Are you authentic?

I am sitting at Auckland Airport. My destination? Bright, shiny Los Angeles. Dripping with celebs, paparazzi, movie producers, fake boobs and botox, teeth whitening services and shiny convertibles. With all due respect to my genuinely lovely LA friends, this city is not somewhere usually depicted as authentic. (We’ll blame Hollywood for that one).

However, below the celeb-coated surface there lies the most amazing diversity and culture and yes- authenticity. Indeed, when it comes to food, it turns out that Hollywood Hipsters are now searching for something more when dining out- a real, non-glossy culinary experience. Hence the rising popularity of specialist foods from far-flung places served traditionally from a stall on the roadside, or from the window of a truck.

Did I mention that food is important in my world? Food and travel actually. Both intrinsically connected, certainly for me. Exploration of food is also the driving force of Pulitzer prize-winning LA food critic Jonathan Gold, who I listened to with interest this morning as he was interviewed on RNZ about his exploration of Los Angeles’ different food cultures in the documentary film ‘City of Gold’. Authenticity was a major theme.

Authenticity has been a recurring theme for me, too, this year. Helping photographers define their values is an important part of the work I do with them. Values feed into everything else they do, if you’ll excuse the pun. And the number one most common value that my clients list is ……. you guessed it- authenticity.

I have a few theories around this. One is that it’s also one of my values, and it’s likely I am attracting a type of photographer who recognises that. When I was an agent I could never represent a photographer whose work I didn’t truly admire and respect, and who I didn’t trust as a person. I am incapable of selling something I don’t believe in.

My other theory is that authenticity is increasingly something people want. Organic food grown in the back yard. Clothing made by workers receiving a fair wage. Business owners who genuinely care about the customer’s experience. Photography shot by someone who is authentically passionate about it. I know for a fact that is one of the top priorities for advertising creatives seeking a photographer for a decent commission.

If this is the case, if people do want authenticity, and you’re a photographer, a musician, a writer or an artist, it would be foolish to give a false impression. Yet I see this all the time. Are you promoting a less-than-satisfying style of work because you think it’s what people want to see? Is your bio bright and shiny and clean (and, quite frankly, boring) with no hint of any of the struggles you’ve overcome in life?

If you’re spending every ounce of your energy hiding your true self from the world you’re doing everyone a disservice. Including yourself.

Your story is so important to how you create. Your true personal work is the essence of your very being. If you share this you’ll attract the most perfect clients. Clients who appreciate and need your unique style, who share your personal values, and who admire the struggles you’ve overcome. Clients who’ll seek you out and pay you more because they recognise your authenticity.

I’m off on a quest to find authenticity in Los Angeles. Can you find yours?