking pictures and keep your day job." We have to admit, it hurts. When we go to bed at night what do we remember, the ninety nine praises? No, the one critique! Ninety nine praises and we come undone by one critique. You would think that ninety nine praises would easily offset one critique, but it doesn't.

You may think you're tough and maybe you have convinced most people around you that you are unshakeable. But the truth is we all have a breaking point, and in the end, come undone. It is a 100% guarantee that if you present yourself to the real world, you will be rejected. That's right, a 100% guarantee! One person holds the power to steal your dream. One person's discouraging words, one person slamming a door in your face, one person's harsh criticism, and you quit, and give up on your dream.

How then do we overcome rejection? I like to look to music as an analogy to help put things in perspective. If you think about it, look at how many different types or genre of music we have available. No two people like exactly the same thing. Everyone's taste is different. Even if you like jazz, look at how many flavors of jazz are available to us. The point is we all have likes and dislikes.

I have a teaching session called "Country Music verses Rap." I don't know too many people that are into Country Music that are also into Rap. This is life. So when it comes to creating images, why do we come undone when we present a "Country Music" look and a person who is into the "Rap" look, says they hate what we do?

Create anything and you will find an audience that loves it and an audience that hates it. We have to understand that the ultimate goal or end result is not to please everyone. It is a impossible task. The most important thing is whether YOU like the images you're creating and does it fulfill YOUR vision as an artist? Master what you love, do it well and you will find an audience that will love it. To be successful, you don't need the masses to love what you do.

I have included two images that have had many praises, but also have received their share of criticism. The image of Jessica that is extremely blown out would not have received glowing marks back in my college days. Back when creating a picture was more about getting the perfect exposure. But I love it. If fits me like a glove. I relish in the idea of pushing the envelope on how we define a photograph.

The image of basketball player Rudy Gay, where I have cut off his head, is another one of those images that received mixed reviews. When it comes to composition, we have all sorts of rules that we as a culture have deemed as acceptable or unacceptable. Cutting off someone's head definitely hit a nerve with many of my viewers. But challenging the status quo takes a risk. Risk opens the door to explore new ground and gives us the opportunity to fulfill our vision's as artists without preconceived ideas established by others.

So, follow your intuition and create images that you love. For every praise there is a critic. Accept the criticism with a smile on your face knowing that if you love what you are doing, then you are on the right track.

You can see more of Joel’s work at, follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and find his classes at

  1. “Create anything and you will find an audience that loves it and an audience that hates it. We have to understand that the ultimate goal or end result is not to please everyone.”

    Wise words indeed! Great post Joel and great to see you back on here.

    See you soon,

  2. This was a wonderful guest post to read. I have not heard this comparison before to music, but it totally works. It really resonates with me because I once met a person who said they hated the music of “The Doors”. Really? Seriously?? I couldn’t believe it because I love The Doors, and most everyone I know does too. Fortunately, the critiques for my work has not been too brutal, but I will keep Joel’s post in mind next time I receive criticism to my photography. That should keep me rocking on.

  3. Joel thanks for sharing. We all have those days when it seems we are not good enough or that no one likes our work enough to hire us. Its a lonely road and no surprise that so many give up. Thanks for reminding us we are all in the same boat.

  4. no wonder you guys sell so many books and have such an amazing site. you guys are real people that understand what the people want and might need. you have the best of the best in the guest blogs. much love and respect!

  5. Good post Joel. My own personal rule that I have developed over the last 3 years is that I only take to heart the critiques of people I look up to, or respect very much. Everything else is just noise.

  6. Great Post and interview….I always say “if everyone likes you, you haven’t met enough people”……”if you have never had a pissed off a client, you don’t have enough clients” point being exactly what Joel is saying….we all look at the world through a different set of eyes because of our own different experiences……thx for posting Brad

  7. You can actually learn more from your nay sayer than from your fans, if you can get them to articulate what it is that they see. Hate and Love are high contrast and we deal in shades of gray. If the lost sheep is not a troll, you might gain an insight that you did not have before.

  8. This post really resonated with me. It expressed my philosophy on the matter very eloquently. I’m interested in negative feedback and I sincerely consider its merit, but I don’t feel obligated to incorporate it and I’m not going to allow it to change my vision.

  9. I’ve fallen into the trap of over-analyzing what others would think and end up not doing anything to avoid the rejection… this article just slapped me in the face and woke me up! Thanks for this one.

  10. Great article and wonderful images.

    I have worked in the arts my whole life and somewhere along the way I realized:

    Some would love what I do.

    Some, and usually the loudest group would hate it.

    The majority of folks would be indifferent.,

    So, as you say so clearly, why not do what you want, with one
    caveat, do it really, really well.

    Thanks Joel, for sharing your intelligent thoughts and creative images.

  11. Joel, you are the man. I admired your work long before I ever attended a workshop or convention where I got the chance to hear you talk about photography. I was amazed at your philosophical approach. The lectures were much deeper than I ever would have imagined based on your seemingly very technical approach to photography. I just didn’t associate someone that appeared to be so technically exact preaching the same thoughts and ideas in this post. How you emphasized following your gut and what pleased you in order to satisfy your vision. Thanks for the refresher. Came at the right time!

  12. However, those who offer negative critique might actually have valid points that we need to consider. It’s easy to jump on the “attaboy” bandwagon; it takes guts to speak up and say what we don’t like about a given image.

    Just something to consider.

  13. Love this! One of the things that I need to work on most in my life is not caring so much about what others think and not trying to please everyone all the time – as an artist and otherwise. I appreciate the reminders and inspiration in your post.

  14. its one of those blog posts that I call ‘fundamental’… its not that we don’t know any of these… but the fact that you’ve presented the words so beautifully and showed us that everyone had been through that path – that is such an inspiration…. thanks for the great post, Joel!

  15. This is a fabulous post. I heard you say this before and it has made a huge impression on me, as I am one of those people you are talking to and about. Thank you so much!

  16. And the rest of Paul Simon’s verse..”when something goes right, you know it’s likely to loose me, apt to confuse me”. Be prepared for success. Great post!

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