In Focus: Jake McCann on Combatting Creative Self Doubt In Focus: Jake McCann on Combatting Creative Self Doubt

In Focus: Jake McCann on Combatting Creative Self Doubt

Urth chats to photographer Jake McCann to learn how he combats self-doubt as a freelance creative.

Based in the hinterland of Bilambil Heights in NSW, Australia, freelance photographer Jake McCann’s lens often gravitates to the idyllic landscapes he’s surrounded by. Freelancing between personal projects, working with local brands like Rhythm, Monster Children and Keel Surf & Supply, we caught up with Jake to learn how he got started, his approach to his work and challenges, along with the advice he’d impart to his younger self.

On starting out
I’d grown up skating and so photographing and filming friends was part of the experience, though I’d never been drawn nor captivated by a digital image; it felt too transient and imitative. And so it wasn’t until I’d found this Canon 650 that I really became interested in photography and what was possible with 35mm film and how images could be captured in a style with immediate character and nuance. Before any thoughts of commercial viability I was able to simply capture my 20s in a way that felt honest and truthful, and hell, it looked a lot more aesthetic than an image from my old 7D too.
On his approach to photography
I’ve thought more about the best way to approach creating recently and how extensively we’re exposed to content which often sparks ideas and fires deep within our bellies — but more importantly how it influences (and warps) those linings of authenticity and skews the initial intentions of our work.
For me music has become the underlying conspirator that guides ideas to light. Music that moves you in certain ways leads to thinking visually and painting a picture in the mind that can then be captured and told through photographs. Other times I’ll lean heavily on Pinterest boards and Instagram saves or other artists' work that caught my eye that inspire a direction or feeling but saying that I’m cautious of being too influenced by their work.
On his preferred subjects
It’s interesting now looking back on rolls of film shot over the years and realising there’s actually a theme, style, or feeling that you do gravitate towards. For me it’s often just empty scenes or quiet landscapes — brief moments where there appears to be silence and perhaps provokes introspection or emotion.
On challenges and overcoming them
I think self doubt is more common than we presume. Perhaps there’s something to gain from reviewing and critiquing your own work. It can certainly be debilitating and lead to blank pages and unexposed film, but it can also help shape the individual and refine your style. It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s work. I’m guilty of comparing my work to others — but they’re likely further along their journey than you. It took me a while to look at things this way, but it was liberating. Scrolling down someone’s feed and seeing their evolution of style, then doing the same with my own work and realising how far my work has come, how much I’ve learned and how important it is to trust the intuition that got me here.
On the advice you’d share with your younger self
Do it sooner! All that anxiety you thought would exist if you stepped out of the corporate routine and the worry you envisioned would arise about disbanded financial security, along with the self-doubt you carried wouldn’t be nearly as daunting as you’d made up in your mind, so just do it. The rewards and satisfaction you begin to feel even in the process will make it all worthwhile.