As an artist you are attracting a lot of attention, especially from a very special type of personality;
The anti-social personality.
Some people simply live by the rule that anybody who's successful is a threat to them. Hence, to achieve survival and success they must make sure others are un-successful.
Logically, that is not a type of behaviour which is greatly accepted in society, so therefore it must be done covert.
This is why some of the best friends you gain as an artist, as someone who is out and about attracting positive attention, are people who are trying to suck your blood and make you less.
Antisocial personalities don't hate you; they hate themselves because you're the reflection they wish to be.
Nepal, February 2012. Leica M9 with Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
One could wonder why someone would spend energy and time trying to get others down. But if they could do what you can, they would do that instead. So the reason being, is that they can't. They don't have your talent, and they know.
Why am I mentioning this?
If you want to communicate with the world, you will be a target for those personalities. If you get onto a stage and sing, you are clearly creating something that you almost instantly get that flow: You get all the admiration and love from the majority of people, but you also caught the attention of someone who sees you as a great threat.
If you photograph, you usually work via the photo and are not directly on a stage, and the same goes for a writer who communicates via books, and a movie director who communicates via the actors and the cinema. You don't have the same direct contact to the audience hence the response from the anti-social personality isn't that direct. He or she will spot you and make an attempt later, directly or via other channels.
Danish singer-songwriter Mads Langer. Leica M9 with Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
If you want to stop people from communicating, whom would you start with: The ones who communicate the brightest, the most, the best. Logically!
Also interesting with some of the anti-social personalities I have come across, is that if you look at them, they like to have people around who are talented, but aren't using their talent. The greatly talented photographer who doesn't get anywhere with his art is his best friend. Like a dog you can play with but will never take your place.
But if that friend starts going places and uses his talent ...puuh; he becomes an enemy and must be made less.
New Orleans. Leica M9 with Leica 35mm. Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
How to make an artist less
Artists are easy because they are dreamers. You meet an old school mate, who has now a company and a new Aston Martin. He is succesful and he knows it.
You meet an old school mate who talks about a movie script he is writing which will change the world. You just tell him it is a bad idea, has been done before and the plot doesn't make sense anyways. And by the way, the only movie scripts that are being accepted these days are those that are re-written from a bestseller book. That will put his dream to rest!
Dreams about the future are the most powerful, yet the most fragile. Since they only exist in your mind and rely on your talent and guts to become reality.
On the other hand, this is also the amazing thing about you as an artist. You don't dream about the usual stuff, you dream a new future and a new reality. And you are the one making it, changing things, reality and ideas.
But having a dream is a fragile state, especially when you have somebody around - virtually or physically - who doesn't want you to raise one inch above your current state.
Singapore, January 2012. Leica M9 with Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 (II)
How to spot the anti-social "friend"
The anti-social personality is easy to spot, once you get your head around the idea that they actually do exist. They will criticize you and what you have dearest. It can be directly, simply by invalidating you strong and candidly.
For example, "You are not a photographer, you are just a dentist! Ha Ha!"
(As if a dentist couldn't be a great photographer?)
Qatar, Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
But when the anti-social personality is best, he is your friendly advisor, and then it will be, "You are actually talented and you have a few really great photographs, in-between, but this business is tough and even with your talent you won't make it. It's only guys like me who have been around for that long which have a chance."
Great advice ... but didn't he just tell you that you have absolutely no chance of survival?
That is an anti-social advice, simple as that. You don't even have to reason with it. You just have to stay the hell away from there. You as an artist can make any dream come true, especially the ones that nobody thought were possible.
That's the whole point; you are the forefront of society, you are leading the way.
Not all advice is anti-social
Now, don't decide that everybody, including your mother who once said you would never learn to cook an egg (when you were 8 years old), are anti-social personalities.
We all say stuff that might not have the desired effect, in the heat of the moment, and often things somebody said to us, we noted, were really effective in hurting.
One of my good friends has won many awards for graphic design. But when he started out and said he wanted to do design, his father advised him to get a job in a shoe store.
I don't think the father was anti-social, he just happened not to grasp his sons idea, and as he had worked in a shoe store himself his whole life, that was within his reality of how far anybody could go.
Not anti-social, just not a visionary artist!
The real anti-social is easy to spot because there is a pattern in what they do. The generally invalidate openly or in a 'friendly' way (with honey on top) again and again.
And chances are that they have a group of friends around them that are not making it. They kind of collect people, which they can fail to a level where they feel safe and won't raise up.
The anti-social is usually also non-productive in the art he or she claims to know about. They may be busy destroying and talking, but they don't make anything.
In any case, to make it simple: Anybody who makes you feel less or feel bad at this moment, are probably not good company.
And if that is the general feeling you get time after time in their company, let them go.
But mainly, if you have a dream and someone says it's not a good idea or can never be realized, then you should set them straight or simply decide whether your dream or their friendship is most important to you.
You can be friends with anti-socials, and you can watch television together and talk about how bad the world is. But if you have a dream you are an artist you should have friends who make you feel more able and don't obstruct your way to realize your dreams.
New York. Leica M9 with Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0
I have implemented a zero tolerance policy and simply block haters. I'm all about helping people, sharing knowledge and creating art, so whenever I stumble over some of those microscopic few who just love to stir up things and not provide any products, value or solutions them self ... zap!
I can tell it is such a great feeling blocking those types (recommended).
I believe in freedom of speech, but usually haters use it to justify that they can hate (and you may feel obliged to let them speak). But people who speak freely about their ideas and offer help do not have to stress freedom of speech.
Haters don’t have freedom of speech in my universe and there are ways to spring clean them out.
Hate and controversy is an effective way to get attention and is what mass media does to a large degree (spring clean them out of your life too).
If you have the ability and possibility to create fresh air, art and hope, do so. And remove those rocks in the shoe as you move along.
Hope this was of some help. As always, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with advice, questions, anything.
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Article in Salzburger Nachrichten by Eva Pittertschatscher. Click on the image for a PDF version: