I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina and it always seemed like everyone had an opinion of New York City. It seemed to be this place that people who were a little too eccentric or ambitious for our town would end up. Everyone would talk about it as if it was a bright and shining star in a far away galaxy that no one we knew would ever visit and certainly never move there. I think that’s why it’s always fascinated me.
Then, when I was a junior in college, as part of one of our capstone classes, myself and a partner submitted an ad campaign to Direct Marketing News and then didn’t think of it again for a few months. At the beginning of December we found out that my partner and I had placed in the top three and out of nowhere we got flown to New York city to accept the award. I was there for something like 57 hours total and it was all very fast and typical. Times Square. Pizza. Buying sweaters at an Old Navy in Times Square. Rockefeller Center at Christmas time, which is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and I’ll die on that sword. We ate at our fancy hotel restaurant, a Chinese and interior Mexican concept. All in all it was very touristy, except for the last morning we were there. We went to Chelsea to meet my travelmate’s sweet aunt. She took us to a fancy brunch that at the time seemed like the most expensive meal either one of us had ever eaten. She walked us to the High Line, and she told us about her job, and for the life of me I can’t remember what that was. Afterwards she rented us a car and sent us to JFK, back home to the South.
Up until a few weeks ago that was my only trip to New York City.
I decided I needed to go as an adult and experience it for myself. I roped a few friends into venturing out to the East Coast with me, but their trips ended up being a bit shorter than I wanted mine to be. I ended up with 5 extra days in New York with very little on my agenda and a world of possibility if I could just get over the crippling anxiety of being alone.
But I got over myself, packed my suitcase, and I told myself I would enjoy it and learn a lot no matter what… and I did! I learned so much from the trip. The first lesson I learned was how much I enjoy time to myself. I don’t spend a ton of time solo in Austin. I live with my husband and a roommate so generally I’m around one of them if I’m home. I’m also quite social. I generally have plans with someone most days of the week. Being alone, in a new city seemed daunting. I was up for the challenge, but I wasn’t sure what to expect and was weary about whether getting used to it would be some kind of terrible thing I’d just have to deal with.
Luckily, it wasn’t all that bad. On one of my first days alone in New York I ended up at Jack’s Wife Freda for lunch. I requested a table outside and struck up a conversation with the waitress about the area I was in. At the end of the meal she poured me a glass of champagne on the house. She had also drawn me a map of nearby stores and attractions. She told me she wanted me to really enjoy myself and she sent me on my way. I had such a wonderful day. I went everywhere on her list. While shopping I bought myself a wallet and a beautiful pair of earrings on recommendation of my mother who told me to always buy a little something to commemorate travel.
I enjoyed quite a few lunches alone, but I also made it a point to see people during my days there. I had several friends who lived in New York, so I’d meet up with them for a museum, a walk, or a meal, and then I’d go on my way. I feel like I learned how to be okay with just myself during those five days. I did a lot of thinking, a lot of journaling, and a lot of brainstorming. Everything I hoped I’d figure out while in New York was all of the sudden my main objective with so little to distract me.
I also visited so so many museums. While walking through exhibit after exhibit, I learned some valuable lessons about art. Some of it up close and without context can be confused as unremarkable. But what makes it art is what it says about it’s artist. What makes it art is that someone believed in themselves enough to keep at their craft and bring it into existence. Meditating on this and journaling about it made me realize that I needed to view myself as an artist. So I started thinking of myself in those terms, a concept that still feels very foreign to me. I am a photographer. I work for commercial clients, as well as portrait and editorial clients. Some days I’m pulling outfits for very stylized fashion shoots with models or musicians, some days I’m shooting for someone who is revamping their website for their ceramic business. Some days I stare at a computer screen for twelve or thirteen hours and I end up spending seven of those hours trying to figure out the perfect shade of yellow for a biscuit. That last part is a true story-- it just happened last week. My point is, it’s really difficult to convince myself during my day to day that this is art. It feels like I’m performing a job for a client for the internet or, sometimes, if I’m having a really good day, a magazine. But truly, at it’s core, I am always producing art of some kind. It also gives me some unwritten permission to dream big, pursue big beautiful projects, and worry less about failing and more about giving it my all. I’ve taken this thought into every day of my work since arriving home.
In between museum visits, and meals, I was also able to meet some new friends. Two of the amazing people I got to sit down with were Erin and Yi of See Rose Go. We met at Irving Farm in Long Island City and shared stories about creativity over croissants and coffee. We talked a lot about what I hoped I’d get out of my trip, what I was experiencing and what I wanted to accomplish. I told them I wanted to walk around the city and find new things, be alone a lot, and leave feeling more bold and confident than when I landed at LaGuardia. We discussed my recent meditations on the creative process, and they were incredibly enlightening and encouraging. They shared their process of creating the items in the capsule collection for See Rose Go. They were kind enough to gift me a few items from their collection to roam around the city.
I think over this entire trip I continued a journey I started about a month ago of exploring and studying art and how it affects me as a creator. I wanted to learn to appreciate beauty and compare the journey, not the work, which is such an easy hole to fall into. With the internet, the entire portfolio of 100 photographers or whatever your profession may be is right at your fingertips, and if you’re not careful it can convince you you aren’t good enough. As you probably know by now, if you’re a human being on the internet that is, it’s really hard to not compare your work to the work of others. I wanted to examine process of others, and then examine the finished product and appreciate it. I started by reading a few photography books, but I also wanted to broaden my other horizons too. Right before I left for the city I read Patti Smith’s ‘Just Kids’ and I was in awe. It demystified art for me in a way. The book is really just about two people living their lives as artists, but more importantly as people who are interested in art in general. With this in mind I made my way through The Guggenheim, The Met, and the MoMA. I looked at art from the most famous and revered artists in the world-- and then it clicked for me. Making art seems incredibly difficult and at times it is, but at the end of the day it’s not all that complicated. It’s just about making art, and then making more art. It really is all about creation, doing your work, and putting yourself in the position to do more work. That’s it. It’s that easy and that difficult.
I left my trip with a bright new perspective-- I left feeling equipped, empowered, and ready to visit and work in New York again soon. Here are some photos from my time there!