Tonje Lilleås

Reflections on photography and life

I recently decided to start over, and step one is to reflect on my past experiences. So in this post I figured I would share some of my reflections.

As a child I had a bright mind. Learning new things came easily to me, without too much effort. Mind you I’m mostly talking about theoretical subjects like maths and languages. I never was particularly practically skilled. Somehow the geeky side of me became a strong component in the way I saw and presented myself. And I still value academical work. Starting university was only what felt natural to me, and I pursued a career as a legal advisor after getting my masters degree in law.

As humans I think we seek out what feels comfortable and safe. To me it felt safe to focus on what I knew I was kind of good at. I never really considered if all the time I spent by the books was actually making me happy. But I did have this feeling that something was missing. I enjoyed, and still do, the regulated world of law. But I think I felt a bit restricted as well. And I know I often wished I was one of the cool, chill and creative people that I looked up to in secret.

The awakening

When my wife and I visited a friend in Chicago back in 2010, I had a bit of a revelation. I met our friends boyfriend at the time. He was both kind of geeky, knowledgable and did a lot of creative stuff like music and photography. And I remember thinking “I wish I could do that”. That being both the academic work and the creative projects. Somehow “I wish I could…” quite quickly turned into “I want to…”, and only a few months after we got home I got my first camera.

There’s many ways of falling in love, but the way I fell in love with photography was the instant and deep kind. From the moment I picked up the camera, I knew that this was something that would become a significant part of me, my life and my identity. Nevertheless I was afraid to share this newfound passion of mine, or at least the fruits of it. Being creative was not a part of who I had presented myself as. And I felt a new kind of vulnerability in sharing the images I captured. It was quite scary.

However the drive to keep exploring the world of photography was really strong. So even though I had a huge wave of impostor syndrome drowning me whenever I shared new images, I stuck with it.

Chasing success

If you consider the time I got into photography, social media was just starting to grow as well. I saw photographers succeed in social media, normal people having their lives changed simply because they shared their images. But even if my loved ones told me my images were good, I never had much success in social media.

Winston Churchill said “Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.” And I decided that I wouldn’t do photography for anyone else but myself. I would continue even if I didn’t succeed. Nevertheless at some point I found myself making strategies for doing better at Instagram and YouTube and on this blog. I even set a time limit for myself, vowing that I would quit if I hadn’t seen some success by the time I was 40.

I’ve been wondering what happened. How did I go from a passion for photography due to how it made me feel to shoot, to deciding to quit if I didn’t get recognition for my work? And why is it that I kept this time limit even after I had somewhat of an epiphany when working with my video “Let yourself be silently drawn”? I haven’t got the answer, but I think it’s something I’m going to keep exploring as I reflect upon my past experiences.

Reflections through meditation

Over the next 30 days this will be the main question over which I meditate; why do I feel I need others to like my images? I’m not sure I’ll find an answer, but I do hope meditating over it will help me hold on to the joy photography brings me no matter how my images are received in the future.

If you’ve read all this way, I thank you and appreciate you taking the time.

All the best,






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