Art as Voice: Should You Let Your Photography Speak for Itself?

Art speaks for itself. Or does it? This belief depends mostly on the expected outcome. This false belief is the misconception I have fallen under for the last several years as an artist trying to make a career.

In my earlier years of self-portraiture, I was using my images as my voice. I processed all of my feelings, emotions, and thoughts through this practice. I shared the pictures with the world to lift a heavy weight off of my chest.

I let the work speak for itself.

Were there people who connected with my self-portraits?

Yes.

But I'm sure more viewers were left confused and wanting to know more.


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Sometimes I would drop the images with absolutely no context and run and hide. Other times I would add a quote that I found online. Eventually, I began writing haikus to accompany the pictures.

Once I began getting my work into galleries, I learned the importance of titling my work. For far too long, I believed a title was enough. And sure, a title is enough for a gallery and its audience. But what if a viewer wants to know more about the artist? They visit their website and find what?

With mine, they found the images with their titles, and nothing more.

Here I was seeking connection and community, yet I wasn't contributing. Part of the reason was because of false beliefs I had conjured up about not being enough or worthy. There was a fear of my voice, words, and opinions not being needed. There's enough of that out there already.

I'll drop my art right here and be on my way.


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I didn't educate myself on the importance of building these connections and communities of support through email lists, newsletters, blogging, and sharing more of myself than just a self-portrait.

So while I do believe that there are a time and place for art to speak for itself, that's not what I want to practice right now. What I want to practice is sharing authentically with you, because that is of the utmost importance to me.

With that said, what is it that you would like from me? What can I offer you? Leave a comment or email me at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com and let me know the type of content you'd like most from me and how I can best serve you.

* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link. You can sign up for Sharon’s newsletter HERE to stay up to date and receive a bonus black and white editing video.

Art is Subjective: Moving Past the Opinions and Judgments of Others

Something that comes up often when I'm teaching my Expressive Self Portraiture class is the fear of being judged by your audience, family, and friends for creating new work.


This is the part where I want to insert EFF that!


I'm passionate about encouraging women to share their art, themselves, their voices. To think that we would even hesitate on sharing pieces of ourselves in this way is absurd to me.


Are we not allowed to learn to love ourselves?


Are we selfish to think that we matter?


Are we not worthy of support in our self-exploration?


These women have such a strong desire and fire lit inside of them to make this type of healing and profound work, yet hold back in fear.


Fear of the opinions, sometimes ridicules, of their parents, brothers, sisters, children, best friends, husbands, wives, colleagues, employers, local acquaintances, and so on.


I've been there.


Instead, we hold back. We create private accounts. We share with an online audience that we will most likely never meet in real life. We seek support and acceptance from strangers. Online communities are formed for human connection. We create work that never gets shared.

Hush 2016

Hush 2016


This fear of judgment has been a great struggle of mine, especially in my earlier years of self-portraiture. I've had jokes made to my face about my work with masks. I've had comments publically made asking me if I'm okay.


"Are you okay? Do you need to talk to someone?"


I deleted that one out of sheer embarrassment.


Should I worry about sharing this image because I'm a mother and the other mothers out there may see it? What will they think of me? Is too much of my skin showing even though that's not my intention? Should I feel ashamed for being me and expressing myself in a way that feels best for me?

Lament

Lament


What I have come to learn is this.


Art is subjective.


You are going to have people who can read your art like an open book, and you will have others who will see it as a foreign language.


And that's okay.


I've treated it as a learning lesson over the years, and I've made it my mission to support other women who are on similar journies. Because I know they are more than just a daughter, or a wife, or a mother, or a lawyer, or a doctor, or a college drop-out. They have stories, feelings, and desires to explore and express. They want to feel something. They want to find themselves. Be themselves. They are light and love. They are powerful. They are artists.


Not everyone is going to understand your art. But regardless, it belongs to you, and it's your story to share.


You own it.


Art is meant to stir up emotions, and sometimes, those are feelings of uncomfortableness in the viewer. It may bring up the viewers own insecurities, jealousy, or embarrassment and shame.


We all see things differently. That's the beauty of it all. Don't let that be the thing that prevents you from what you're being called to explore and create. What once seemed like a foreign concept to me, is now the very tool I use for self-expression. Self-expression has been the one thing that helps set me free from the inner critic.


Don't censor yourself.

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2015


You are worth it. Your voice is worth being heard. Your story is remarkable, and just because not everyone will connect with it, doesn't mean you should bury it.


To all of you brave Artists out there, I see you. I support you. I honor your work and the journey that got you here.

I admire your courage.


Keep creating and sharing with the world.


We need your story.

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* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link.

Make Bad Art: Letting Go of Perfectionism and Creating With the Intention of Growth

I once came across the phrase, " Perfectionism is another form of procrastination." It took some time and thought for me to wrap my brain around that concept. It's not always easy to admit you're guilty of such things.

How often do we wait for the time to be right before we begin something? What does that even mean? How will we know that the right time is upon us unless we start the work now? Chances are, if we keep waiting for the perfect time, it may never come. We'll always find something in the way.

While we are on the topic of time, how often do you find yourself saying that you have none? Time is what you make of it. Time is always available to us. It's just a matter of what you prioritize. Stating you have none is yet another form of procrastination. I will be the first to admit that I have been guilty of saying this.

We cannot learn something new, let alone master it unless we begin. We need to be okay with being a beginner sometimes. We have to be willing to take the leap or even to take baby steps to make progress. Sometimes, this means making bad art.

I've had my fair share of what I consider to be bad art. My time as an artist consists of much trial and error, and a healthy dose of mistakes and failures. I wouldn't be creating the work I make today had I not been okay with letting go of the outcome and failing.

If you're feeling a pull towards learning or creating something new, I urge you to go for it. Don't wait until you have the perfect camera or the right lens or ideal lighting. I've come across this time and time again and especially while teaching my Expressive Self Portraiture class.

Many women are scared of this class. They can't bring themselves to begin because they fear the judgment of others, they need to lose weight first, or grow out a bad haircut, or find the perfect location, or learn to forgive and love themselves. Whatever that thing is, it is only holding you back from growing. Those things will come in time, but first, you have to make lousy pictures.

Allow me to share a piece of my timeline so you can see my progression.

The year is 2014 and I was newly exploring self-portraiture. That reflection you see in the piano? Everyone loved that. It was sheer luck and completely unplanned. I had no idea of what I was doing. I had no vision for this self-portrait. I just knew that I liked to play the piano and I liked photography.

The year is 2014 and I was newly exploring self-portraiture. That reflection you see in the piano? Everyone loved that. It was sheer luck and completely unplanned. I had no idea of what I was doing. I had no vision for this self-portrait. I just knew that I liked to play the piano and I liked photography.

Another self-portrait from 2014. I began experimenting with slow shutter speeds and garage light.

Another self-portrait from 2014. I began experimenting with slow shutter speeds and garage light.

In 2015 I began to explore a more conceptual route with my self-portraits. This was one of my first attempts at some type of a levitating image. I was laying down on my piano bench and was stiff as a board! I still had no message, but I was allowing myself to try new things.

In 2015 I began to explore a more conceptual route with my self-portraits. This was one of my first attempts at some type of a levitating image. I was laying down on my piano bench and was stiff as a board! I still had no message, but I was allowing myself to try new things.

Another from 2015 where I first began experimenting with tulle and the window light in my small spare room. It’s a tight, small space and I was on the floor for this image. I was beginning to find ways to express and process grief.

Another from 2015 where I first began experimenting with tulle and the window light in my small spare room. It’s a tight, small space and I was on the floor for this image. I was beginning to find ways to express and process grief.

In 2016 I began using vintage dresses and masks. I was looking for ways to portray characters and express my story.

In 2016 I began using vintage dresses and masks. I was looking for ways to portray characters and express my story.

2016- This was the day the rabbit mask arrived. I had no plan or idea of what I would use it for. I put it on and was immediately transformed and inspired to take this self-portrait as a test shot. It became a signature image of mine and it was born out of a   test shot.   Imagine if I had waited for an idea or an ideal moment to use this mask?

2016- This was the day the rabbit mask arrived. I had no plan or idea of what I would use it for. I put it on and was immediately transformed and inspired to take this self-portrait as a test shot. It became a signature image of mine and it was born out of a test shot. Imagine if I had waited for an idea or an ideal moment to use this mask?

I created this all time favorite image. Before this image came to be, I experimented with making clouds and really terrible images.

I created this all time favorite image. Before this image came to be, I experimented with making clouds and really terrible images.

Here is one of the failures! With this failure, I knew I was on to something.

Here is one of the failures! With this failure, I knew I was on to something.

2016 was one of my most creative and experimental years. This was a long exposure I made and titled it “Turn Your Back on Me”.

2016 was one of my most creative and experimental years. This was a long exposure I made and titled it “Turn Your Back on Me”.

2017 came and I bought a wig at the Halloween shop. It was another way to add anonymity to my self-portraits. By this time I had my black and white editing down.

2017 came and I bought a wig at the Halloween shop. It was another way to add anonymity to my self-portraits. By this time I had my black and white editing down.

2017 and one of my all time favorite self-portraits to date. I won a giveaway for a dress that belonged to Brooke Shaden. It was torn and tattered and I wasn’t sure how I could possibly use it. Then I made this in my back yard, and got poison ivy from the shoot.

2017 and one of my all time favorite self-portraits to date. I won a giveaway for a dress that belonged to Brooke Shaden. It was torn and tattered and I wasn’t sure how I could possibly use it. Then I made this in my back yard, and got poison ivy from the shoot.

In 2018 I slowed down and became creative in other ways such as writing, yoga, and health.

In 2018 I slowed down and became creative in other ways such as writing, yoga, and health.

I created with more intention in 2018 whereas the years leading up to that I created anything and everything.

I created with more intention in 2018 whereas the years leading up to that I created anything and everything.

2019 brought a new camera and with that, a learning curve. I went from a Canon 5D Mark III to a Sony a7r III with one lens.

2019 brought a new camera and with that, a learning curve. I went from a Canon 5D Mark III to a Sony a7r III with one lens.

In 2019 I have put more thought and care into each self-portrait.

In 2019 I have put more thought and care into each self-portrait.

2019

2019

These are just a small sampling of my growth over the years. There are thousands of images in between these.

Thousands.

The moral of the story is just to do it. Allow the time, space, and practice for your growth. Allow for mistakes, failures, mishaps, and pleasant surprises along the way. Most of us are not prodigies at our craft. We earn it, the hard way.

* Sharon Covert is a teacher and mentor at The Define School. Sharon's courses, Expressive Self Portraiture and The Art of Authenticity are both available through The Define School. For more information email Sharon at sharoncovertphotography@gmail.com or visit The Define School by clicking this link.

Hi! I'm Sharon Covert

Hi, I’m Sharon Covert! For years I lived under this false belief that you could get to know me through my art alone.

I allowed fear to control what I shared.

I allowed fear to censor my words, my truth.

Fear of judgment. Fear of not being understood. Fear of not being liked.

I hesitated on sharing the good things that have come my way. The things I have worked hard for, all in fear that you would think I’m bragging or being show-offy. I made that word up, but it fits.

I held back my WHY, my reason why I began experimenting with self-portraiture.

All in fear.

This year the one sentence that has come up the most for me in my journal is this-

Lead by example.

It’s small yet profound, and I plan to do just that, for me, my children, my family and friends, and you. I can’t possibly be the only one who has experienced these feelings.
And while I may be writing more for YOU to get to know ME better, I also want to get to know you better. Has anyone else experienced similar thoughts and feelings when it comes to your art and social media?

If you made it this far, thank you, and it’s nice to meet you!

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Click Magazine

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I was never one to set goals for myself, but over the last few years I have made a point to make a list of goals that I wish to accomplish with my photography. While I have crossed off many each year, there was one that I always transferred over to the new year, never giving up hope and determination. I'm beyond thrilled to share with you that I have a feature in the May/June 2018 issue of Click Magazine! If you don't already subscribe, you can find the newest issue in your local Barnes and Noble store. I want to thank all of you who have reached out to me over the last 2 weeks to tell me you saw the feature. That kindness never goes unappreciated. Thank you all so much for support!

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Fall's Beauty

On an ordinary fall day, I find myself pausing to take in the most mundane of things. Feeling a slight pang of guilt for usually passing this beauty by in the rush of life, I question how I no longer view the world through a child's eyes. In these dried up wildflowers and leaves, I am taught there is beauty in all things regardless of what life stage they are in. This plant life cycles through each season doing exactly what it's supposed to do without distraction. 
Everything comes together at the right place and time in life. As fall completes its cycle and transitions into winter, I find myself in a transition of sorts; welcoming the dark cold winter season to deepen my practice of being more connected with my body, mind, and soul. Here, I will deepen my connection to Mother Earth and those I share her with.

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All That is She

She does not let anyone tell her who she is. She claimed who she was and is, unapologetically, long ago. She will not be contained. Her strength and spirit cannot be restrained. She knows exactly what makes her come alive, and she does just that. You can try to knock her down, but she will rise up again, and again, and she will be more determined and wiser each time. She is both gentle and fierce, and to know her is to know true love. Our hearts are bound, and our love boundless. 

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AdoramaPix Product Review

Featured Product - The Hudson Album by AdoramaPix 

Recently I was contacted by AdoramaPix to write a review on one of their products. I I had been nose deep in culling images for my portfolio and thought it would be a perfect idea to create a Portfolio Album of some of my favorite self portraits.

As I began browsing their numerous selections I was immediately drawn to their flush albums. Being able to turn the page and have it seamlessly lay flat almost sounded too good to be true. I chose to create one of their Premium Hudson Albums. Since this album was intended to grace my photography bookcase, I went with their square 8x8 album. For the cover I went with their Lux Leather in Charcoal Gray. They offer debossing, and while they do offer it in color foil I decided to go with no color. I chose their Luster paper for the images inside which their website recommends for first-time photo bookers. They do offer a variety of other choices, including a matte finish and textured finish. 

 

Putting an album together can be quite time consuming and intimidating, but AdoramaPix’s website proved to be very user-friendly which was such a relief. I went with their free economy delivery, and was sent tracking information as soon as it shipped. 

 

Upon receiving my album I was thoroughly impressed from their details in the packaging  to the final product. I almost didn’t want to take it out of the box, and I may have put it back in the box after examining it because of the special feel it gave me. The album is just beautiful. The gorgeous leather and heaviness of it yields great value. When I opened it up the first thing I noted was the thickness and sturdiness of the pages. My self portraits were printed beautifully. I chose to do an all monochrome portfolio, and I have had issues in the past with my images losing detail when printed. This was not the case here at all. I want to note that I wanted a very minimalist design to my album so that the focus was on my images, but they do offer a wide variety of choices and details including layouts, color choices, rounded corners and decorative edging.

 

AdoramaPix was a great company to work with. Their customer service was quick to respond, and I even received an email checking in on my satisfaction after receiving my order. I believe it’s so very important to print and preserve your images. It’s such an authentic feeling to hold your artwork in your hands. Currently AdoramaPix is offering free shipping on all orders $49.00 and above, and they have been running holiday promotions. I’d definitely recommend heading over to their website and checking them out!