Existential Dilemmas and New Websites!

I really can’t believe that it’s already February, this kids. Even though I’ve not been traveling nearly as much as I did at the end of 2014, it feels like things have been just as busy! But it’s been a GOOD busy. I went to Sundance to see the premiere of a film into which my brother put a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I met Jon Krakauer, ran face first into Tobey Maguire, and tried so many delicious whiskeys. And I finally launched a new website!

Along with the January Cure project that seems to be turning into my annual thing (nevermind that it is stretching WELL into February now – update soon!), I had a long-overdue goal to launch a new personal site for my photos. For the last couple of years, I’ve been digitally tossing and turning between different approaches and it’s been driving me crazy. What can I say? I’m a commitment-phobe. Even though it’s annoyingly self-indulgent, I thought I’d share a bit of my journey launching this new site. I’ve commiserated with so many photographer friends who wrestle with these same issues, and if I can help even a tiny bit, I’m happy to. The existential angst these decisions caused me was real and paralyzing. I’ve had photographer’s block for a long time now. I’m finally pulling through.

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My first problem was the platform of choice. Where did I want to run the portfolio site? I originally built it out on WordPress via a .org installation to my own server (which I do love dearly and on which this site is run). I cobbled together as much PHP and CSS as I could manage and probably customized three or four different themes I thought could halfway work. I dragged this out over probably a year and a half, maybe longer. I reached the point at which the coding of the site was becoming a greater focus and way more time-consuming than the editing of the photos, which should’ve been my first priority. I was using these technical challenges as a way to avoid making any sort of artistic progress. I made three or four very passable sites, but because I couldn’t get the site templates to render perfectly, they went to the scrap pile. Basically, I was deluding myself and wasting my own time.

To solve for this, I took the technical considerations out of play. I signed up for a Squarespace account and cut myself off from playing technical support. But then came the existential questions. Why the heck did I even need a portfolio site? I’m not a pro photographer, so why would I need to organize my work in a way that pretended I was? Aren’t portfolio sites kind of boring and overly circumspect in the first place? What about FTLOB? What do I do with this space here? Do I still want to write about Brooklyn or should I just give up everything altogether? I had found yet another way to waste my own time, now with much greater proportions of psychological drama! Are you sensing a recurring theme yet, or what?

Sensing that all this self-talk was possibly not the healthiest nor the most productive, I gave it a rest for awhile. I tried to be optimistic and kind to myself. I asked myself simpler questions, like what exactly do I want to do with this personal site? What do I want to share there? I eventually realized that, at the root of it all, I have missed sharing stories – both my own AND others’. More specifically – and this is where I finally started unlocking the use case I was trying to solve for – I want to be able to share cohesive sets of photos from my travels. This type of work doesn’t really translate well to an Instagram stream or the new Flickr UI and I needed a solution. (Side note: since when is there an internet war against white space?)

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In an attempt to focus in on what I’ve been missing, my new site will serve one simple purpose for now: short travel essays and image galleries! (And also URL sentences. So sue me.) So many of these images have been locked up for far too long and I want to share. Once I landed on this laser-focus, everything came easily. I gave myself a manageable goal and started by building galleries and writing essays for three of the mind-blowing trips I took last year: my first backcountry hike into Glacier National Park, a long weekend trip to Alaska and Kenai Fjords, and a solo road trip I took down the California coast to check out Big Sur. Ah, I love the smell of the redwoods — almost as much as I love the feeling of releasing these photo essays to the wild. I’m so happy to share them with you. I expect to add some fun sets over the next couple of months (Ticino! Madrid! New Orleans!), but I already feel so much relief at having a space to share things in this format. Yay for progress!

Along the way, I also sadly realized that what got lost in the shuffle of these decisions was this site. For the Love of Brooklyn was started to celebrate all the awesome photographers I’ve encountered and share their stories as a love letter to the borough where I’ve made my home for the last ten years. Somewhere along the way, this mission was lost. Somewhere along the way, I stopped organizing the photo walks I grew to love so much and which brought amazing new friends into my life. I desperately miss it all.

This year, it’s coming back. Just as soon as my face doesn’t instantly freeze the moment I walk outside. Promise.

Who’s in for the next photo walk?!

2 thoughts on “Existential Dilemmas and New Websites!”

  1. Hi Jill – Wow I felt like I was reading a post written by myself, that’s how much I could relate to this. I too have been wanting to start an online photography portfolio for some time, although I’m not a “professional” photographer, I just love taking photos of beautiful places and people in my travels. Just like you, I’m a REALLY indecisive person, and I have yet to decide on the right layout for me. (I’ve even also spent a significant amount of time trying to learn some coding, only to realize I was wasting time I could be putting into the creative end of things!) I’m glad you finally went ahead and started your site, it looks great and your photographs are beautiful! Somehow I ended up starting a new blog instead (making the move from Blogger to WordPress), but in truth I think I’m just procrastinating from the larger job of a photography website! I go through the same inner thought process of wondering if everything I’m doing is even necessary or relevant (I mean, anyone can be a photographer these days and the internet is saturated with beautiful photos), but I think there’s a place for everyone out there. That’s the great thing about the world we live in now. I’m inspired by this post to get going on my own site!

    Also, I live in Brooklyn as well, and I would love to join in on a photography walk in the warmer months! :)

    http://melindadiorio.com
    melinda@melindadiorio.com

    1. Oh, Melinda – I don’t know whether to say thanks, or I’m sorry! Haha. I appreciate the kind thoughts – and really, the best takeaway I learned from this whole process was to start as small as possible and really have a hyper-focused approach on making progress. Once I broke it down to really what I wanted to DO with the site and stopped thinking about all the things it could do, it helped me plan much better.

      I remember a point at which I basically made a list of seven things I needed to get done – edit three batches of images, write three mini essays, and rewrite my personal bio. From there on out, I got one or two of them done each night and pressed the publish button — no looking back! It helped so much to break up the tasks that way so I could feel immediate progress.

      And yes! photowalk! Let’s do it!

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