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Grow Out, Don’t Fit

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

I was listening to an interview last time with a photographer.

I was bothered about how he was taking precautions in saying the word “edited” that he used an elaborate description of what he did instead of running away with the said word. When in fact, that’s the simplest way to describe what he did in his work. And I thought of how we, as photographers, embody a certain character that is believed not meant to do other things other than just purely taking photos. And mentioning to people that the photo is edited could potentially cause drawbacks. It’s almost a taboo that I, too, would probably be scared to mention If I were in that character. I’ve been thinking about this problem for so long that I had to write this now and let people know because I believe it is something we don’t have to fear. And I’d like to share what I’ve realized in regards to how we are limiting ourselves in favor of fitting an identity that’s always been stuck in its mask.

Last week I had some green hair algae starting to flourish and take over my fish tank.

The other plants in the same tank started melting and dying. I've realized that these algae attach themselves to a plant's leaf resulting in suffocation and death. So, what I did is make new walls out of cardboard and place each of them on each side of the glass to mimic a dark room where light could not pass through, thus, inhibiting the growth of the algae and eventually killing them off. I'm not worried much about the other plants because they were all designed to adapt in a very low-light set-up naturally.

While I was writing for this image, I've noticed a very similar occurrence in the process of how we create adjectives that define who we are, but really, we are creating boxes we are willingly putting ourselves in. And the danger here is that when we start embodying these adjectives or labels in a way that makes us feel that we had to be that one person who does that one thing, that only thing. It's like a box that was built to keep us in, and without a hole or an opening, certainly, light and air could not come in, causing stunted growth and the worst: death. I am a photographer, and I take photos. I edited those photos. Suddenly, I wasn't a photographer anymore. That’s how the majority of us think. We are so embedded in that one mask, holding on so tightly to fit perfectly inside what’s already containing us. We are living inside an identity where who we are is built upon a tool that we use to make our crafts: a painter should paint, a photographer should take photographs. These are narratives that trap us instead of letting us move forward. Why can't I become more than just that? Why can't I do magic and be a photographer all the while? Why can't I keep growing and learning and become whoever I want? What if we get out of that box and take everything inside that box with us? Isn't that more gratifying to embody a multi-faceted identity but remaining true to who you are?

We all go through these phases of finding our identity and wearing those masks so tightly because we thought that identity would soon settle down in its one final form when in fact, it is supposed to change; to transform. We need to understand that who we are right now will continue to change and grow until our mask could not fit us anymore and not even walls are enough to contain our multitudes. But sometimes people get stuck there, continuously forcing themselves to fit that box until they could no longer move and grow, and they remain becoming someone that's no longer them; doing the same things over again until things are suddenly not fun anymore — the death of an artist. If ever right now you are inside of that box, I beg you, come out of that.

“Grow out, don’t fit.”

Self-portrait, May 2021

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