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iSights – Channel Your Inner Colonel Sanders – By Janine Graf

We’re so delighted to publish Janine Graf’s third article to her column iSights. This is another very well written and topical article that we have no doubt you are going to enjoy, a lot and completely relate too. Over to you Janine… (foreword by Joanne Carter).



Colonel Sanders had felt the sting of rejection too, in fact, he felt it 1,009 times. Harland David “Colonel” Sanders’ fried chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it. One thousand and nine times! The 1,010th time was the charm.

With the much anticipated results of the Mobile Photo Awards recently announced, there has been a variety of emotions swirling around on the various social media platforms. The emotions were ranging from sheer elation, to injured egos, on down to simple befuddlement. I will admit that I experienced certain levels of all of those emotions myself. Yep, I did. I admit it. I’m human, and even more frightening is the fact I’m an artist on top of that (we artists tend to get emotional sometimes – ssshhhhhh). We pour our hearts and souls into our work, are proud of what we’ve created and then like proud parents we throw our creations out there for the world to hopefully accept, or as in the case of the MPA’s, for a panel of judges to pass judgment. It’s unnerving to say the least.

A good portion of the emotions I was hearing from fellow artists is that they felt defeated, that somehow their work wasn’t good enough. Feeling that your work isn’t good enough SUCKS. About six months or so into my iPhone photography journey I submitted a bunch of my favorite images to a very well-known curator of a very well-known mobile photography website. At around that time I believed my work was pretty good. Well, I liked it anyway. So I submitted my work to this person and they actually emailed me and told me straight up that they found my work “uninspiring” and included a list of the reasons why they were no good. I cried; after all, I am an emotional human artist. After receiving that ego shattering email I actually said out loud to myself, “I should just give up. Who am I kidding? I don’t know what I’m doing.” I took some time off submitting to anyone, to lick my wounds and regroup, but all the while still taking photos and reworking them on my iPhone; it was my passion after all. Ok, so this one person said I’m “uninspiring.” That is one person’s opinion. We all have them, opinions. Turns out this person wouldn’t be the last to reject my work either. If you count the number of bloggers / websites with showcases, open gallery calls to artists and competitions I’ve submitted to over the past couple of years, my work has been rejected many more times than it has been accepted. Wait . . . ok, now I’m depressed.

We aren’t robots. We are human beings with complex emotions . . . for now. Sure, right now we are upset about not placing in a competition, or maybe bummed out that we didn’t land in a weekly showcase, but it’s only a matter of time before the machines rise up and you discover that your hair dryer is laughing at you when you exit the shower. Oh that day is coming. That’s why I’ve started exercising again. And as scientists are working closer towards the singularity, it makes you wonder what will become of us artists when the nanobots take over our brains . . . I guess what I’m saying is that it’s ok to be emotional and even upset over feeling rejected. Go ahead and take a page from my book and cry if you think it’ll make you feel better (it will). But please, please don’t give up. If wanting public recognition for your work is what you crave, then keep submitting. Continue to create and push yourself to be better in your eyes; because that’s all that really matters anyways. I will confess that in retrospect I am sort of glad that person was such a flaming jerk to tough on me. I hated hearing it at the time, but they had a point, my work was maybe short of inspiring when I look back on it. Don’t you just hate that?


© Janine Graf – ‘Upside Downtown’



Imagine if Colonel Sanders gave up after his first 1,009 rejections? So next time you’re feeling defeated or rejected, channel your inner Colonel Sanders. I know I will. Do it for the Colonel!

Janine’s mobile photography has been exhibited in art galleries across the United States and in Europe, has been featured on various websites and in publication. She is currently a proud member of the traveling iPad photography exhibit called “Light Impressions” along with 40 very talented mobile photographers. In publishing news, Janine was honored and delighted to have participated in an upcoming book about creating surreal digital photography. This book is set to be released in the spring of 2013 by Ilex Press. Janine is a mobile photographer who enjoys belly dancing, bacon cheeseburgers, cappuccinos, the smell of old books, slapstick comedy, the color orange and movies about gladiators. Since discovering mobile photography in the early fall of 2010, Janine has set aside her professional DSLR and desktop editing programs in favor of the iPhone and its myriad of wonderful editing apps. In regards to subject matter, she tends to gravitate towards subjects that allow for a whimsy feeling or vibe; she likes to have fun!


    • Janine Graf

      Yep! Some weeks you’re a bridesmaid and some weeks you’re a bride . . . and some weeks you’re even the spinster aunt who crashes the wedding and lurks in the back and who is only there for cake at that reception. Yep. 😀

  • Robert Lancaster

    Thank you so much Janine for such an uplifting and inspiring and incredibly motivating article. I had up until recently posted all of my work on MobiTog (my iPhoneography home) and then to flickr. From there I add what I perceived to be my best work to a large number of groups from which weekly or monthly galleries would be chosen. In the two odd years I have been doing this I have had one image selected for inclusion in a gallery. This had become more and more disheartening so much so that I have since the end of last year not posted anything to flickr or to any of these groups. It just seemed to me that every week it was the same people (with little or no change) being selected over and over again. I had become massively demotivated and demoralised.
    BUT now I think it is once again time to channel my inner Colonel Sanders and do it for the hot wings!!!

    • Catherine

      Keep on keepin’ on dear Robert! Never give up… You are filled with creativity and it shows through in your work. xo

    • Janine Graf

      I am sooooo glad you enjoyed it Robert and took something away from it! I agree that it can become disheartening at times. Seriously, channel your inner Colonel Sanders! There was a stretch of time back in 2011 when it seemed as though I made nearly every showcase on Flickr I submitted to. I was on cloud 9! Then all of a sudden it stopped, just like “that”! I couldn’t have an image selected if my life depended on it. My style was still the same, so I couldn’t figure what gave, you know? It’s just the nature of the beast I suppose; it ebbs and flows. Just make sure you keeping pushing through. You know The Colonel would be proud. 😉

  • Jeanette

    I just want to thank you for this article.. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately and hearing it from someone else just made me realize I’m not the only who feels this way and I shouldn’t give up.. Than you again!

    • Janine Graf

      Jeanette, EVERYONE feels this way at some point AND they feel it multiple times! So take comfort in knowing you are not alone, in fact, you have more company than you’d know what to do with! 😉 I’m so glad to know the article cheered you up! 😀

  • Kerryn

    Fantastic article again Janine, you know Ive been through this, and will again and again (as so many of us). I take it as a growth strategy to help you learn, push yourself and getter better at what you do. You know almost ALL of the successful people in this world have had more failures than success. What has made them successful is that they keep going! A critical eye can be a great thing (said nicely of course), however I know my iPhoneography world would not be as pleasing or funny without your work in it! Kx

    • Janine Graf

      Aww thank you Kerryn! Yep, this certainly isn’t the first or the last time we’ll be feeling it! And you are exactly right about what separates successful people from unsuccessful folk. Just have to keep plugging away . . . keep on keepin’ on. And I feel the same way about you and your work Kerryn! Feel very blessed that you are in my iPhoneography world! 😀 xoxo

  • karen divine

    Great Janine…loved the article…I have strong opinions about all that and learned early on that you just can’t take those things personally….PERIOD. It’s just one particular persons opinion…PERIOD…and not a reflection of whether one’s work is good or bad…gotta just roll with it…and like you, I’ve been rejected more than accepted and a “win” is great and a “loss” is “oh well”…and if you and I were a juror, we would choose work we were drawn too so it’s simply a reflection of that persons taste in art and they are entitled to that.

    • Janine Graf

      Thank you so much Karen! Yep, just gotta roll with it, which was so hard to do in the beginning, but is so much easier now; much easier now to have your “oh well” attitude. Maybe that comes with confidence in one’s own work? When you truly, truly are stand straight proud of what you’ve created then it doesn’t matter one iota if anyone else accepts it or not. And it all is just personal taste and we all know you can’t please EVERYBODY. I curated a showcase for We Are Juxt months ago and of course I selected images that spoke to me. It didn’t mean the hundreds I didn’t select weren’t fantastic; we like what we like for whatever reason or another. Nothing wrong in that. 😀 Thanks again Karen!

  • MaryJane Sarvis

    Wonderful words and so important to hear and discuss. Great again, Janine!

  • Janine Graf

    Thank you so much Joanne, from the bottom of my heart, for this opportunity. I really appreciate it! 😀

  • Joanne Carter

    This is a great article most definitely and when Janine sent it into me I said to her that it reminded me of all the hardship that JK Rowling went through to try to get her first book, The Philosopher’s Stone published. She went to twelve publishing houses before Bloomsbury decided to take her on and gave her a £1,500 advance.

    The point is, you must never give up, you must believe in yourself and your art and never take rejections personally, sometimes you’re just not fulfilling a remit and it is actually nothing to do with your work itself. If you keep believing in yourself, others will too.

    One of my personal favourite motivating stories is of Winston Churchill, in 1941 just after the Blitz when things were looking up a little for Britain. He visited his previous school, Harrow and stood up to give a speech. This is just a snippet of what he told the students but I think the most important part:

    “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.“

    • Janine Graf

      OMG Joanne, I didn’t realize J K Rowling went to TWELVE different publishing houses! Whoa! What on earth were those 12 pub houses thinking???

      Those are some great words from a great man! Thank you for sharing that! My guess is Churchill was more popular than Colonel Sanders so maybe we should channel our inner Churchill instead?! 😉 xo

      • Joanne Carter

        I know, it’s hard to believe now for sure that she went to twelve different publishing houses but that really shows you how important it is to standfast and never give up. Just think all the authors and artists that do just walk away, what’s the point in that? Hmmmm I’m not sure if Churchill was more popular than Colonel Sanders, maybe, maybe not – main thing is, they and us are all singing from the same hymn book 🙂

        • Janine Graf

          Really boggles the ol’ mind for sure! There is not point, no point at all in walking away if your passion is strong.

          “…all singing from the same hymn book” . . . I LOVE THAT!

  • Lola Mitchell

    Another great read. and yes we all have been through it and will again and again and again. I usually give myself a couple of days of GAHHH… and then move on. Now I was a little horrified by the email you received. Do you feel like it helped you? Because to me since art is so much about personal taste, writing an email like that is not very constructive. But maybe I am wrong…

    • Catherine

      Agree with you on feeling horrified by the email. In my opinion, that type of “criticism” is not helpful. It’s rude and egotistical.

    • Janine Graf

      Thank you Lola! Oh it’ll happen again and again and again by golly, to all of us. Giving yourself a couple of days to chill after a big rejection is a good idea. Have a mini pity party and then be done with it, right?! You know, as much as that email hurt me at the time, I think in some weird way it did help, a bit. After the initial sting wore off it definitely gave me the will to persevere, so in that respect it helped me . . . not that I need my feelings hurt in order to be helped mind you! 😉 xoxo

  • Julie

    Thank you for those words! You are funny, humble, and awesome. Don’t ever stop doing your work!

  • Catherine

    Wow…really really loved the honesty in this article! And boy, have I been there too! My rejections far outnumber my acceptances (is that a word?? whatever.), and I’m sure that will continue, but I know that I’ve grown so much since I first started this mobile journey – in my creativity, in my confidence, in my skill level – and I still have so much to learn.

    While I may still be disappointed in any perceived “failures”, I’ve grown stronger and am better able to keep it all in perspective. Art is really so very subjective, and as Karen Divine said so well, if I was a juror then I would be choosing art that spoke to ME.

    The longer I’ve been part of this magnificent community, learned and grown, I’ve made some choices as to what or who I’ll submit to. Rejections are okay and necessary for growth, but I don’t want to participate in anything negative and egotistical.

    Thank you Thank you my friend!!! This was so refreshing to read! xoxoxo <3

    • Janine Graf

      I’m so happy you liked it Catherine! And you know, our rejections will always outnumber our acceptances (new word if it isn’t already a legit one) . . . so best to resign ourselves to that fact and be A-OK with it. Right?! Although it is so much more fun to be accepted! 🙂

      I love this community too, I really do. I have made so many amazing friendships as a result, like the one I have with you! I wouldn’t change a single thing; the good and the bad all led us to where we are now. And now we are older (harrumph) and definitely wiser with the added confidence to handle the rejections better. Rejections still DO SUCK don’t get me wrong. It’s just easier to move on from them now than in the early days.

      Thank YOU my friend! Looking forward to many more years of creativity with you! xoxoxo

    • Janine Graf

      Thank youuuuuuuuu Christy! That means so much coming from a wicked talent like you! 😀

  • Ali Jardine

    Janine, your work always inspires me, makes me laugh, makes me happy. Loved the article!

    • Janine Graf

      Your comment made me happy Ali! Thank you so much my talented friend! 😀

  • Jennifer Bracewell

    Such wise words again, Janine. Rejection always hurts but it is just one person’s opinion. I am so glad you wrote this. We all need a reminder. Love to you! I think you’re very inspiring 🙂

    • Janine Graf

      Oh my gosh I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to respond with a “thank you”! My manners are for shame. I’m so happy you enjoyed the article Jennifer! You really inspire me btw. You yourself have taken some lumps over the past few years and yet you just keep getting better and better and even stronger; you are a force girl! I really admire and respect you, LOTS! Love you too! xoxo

  • PositivePauly

    This is the exception to the “never read the comment section” rule on the Internet haha! I wish I could “like” or “favorite” comments here…

    Actually, strangely enough I prefer the fried chicken at Izzy’s pizza buffet, but extra-crispy from KFC is pretty good too. Patience & persistance indeed are mandatory to success. So very true!

    Indeed our art is VERY personal, and it’s nearly impossible some times to separate our art from ourselves. After all, we are trying to communicate in very personal ways through our art and always expressing the inner core of our emotional selves.

    Even photojournalists who are more outwardly focused in “capturing” rather than “creating” (get into a Photoshop discussion with a working PJ if you don’t catch what I see as a difference) are capturing the external world through their own existence at a specific moment in time, and are always chasing after the “decisive moment.” Criticism is very much a part of their world too.

    Because it’s human nature to want to be accepted, when our art is rejected for whatever reason, indeed we feel rejected. And, as emotional artists, we are always measuring ourselves against others, especially those we admire and respect. But we are neither measured by our successes nor our failures, but rather how we gracefully share our successes and rise out of our failures.

    Damn, though. It is soooo hard not to be brutal on ourselves, both before and after rejection (I mean, when perfecting our mini-masterpieces and choosing what to submit as share).

    But no matter what, we can rise up again and keep creating and sharing because it’s life itself for the creative. In the quote Kerryn shared, and in others – we wear it like it’s a part of us. If it disappears we might as well be dead.

    And somewhere in the midst, we find a few of our own pieces and honestly admit “WOW! I created that? That came out of me??? DAYAM!!”

    And we believe in ourselves again and keep going.

    I love this article. Thanks so much for writing it! The bastard/bitch who told you your work was not inspiring might’ve been right at the time, but you rose through the ashes in spite of it and most definitely have found the path of inspiration.

    Keep going. You’re amazing!

    • Janine Graf

      Paul! Great screen name btw!! Like I said above to Jennifer, sorry my response has taken so long to give. Thank you so very, very much for your wonderfully thoughtful comment! I’m glad you went against your rule of reading the comment section! 🙂 And yes, the extra crispy at KFC is to die for! Side note: do you watch South Park btw? “The Death of Eric Cartman” episode? Mercy so funny!

      You really hit the nail on the head here, with everything you said. Our art / creations are so much a part of us, our babies, that rejection of said art is nearly impossible not to take personally. So, so true! And you are so spot on that we really are measured by how we handle our rejections, and even our successes. You are very deep Paul and thank you so much again for sharing your thoughts because I really appreciate it! 😀

  • [email protected]

    So much of life is subjective. At times, it can seem like one ginormous competition after another where there are definitive winners and losers…who is the prettiest, the fittest, the smartest…a couple of people are usually responsible for deciding the outcome of these competitions but who are they in the grand scheme of life, especially OUR lives?
    For all of my success there has been even more failure, more rejection, more put downs. It can be a lonely struggle with lots of unanswered questions; Why don’t I measure up? My art isn’t worthy, why continue? I should have placed in that competition but now that I haven’t , what does that say about my art?
    It can be difficult to keep going, bearing the weight of self doubt but no matter how heavy my heart feels, I won’t be deterred because look at the emotion surrounding me. It is an amazing thing! I almost want to feel these negative emotions because my art is worthy of great feelings.
    Art is personal, like the way we walk, use our hands, flip the hair out of our eyes. It is our voice. It can charm, it can seduce, it can repulse, it can move, it can fall on deaf ears.
    I’ve made pieces that moved me to tears yet when I showed friends, they flipped past it without any kind of acknowledgement of that emotion. How could they know. But that emotion, that significance, that voice, is part of my art and is what makes it so special and so mine.
    No one; no judge, jury, lover, stranger, friend can ever take that importance away. That is why we are so passionate. That is the reason why rejection stings like a cold slap on a hot face, and that is what we need to remember when someone can’t see our vision, can’t hear our voice or can’t feel our passion. It isn’t really about our art at all, rather, their inability to make a connection to our passion.
    Today, I will walk down the side walk (ok, maybe i’ll slide, as I can’t even see the sidewalk for the 15 inches of snow) and of the 100 people I pass, only one might see me. One person out of 100 might take the time to see me. Should I still venture out, absolutely! This is my journey and along the way there will be apathy and there will be acknowledgement. Regardless, it’s a journey I have to make for myself. What is the alternative!
    Fill that journey with your art. You deserve it. Passion ices the cake and warms the heart. Our art can calm our nerves, hell, it can save our life!! The creative blood burns so brightly within all of us so please don’t let the nay-sayers or insults dampen your spirit. You owe it to yourself to let your intensity be felt by those around you who are open to it. It’s a beautiful thing.
    We have never met in the flesh, Janine. We have shared laughs and inside information but most importantly, we have shared our art with each other and made a real connection. I can feel your passion and I know you can feel mine. I’m not ever accepting the notion that you’d throw in the towel. I will hunt you down and chill you!!!
    I promise to keep at it as long as you do.
    Thanks for sharing a great piece with us. You have said what many of us feel and your indomitable spirit will not be broken!!
    Much respect to you my sister xxxxxxTommy

    • Janine Graf

      Oh Tommy, do you have any idea how much I adore you? I do. I think you are one of the coolest people around. I adore the passion you have for all the aspects in your life. You march to the beat of your own drummer and you are proud to do so. I think if we could bottle your confidence we could be bazillionaires!

      I particularly love this bit you said; “It isn’t really about our art at all, rather, their inability to make a connection to our passion.” You know, you are so right! Some of my personal favorites have been received with the sound of chirping crickets. We definitely put our emotions into our work and just because we can see it, or feel it, doesn’t mean the next person will understand it. And that’s really ok.

      Thank you so much for your comment Tommy. I REALLY look forward to meeting you in person one day. The first round of mojitos are on me! 😀 xoxo

  • Veevs

    So relate to your wonderful article Janine! I too feel it seems the same people get chosen every time and once in a blue moon one of my images get selected. Guess my style is totally different to the selection criterias! But it doesn’t upset me at all. I create for me and for my pleasure. If people like my images then that’s lovely, if they don’t it doesn’t matter.

    What really matters to me is our wonderful community! I only started in June 2011 and have learnt so much and best of all – I’m making so many wonderful friends not only in the UK but worldwide! And we all learn from each other as everyone is happy to help everyone else! I experienced that when I was in New York and met up with the amazing New York iphoneographers and we had a fabulous time!

    We are all learning and growing in this wonderful hobby of ours and I love it, whether my images submitted make it or not!! 🙂

    • Janine Graf

      Hi Vivi! I am glad you were able to relate to this! And you know, if an image of mine is never selected for anything ever again (that would suck for sure, and I’d probably cry at some point out of frustration), that disappointment could never take away the joy of all the amazing connections and true friendships that have been forged through this medium. Showcases and exhibits and competitions will come and go, but the friendships we are making will be here to stay. I love that. I’m going to be in NY next weekend and will get to meet my friends in the flesh for the first time (except for Catherine Restivo – I met her darling self over the summer) and I cannot wait! There will be lots and lots of hugging going on.

      Thanks again for your comment Vivi! I wish I could have met you while you were in the states. Phooey. Some day . . . 😀

  • Paula

    Janine, you know how I feel about this subject oh my! Love your honesty and inspirational words. I wished I submitted to MPA now, at the time I reckon I was taking a break. However your Colonel Saunders analogy is brilliant. So next time I’m all guns blazing, well emailing anyway 🙂 love you loads. Keep doing what you’re doing cause it’s perfect!!

    • Janine Graf

      Mmmuah Paula! You know, I was wondering if you submitted to the MPA after not seeing any of your amazing and poignant portraits represented. I figured you MUST HAVE not submitted. Next year you are going to kick all of our butts! 😀 I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and I know you can relate. We’ve both had our share of lumps, haven’t we? I love you and respect you and appreciate our friendship so much Paula. Mmmuah! xo

  • Marie Matthews

    Great article, Janine!! One of the things I have learned about making art over the years is to learn to love the process of creation. Really, nothing else matters. When I worry about whether I like the final result, or whether someone else likes the final result, or whether my work is better or worse than someone else’s, I always get depressed.

    I am in awe of so many iPhoneographers — you, Paula, Tommy, Catherine, Veevs, Jen, Jeanette, Cindy, Carlein, Lola, Karen, MaryJane, Edyta, Lene …. the list just goes on and on. We all have our own voices, and I don’t think I could choose a favorite. Thank you all for your inspiration.

    • Janine Graf

      Ack!!!!! I cannot believe I haven’t responded until now Marie! My self-diagnosed ADD getting the best of me! Thank you for your wonderful comment. And you couldn’t be more spot on; just create for yourself and enjoy the process. As soon as you start stressing about whether it’s accepted or not is when it becomes no longer fun. There are plenty of non-fun things in life, our art shouldn’t be one of them! 😉

  • Janine's Proud Dad

    Another great job, Janine. I was reminded of something I read somewhere: “Opinions are like nipples, everybody has one.” — I had to Google it to find out the correct, funny number, I was thinking it was three but that just didn’t seen right.

    • Janine Graf

      Thanks dad! Sorry I’ve taken so long to say “thanks”! Let’s blame mom for my bad manners, shall we? 😉

      I think the correct number is 7? But then that could be the cold meds talking.

  • Maria Peters

    Another fantastic and, for me, timely subject Janine. Pre-iPhoneography or any kind of photography(took my first B&W class 18 years ago, I was a successful pediatric/ER ICU nurse. I loved it as much as life itself. Really. It became an integral part of who I was. Yet, life circumstances evolved that left me unable to do my most passionate passion, the natural and immediate question of “what to do?” arose. The journey to the answer led me to many a retreat(!), and to writing and photography.

    For years I didn’t worry about my competence because I figured it would come just like my competence in the medical realm came—with time and practice.

    But, now in this world iPhoneography meets true artisans, I am more intimidated. Karen Divine’s “Your Parts…..” intimidates me big time. Even thought she and the people who post there are wonderful. I use so few app’s, I just capture whatever I deem is beautiful and sometimes “jazz” it up with a few app’s. While many others create these amazing creations. I’m stunned at the level of artistic and technical competence and talent.

    I do have one juried exhibit I will be submitting to in a couple of weeks and this article gives me a shot in the proverbial arm!

    I so appreciate your honesty about admitting your vulnerability. It’s not easy to do so….The Colonel is smiling right now for the recognition and inspiration he’s giving us thanks to you!

    • Janine Graf

      Oh Maria I’m so sorry it’s taken so long to respond to your thoughtful comment! I blame my mom . . . and the cold meds . . . and my self-diagnosed ADD. 😉

      What is the latest status with the jurried exhibit you submitted to?? I’d love to know.

      I totally understand where you’re coming from on an intimidation level, I really do. I remember when I first joined IPA. I looked around at several of the artists and thought, “Oh my god I really don’t know what I’m doing at all!” It almost kept me from uploading more work to that site. But you know, and I KNOW you know this, but we can’t compare ourselves to anyone. We should only pit ourselves against our last image uploaded, if that makes sense? I don’t use a whole ton of apps either; I have maybe five steady ones I’ll use. And it’s not about how may apps one uses on an image (my god I’ve seen images that have been passed through 10 or more apps and it looks just a mess by app 11, you know?). You have a great eye for composition and that’s THE MOST important thing in an image. 🙂

      I’m glad my article gave you “the shot in the arm” you needed! I’ll be anxious to hear what happened with your exhibit submissions! Feel free to send me a FB email because I’d really love to hear how it went for you. xoxo