Text and photos by Cory H Irwin

What do you do when your heart is broken?

You call your mom. Maybe you start working out, or reading some books. You travel to get away.

Long story short, I was dumped by the girl I thought I’d marry (naively so, but that story is for another time). My confidence was shattered. The future I had shaped in my imagination was taken from me. My sense of purpose was lost, and my creative work suffered for it.

Having thrown myself into the wringer of self-help and psychology books in search for some cure to my helplessness, I picked up a consistent theme: to live life as fully as possible; to feel fear; to have a sense of adventure; to remember what you’re capable of; to remember happiness.

I packed my belongings and my problems into a suitcase, and decided to test my luck at Fashion Week.

With edibles in my stomach, cigarettes in my pocket, and booze in hand I boarded the plane for Paris, from Los Angeles, barely able to keep the panic and self doubt buried down. I hadn’t ever shot street style for fashion photography. I hadn’t ever flown to Europe either.

Creative plateaus are something that artists struggle with. Some of us are luckier than others, but everyone hits a point of self doubt eventually. Your world doesn’t seem so clear anymore. You blame yourself for failures. Sometimes you question whether or not you should continue trying. It becomes a fog in which you are engulfed in; stripped of your vision, confidence, and prowess.

But like being broken up with, as artists we are responsible for our own creative recovery. You need to take the love that was projected outward and bring it into yourself. You have to be kind to yourself, and in a very compassionate way you need to challenge yourself to move forward.

As I struggled to create interesting images during my time in Paris, I constantly reminded myself of these lessons learned. The struggle can be an important part of the process towards recovery.

On my last day in Paris I literally bumped into Adam Katz Sinding, my fashion photography icon. The encounter was brief, I mumbled something about his work, he mumbled some sort of thanks, and we each went our way — but as I stood dumbfounded by the luck of it all I decided I’d watch him work, in an attempt to learn something about his ‘process’.

He’s made a name for himself by thinking outside the box and developing his own style. I observed the way he positioned himself away from the photographer scrum. I copied how tight he gets to the subject, how he frames them using crosswalks and buildings.

It was on the flight home, between mini bottles of tequila, that I realized my most important observation: the only way to have these kinds of experiences is to throw yourself into them. This was my first step in creating something that I could call my own. It was an important step for my recovery.

I went to Paris because I was emotionally devastated, and I came away from the experience with a revitalized vigor for my passion. I came away from the trip with a newfound confidence in my ability to cope and survive, but also in my ability to create. There is nothing stopping you from making the creation but yourself – the fears, doubts, lack of confidence, and lack of hope. Challenge those emotions; challenge yourself.