I used to struggle with all the noise. As a photographer the “noise” is really just another name for all of the content in the social landscape. At any given moment a quick swipe through Instagram will show you somewhere around 1,000,000,000,000 or so photographers all sharing their latest work or their $12 coffee/MacBook Pro combo snapshot with the world. As to why I saw this as a struggle in the first place?

It really came down to being overwhelmed. So much talent and passion. So many people busy working. So many photographs I felt were better than mine. Some were shooting my dream clients and others were testing their creative limits. There was a point in time when it almost became debilitating. How was I going to keep my edge? Why didn’t I land that shoot? How on earth am I going to stand out?

Then came the conversations. The moment I would bring it up people immediately ranted against social media and how it was ruining creativity by turning us all into mindless zombies in search of empty affirmations. Many seemed threatened at the idea that anyone with an iPhone could be a photographer and that this constant visual noise was going to lead us into a creative dark age. It was a disheartening combination of anger and fear of the unknown.

For a moment I started to buy into the anger. I was tempted to delete all of my superficial social accounts and just be an “artist”. Fortunately two seconds later I realized how ridiculous that all was and quickly pulled myself out of that creative death trap. A few days later I was wrapping up a session when it hit me; the idea of noise was a very real thing, I had simply been looking at it all wrong.

Yes, there are a ton of us out there all creating and sharing. We’re over-saturating your Instagram feeds and Facebook timelines with our latest work and behind-the-scenes iPhone shots. We’re vying for our dream clients and stealing one anothers’ ideas for inspiration. We’re working, all of us, to be at the top of our game and share our progress along the way.

Therein lies a subtle but irrefutable fact; you and I, we are the noise. Every day we wake up and we make noise. We conceptualize, create, shoot, edit, re-edit, and share. We add to the pool of inspiration for others and the creative community as a whole, both the good and the bad. We challenge one another and whether we mean to or not, inspire one another to stay focused. There’s no room to get lazy when those other 9,999,999,999,999 minds are out there hard at work. It’s friendly competition and truthfully I love seeing other photographers succeed. It inspires me to work harder and take riskier leaps of faith.

The noise is healthy and we all need to make more of it.

Sean Hagwell