I recently registered for an instagram account, in spite of my commitment to the belief that one should remain in the realm of fields that hone their specific talent, especially in the age of the internet. However, I have always been fascinated by instagram, and it came at the discovery of how similar photography is to writing—creating what could be out of what is. The bliss of this discovery revealed negotiations between the artist and the use of artistry for me: in a world where one’s personhood is categorized, a person’s talent can be categorized, so the notion that I am somehow betraying my ‘ultimate gift from God’ by experiencing ways in which it could be used is damaging to an ‘artist’s integrity,’ an idea popularized by literary prophet James Baldwin in 1962. For the discovery of one’s talent is the beginning of its use, but if we challenge its use before we fiddle over our own abilities, then the purpose of the art can be endless, as it compromises the negotiation that anyone who is finding a “niche” will have to face on the journey of ultimately deeming oneself an “artist.”
I do not hold any sacred, credible position in society that makes me an expert on artistry because I traveled on a train to an art school to define what that is, like thousands of young people with new money stuffed under hopes and dreams in duffel bags; I especially do not hold credibility because I took a cab to an airport with $40.00 in cash mid-semester, expecting to find my “true passion” at home due only to the fact that I was no longer “surviving” formal education, but “making it” on my own. In both instances of going to school to guarantee success post-graduation and leaving school to guarantee success before graduation, without meaningful consideration for my intentions to define “success,” I was mistaken by a largely misleading mentality, like thousands of young people with hopes and dreams in poverty, let alone new money. But because I am an individual with ideas about how this world is versus what this world could become, with the discovery of my ease to put them on paper and a use for its impact not to lie in merely paying my bills, but paying the price for what our young people are doing in their lives, formally and artistically—I have found a space that I can take anywhere in the world to develop without negotiating my personhood and artistry, which is my integrity.
On an artist’s journey, the process of what has created the term “artist” must never come at the expense of our demands for any human because that is the same process which has negotiated terms for us through everyday life. That is to say, quite frankly: whether you are called a ‘photographer’ or ‘writer’ and use instagram or the internet at all—do not only be good at your gift, so when it is time to compromise your “niche” under professional standards in industries, you can still be honest with your character because of who you have always been. Art then, as a result, cannot be limited by the public’s categories, but will thrive off of personal compartments that is not only a space for multi-talent, but an ultimate purpose of talent.
“I want to be an honest man and a good writer.” – James Baldwin