Inspired By The Personal. Challenged By The Same.

In my popular post from two days ago I committed to begin sharing the things that inspire me creatively, as well as the things that challenge me. After I hit publish, I had a pang of trepidation, a gut check: “What the hell am I doing? Now I’ve really put myself in harm’s way. I’ve either got to pretend I know what the hell I’m talking about or struggle thru this ongoing series and say what I believe, one post at time. Simple or complex, refined or juvenile.

And then it hit me. That’s exactly why I hit publish on Sunday night. I was motivated to look more deeply within at what’s motivating the pictures I’m taking. I found a little crack in the shell and I held it apart just long enough to say, “this has got to be done”. So here I go, destined to struggle thru this series, one post at a time.

At one time or another, we all get sideswiped by that little internal voice. It is that nay-saying voice that’s so often the barrier between each of us and our creativity.

Shedding that calculated, censoring voice, is one path to success.

Read more after the jump – click the ‘continue reading’ link below …

A second path comes not in the negation of a voice, but in the acceptance, the humble, strong moments when we actively and WILLINGLY embrace our struggles and passions to find moments of clarity.

Truthfully, I’ll take either path whenever I can get it.

I think that the majority of us–from time to time, in whole or in part–find our potential creative motivators falling into two categories. One pile of us thinks our lives or thoughts or desires or fears are entirely too weird, unusual, or unsafe to be interesting. The other pile of us thinks of our lives or thoughts or desires or fears or motivations as far too normal to be interesting.

Both are bullshit.

C’mon, honestly: Was your drug-addicted, inner-city childhood and your bisexual father too far “out there” to address as motivation for your art? Or was your second-string-on-the-football-team suburban youth and your lost-your-virginity-at-19 upbringing just too white bread to cultivate even one emotional blip on your radar?

Entirely not true.

I’m guessing you’re putting yourself somewhere on that spectrum and unjustly declaring, however quietly to yourself, that your story and all the juices that are percolating inside of you have little creative value, whatever they might be, insignificant or monumental. I say turn off your sensor. You can and should draw powerful inspiration from nearly any personal experience, so long as you’re honest with yourself.

Easier said than done.

For me, this post is part of this process. It takes work. Stressing my muscles helps them grow.

We are more than the sum of our parts. Can we seize those fleeting, honest little moments, whether they’re warm and fuzzy or cold and prickly, and let them drive us?

The one thing I know right at this minute is this: the only chance in hell that any of us have for making even a single piece of art that stops people in their tracks begins with intention and a deeply serious introspection. Sure, I’ll share my other motivators, inpirators, and fears in subsequent posts, I promise. But for now, do yourself a favor and agree with me that–cliches aside–the meat of the creative matter lies within. It’s your personal stamp that counts the most, and everything else is–ultimately–secondary at best.

Now I’d better hit publish before I remind myself that I’ve got nothing interesting to say.

47 Responses to Inspired By The Personal. Challenged By The Same.

  1. Anonymous April 9, 2008 at 1:13 am #


  2. andy. April 9, 2008 at 2:29 am #

    Oooh this is brave. Slow to arrive comments can only, surely, make the process more difficult. So I thought I’d offer you a hand from a different time zone, in the hope that when you wake up this morning, you’ll feel good about your decision to expose yourself, so to speak. And rightly so.

    In the spirit of the subject I’ll share a little too. I remember the feeling I had when my website first went online. It was the same feeling I had when I finally got it to somewhere near the top of search rankings and hits increased. And its the same feeling I have when somebody says, “I looked at your website… ” Particularly when that somebody’s opinion is one I value professionally. I have by no means succeeded yet to the extent that many have done in this profession but I suspect those feelings are similar throughout a photographers career, regardless of which stage you’re at, and perhaps only separated by their intensity rather than the emotion itself.

    I imagine it being a similar feeling to standing on a stage a Glastonbury and taking all your clothes off [which I’m sure has been done on more than one occasion]. You’re out there and you’re naked and the whole world can see you. Its frightening, liberating and in a professional context, ultimately very rewarding and educational. It gets you out of a comfort zone, which is never a bad thing and in doing so makes you see things from a fresh angle, which can only be good.

    So Chase, well done and thank you for getting your kit off [ok that bit’s weird but you started it]. You will be rewarded, of that there is no doubt.

    I’m just as interested to read about those rewards as I am about the process of achieving them, as I’m sure are many other readers, so if you’re willing to share them, that would be great too.


  3. Ben Delaney April 9, 2008 at 2:58 am #

    Thanks for sharing. You hit the nail on the head for me. I’ve certainly been notorious for discounting my own personal experiences as fuel for new creative output.

    This post and the mode of thinking that you’re describing is certainly challenging me. I like it. Thanks.

  4. Susheel Chandradhas April 9, 2008 at 3:44 am #

    Nothing Important to say?

    I’d say that this entire post was very significant introspection; I’m now motivated to do the same.


  5. Marc Pritchard April 9, 2008 at 3:57 am #

    Good post

  6. thechrisproject April 9, 2008 at 6:05 am #

    Chase, I think these are some of the best and most important posts I’ve seen from you so far.

  7. Anonymous April 9, 2008 at 6:48 am #

    Hi Chase,

    Thanks for tackling such a tough and private topic that everyone else seems to avoid. It’s so nice to know that even people as successful as you have the little voice of doubt. Your blog is truely inspirational, please keep up the great work, I hope your generosity is returned to you doubly.

    Take care


  8. Gordon April 9, 2008 at 7:24 am #

    I think that doubt is important. The fear pushes you to do interesting work. If things are easy and you don’t feel concerned about if people will like it or not, then you are just drifting along in a comfort zone.

    I find going towards the things that give me the most doubt and concerns tends to produce the most interesting work. Finding the things that I think ‘I can’t do that’ are usually big signposts that shout ‘this is what you should be doing’

    Thanks for starting this series. The doubt about being interesting enough is certainly true – worrying that what we don’t wouldn’t be worthy enough or important enough compared to >x

  9. Matt April 9, 2008 at 7:30 am #

    Great post, Chase.

    I’m always questioning my creative potential because I lead a pretty normal life. Like I’m damaged enough to explore certain subjects or create anything “important”. It’s something I bump up against time and again. Thanks for putting on the table and calling it what it is.

  10. Van Ditthavong April 9, 2008 at 7:34 am #


    The dialogue you have created with your blog is outstanding. This post reminds me that the process and journey are just as important (if not more) than the destination. I can’t wait to hear more about of your pursuit towards your personal vision.

    Oh THANK YOU for commenting on my blog a few weeks back. It meant a great deal to me. It’s good to know out of my four readers that day you were one of them.

    a fan from Dallas,


  11. Anonymous April 9, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    I was seduced at first by your videos, then your persona, then your calm ability to speak frankly to a room of cynical photographers in NYC. Now I’m stumbling over myself, motivated, and floored by your near surgical insights. I recently read online about your philosophy background. While at first I did not match your more public persona (celebrity might be appropriate) with such an intellectual path of understanding, I now can see the connection clearly and I’m impressed, yet again.

    I am a photography agent by day and wish I could broadcast your words to the throngs of photographers I know. What you say is so true.

    Normally I choose just reading blogs over commenting on them. So thanks for motivating a new turn from me.

    Maybe next time I’ll come out of my shell enough to sign my name…

  12. Terrence April 9, 2008 at 8:12 am #

    You keep smashing the barriers and knocking down the walls and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is a great topic and one that causes me a lot of pain.

    I am so troubled by this topic that I am nearly blinded from seeing images in my mind or the viewfinder. Worse, I am paralyzed from pressing the shutter release, for fear the image won’t be good enough. That is truly sad.

    The majority of my internal strife is pure fear of doing the hard work to get to a better place. It is really nice to read about the struggles of others and feel less alone.

  13. Anonymous April 9, 2008 at 8:15 am #

    Fine and dandy: but so far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was and is and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality. If poetry were anything – like dropping an atombomb – which anyone did, anyone could become a poet merely by doing the necessary anything; whatever that anything might or might not entail. But (as it happens) poetry is being, not doing. If you wish to follow, even at a distance, the poet’s calling (and here, as always, I speak from my own totally biased and entirely personal point of view) you’ve got to come out of the measurable doing universe into the immeasurable house of being. I am quite sure that wherever our so-called civilization has slithered, there’s every reward and no punishment for unbeing. But if poetry is your goal, you’ve got to forget all about punishments and all about rewards and all about self-styled obligations and duties and responsibilities et cetera ad infinitum and remember one thing only: that its you – nobody else – who determine your destiny and decide your fate. Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else. Toms can be Dicks and Dicks can be Harrys, but none of them can ever be you. There’s the artist’s responsibility; and the most awful responsibility on earth. If you can take it, take it – and be. If you can’t, cheer up and go about other people’s business; and do (or undo) till you drop.

    – e e cummings
    Artist’s Responsibility, from “six nonlectures”

  14. Anonymous April 9, 2008 at 8:39 am #

    I’ve been waging an epic battle with the little internal voice for several months. The key issue I’ve been struggling with is the realization that if one hopes to make a living at the visual arts, one is beholden to what other people think about the work.

    If my church – my religion – is my own experience and how I see and interpret the world through my photography, and the state is what the rest of the world thinks about how I see and what I create, then I try to keep a pretty clear separation of church and state. This isn’t a problem when I create work for myself; I’m quite content and confident with what I create and hoist upon the world because it’s for me. The problem – the battle – arises when what I create is meant (as in a portfolio of commercial images) for others as a means to judge my skills and my particular way of seeing. Bloody hell erupts; I never have more self doubt than when worrying about what other people are going to think about how I see and interpret the world, all so I can make a dime.

    How does one reconcile this? How does one prevail in the battle over self doubt when so much of what we do is judged by others who have the ability to cast us off without a second thought? It gets more complicated when we have to eat. It gets more complicated when that thing we hold so dear – that thing that feeds us figuratively and literally – is in the hands of others. Yes, yes, to hell with the naysayers! Yes, yes, it’s really a numbers game and if you keep producing good work it’ll fall into place eventually. But at what cost, financial or personal?

    These are the questions my doubting voice asks.

    - Tim

  15. Bryan April 9, 2008 at 8:46 am #

    thank you for this series…digging into the psychology of our own personal success and failures is such a great issue to discuss. especially when it comes from someone who as accomplished as much as you have.

    can’t wait for the next post.

  16. David Bornfriend April 9, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    Thank you for starting the discussion Chase. I admire your use of readership to spark conversation and thought within the photographic community. I recently started my own blog because of the questions I was having about my own work. I posted about creative blocks that I was experiencing. As a response to your post, I added an update post-

    Heartstorming really helped me get through the self doubt and understand what makes me tick as a person. You may find it interesting and the Heartstorming bog is pretty interesting as well.

  17. Gyuri April 9, 2008 at 10:23 am #

    Right on, Chase! I think when we live our lives authentically, there will be some backlash from those that aren’t comfortable, but it ultimately is for the best as most will benefit in some way (karma and all that).

    On a different, yet similar note: Randy Pausch Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.

    Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, gave his last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals. For more, visit

  18. Josh April 9, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  19. John Leonard Photography April 9, 2008 at 12:42 pm #


  20. eck April 9, 2008 at 1:56 pm #

    chase, you really are amazing. i have a feeling you, and many of the folks who comment here(myself included), have this voice saying “you suck””i’m a hack” etc. FEAR can be a pretty strong motivator for me. i’m really happy to have a place to go and read your honest insights on what we all go through.


  21. Ken Cavanagh April 9, 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    It’s refreshing to discuss the process of creating as opposed to all the techy, marketing, business crap we jam our heads with. Too much left brain not enough right.

    Fear is a common denominator as well as trying to heal old wounds…consciously or not, when questioning our own abilities. I sometimes struggle to remember that I can turn off that nagging negative voice in my head.

    Hearing yours and others creative challenges become inspirational in themselves for we are not alone.

    As a side note…I have found a few insightful podcasts on this topic over at

  22. Rockhopper April 9, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    Every shoot that I go on I am petrified, scared and nausus. I have been a working professional for the last three years. Tomorrow is no different I have a job on I am scared. I will probaly go through a thousand scenarios before I arrive at the shoot. It is even worse when it is reportage. I am not a machine gun photographer and if you put my images in frames it would look similar. When I have left the location I am a bag of sweat. I will not rest until the images are downloaded and segregated. The relief I get is the smile on the clients face.

    Stupid thing is I actually enjoy this. I was flown out to the States on a job i came back with over hundred images. My editor sat me down and said all he wanted was one really outstanding image.

    I have been lucky and got images that others dream off. Sometimes you forget where you are from and what you have become. I want to be successful but for the right reasons.

    My last job lasted a year, my boss did not realise what I was capapble off and didnt have the balls to dream. I am a notorious daydreamer and I hate being in the office. I just want to go out and play. Sometimes when you make it look so easy your clients dont realise what sacrifices you make. it is not about art, you are as bad as your last image.

    The cadre of people that are in your peer group will never let you forget the mistake you made, regardless how your other set of images are.

    I know I suffer from depression, blog sites such as yours help. It shares the pain. It also inspires, when i feel like i wont be able to pull of the next job i look at your ninja set and it perks me up.

    I am full of self doubt, i know tonight that I will not be able to sleep before my next shoot tomorrow. Yet I will walk in and become a different person and pull it off. I always do and will but that nagging fear at the back off your mind will always be there.

    Use it grasp it and dont try and tame your doubt, walk up to it and spit in its eye. The day I turn up to a shoot and it is not there is the day I hang up my camera.

    Good post Chase, raw and human.

    Need to talk, you have a friend.


  23. OG April 9, 2008 at 4:43 pm #

    I also see this helping others to do something similar within their creative efforts, which can only have a positive outcome with the results.

  24. Jim Goldstein April 9, 2008 at 8:49 pm #

    You picked a tough topic… and an exceptionally challenging personal topic at that. The transparency of such a topic is what will inevitably draw many readers to this series. Learning what makes people tick is a huge curiosity. Learning what makes people tick creatively is an even bigger curiosity. The magic of creativity is that it is intensely personal. What works for one does not necessarily work for another. More importantly the randomness of what inspires creativity is captivating because it reveals facets of ones personality and experiences. After reading your announcement to pursue this series I’ve been tempted to do something similar… I’ve been struggling to frame my thoughts to do this. As you’ve shared in this post many of your thoughts have turned out to parallel mine as of late… will it be too boring? will it be too revealing? Over the coming days I’m going to put a little thought into this to make sure I’m approaching this in a way that isn’t an outright duplication of your series and it is done with a winning approach. Ultimately I think the successful path will ultimately be to not think at all and let the free flow of thought out unfiltered. Although you’ve yet to delve into this series its already inspiring me to take a closer look at what I’m doing and thinking. A little internal reflection is a great thing.

  25. Sarah Rhoads Photo April 10, 2008 at 10:10 am #

    This is so right on. Thank you thank you thank you for sharing this. It speaks to me in more ways than you know.

  26. starrman April 10, 2008 at 11:58 am #

    I found your work nearly a year ago now and it is truly inspirational.

    Soul searching aside I would also add to your post that some of the greatest artists in history were not only able to reach deep inside themselves but deep inside others too. They had the uncanny ability to make you feel the pain, joy, and/or frustration of others.

    While I do believe it starts with self…it is most definately a starting point and can and does lead to bigger and often better things.

    Love the blog…looking forward to the next post.

  27. Tyler April 10, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    I wish I could ramble that creatively.

  28. Laura & Miriam April 10, 2008 at 9:13 pm #

    “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen)

    keep finding the little cracks in the shell…

  29. Laura & Miriam April 10, 2008 at 9:13 pm #

    “Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” (Leonard Cohen)

    keep finding the little cracks in the shell…

  30. Loren Callahan April 11, 2008 at 1:01 pm #


    I agree with everything you have said and I truly believe that our experiences propel us in our own direction. A well needed necessity for discovery.

    But does any of this really matter of how we think our life, thoughts, desires or fears are. Not really because it is all perception.

    If we feel happy that will be the perception within. So most importantly what we can do as artists/photographers is to continue and create and inspire ourselves as well as others to grow in their own way. And since I have met you, you have definitely hit my inspirational button and many others is suspect. I hope I am doing that for others too.

    Thanks for your insight.

  31. Loren Callahan April 11, 2008 at 1:05 pm #

    Opps I can’t Type. sorry about that, Revision Below:

    “And since I have met you, you have definitely hit my inspirational button and many others I suspect! I hope I am doing that for others too.”

  32. Anonymous April 11, 2008 at 1:28 pm #


  33. Vadi April 11, 2008 at 7:29 pm #

    that was great !!!!!

  34. wcgillian April 11, 2008 at 11:14 pm #

    You are a hell of a writer!


  35. Anonymous April 12, 2008 at 4:20 am #

    maybe a bit off-topic here but I’d like to hear your thoughts and doubts about how you see your images fitting into in those two very separate arenas I like to call art and commerce.

  36. elsvo April 12, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    Beautifully written and I thought it was pretty interesting :).

  37. A April 12, 2008 at 8:03 pm #

    I think the fact that you are exporing the reasons behind your art and putting it all out there is brave and more than like very self enlightening. I paint, which I know is different from photography but the two share many artistic theads, and I do often wonder why I’m more drawn to paint one thing over the other.

  38. bloggersmosaic April 12, 2008 at 10:26 pm #

    come join us


  39. stephenchemxmu April 13, 2008 at 5:18 am #

    Thank you for your share.
    USA is a rich country.
    I want to go abroad and learn how to develop a country.
    What is American dream?How I can bring to every chinese people?

    a student from China.

  40. ArabianMonkey April 13, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    Interesting that I came across your blog today, after posing a question a couple posts back about what we want to create:
    and a post today rounding up some of the Jordanian blogs that inspire me.

    I observed that Jordanian bloggers are held back by fear, and consequently are still not letting out their true potential:

    In my part of the world, we’re going thru interesting/challenging times, and blogging is/will be a huge catalyst for the reformed and progressive way forward towards the existence we aspire for. Blogging helps us figure out who we need to be for the journey I suppose.

    Yes, I agree with you that “the meat of the creative matter lies within.”

  41. Brave Dave April 14, 2008 at 7:22 am #

    Is this a chase thing – it must run in our name; all the angst, soul searching and overall introspection; enjoyed the post – keep up the good work.

  42. Harvin Gwin April 14, 2008 at 11:06 am #

    It is startling to these eyes how eagerly and easily so many today share their most deeply guarded,innermost feelings within so massive,mechanical,near omnipotent a behemoth as the internet.I’m not talking about criticism or commentary on a current event or news subject.I refer to one’s most personal feelings,longings,motivations,things that once were sacred and secret to all but one or two others.People used to hide diaries.Now they put them on display and announce each entry with immaculate type and eye-catching template.I’m not judging,merely observing.What a brave new world.

  43. Spencer Leamer April 16, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    Very inspiring. It’s funny how little we might appreciate something that we create until it is praised. I say appreciate everything you create and let praise be a bonus and a catalyst to create more of whatever it is you create. You may or may not know it Chase but judging by the comments left, sharing your insight not just on photography but art and life in general is the best thing you could ever do. You’re like a philanthropist of useful knowledge and encouragement.


  44. Sandra Lauzon June 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm #

    “We are more than the sum of our parts.”

    powerful words. I think it all comes down to this. No matter who you are and what your process may be, above all things we must believe we are in it for us. Sure, we are providing a service, but we are first and foremost artists – creators. We find our personal immortality in that which we fashion. We must create but we must also believe in what we are. We are more then a tool in hand. And what we make is an extension of our selves. In this way, we become more than we are.

    Though I’m sure Mr.Jarvis’s words will come to inspire the unsure and up-and-coming, I feel it is up to the creative individual to look inside and decide for themselves what drives them and what message exactly it is that they feel they must share.

    -Sandi (Ontario, Canada)

  45. kyusho September 17, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    I’ve been reading and seeing your blog and podcast’s for some time now.. but the other day i saw you talking with other two bloggers.. and you’re right. we are all stupid in our own world thinking that we own any kind of secret in photography.
    Thank you for your duality in being quite good ( I like a lot of your photos and even more of your aproach to them) and being humble.
    This was my first comment eh eh :)

    By the way.. kung fu master – – very good Chase, very good.

    abel rca

  46. kyusho September 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm #

    I’ve been reading and seeing your blog and podcast’s for some time now.. but the other day i saw you talking with other two bloggers.. and you’re right. we are all stupid in our own world thinking that we own any kind of secret in photography.
    Thank you for your duality in being quite good ( I like a lot of your photos and even more of your approach to them) and being humble.
    This was my first comment eh eh :)

    By the way.. kung fu master – – very good Chase, very good.

    abel rca

  47. MC May 28, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    hello from all the way down at the bottom of the post haha ;) [it’s lonely down here]

    It will be interesting to see your thoughts on how you deal with that fuelled and ready to burn creativity, and how creatives eventually combine it [or turn it into…struggling for the right words here] with making money…or I should say a living…from it? It always strikes me as a very honest question when looking at other peoples work…I’m inspired, but ultimately how do they bridge that gap? How do they make this a viable source financially, in order to sustain a future from it, without selling their soul! [Which brings me nicely onto my next paragraph haha]

    Working as a photo-journalist for so long on a payroll, now on my own [my own choice] I find myself not only free to explore my own potential and my own dreams, but having to put my own price on them in order to satisfy those functional outside forces, and sometimes those internal forces…like funding a trip to Tibet or buying a Ferrarri :) take your pick.

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