Commit to your work. Simple, really.

Work Hard.

Accept Discipline.



Talent is for novices.

Don't equivocate.

Sure, there are those that complacently muddle along, look through their camera occasionally, take pictures on a whim, bring their camera on vacation and accept the pictures that it makes. But not experts and masters. They work hard, often daily, to get results. 

Look, photography is both exceptionally easy and overwhelmingly difficult. It is easy to get very good results, especially in these times when cameras are very smart (this includes smartphones). But as a beginner improves, learns perhaps Lightroom and Photoshop (or analog) and starts to make prints, the bar is raised. This is a sliding scale. Improve and the stakes are raised and the degree of subtlety increases.  Get better and as you improve your eyes are opened to just how high the stakes are and how very difficult it is to become truly accomplished.

Hypothetical young student of photography named Jackie. She starts out, is tickled at the results from the first class or workshop, displays the work, gets praise, is encouraged to submit to contests, wins prizes or awards etc. Moving on, she decides to submit to portfolio reviews, applies, gets in, goes and is crushed, ground to a fine powder with scathing reviews of work that she is told is seriously flawed, returns home discouraged and despondent. Eventually, she reassembles (or not), dusts shoulders off and approaches again with perhaps some humility in the mix, some sense that there are levels and then there are levels. Crucial stage here: our student of the medium starts to look at other work, starts to become informed from the masters, in books and in exhibitions. She goes to presentations, lectures in her community and show openings.  She approaches people who work she admires and seeks to learn first hand from them. She looks at the work of the masters of the print and the true geniuses with unbelievable powers of intellect, sensitivity, premonition and perception. She slowly gets better, through hard work and photographing now far more frequently but with far less "star" pictures the result. Slowly Jackie understands the need to make more pictures but to raise the standards on if they are successful of not. Through practice and acceptance there is a discipline here where she is developing a perspective, an approach that she can begin to own. To make her own photographs, not to emulate others. This takes time and really hard work to get to.  She can begin to see her own approach as a characteristic of who she is, photographs that tell a story of her history and upbringing, with her own sensibilities and proclivities. Smaller parts of her pictures will take on more importance here; the figure in the back of the frame, the moment caught unbelievably in a fraction of a second, light causing the magic of highlighting and delineating, the softness and nuance of the framing making something heartrendingly poignant, the beauty of the scene found among the horror of a natural disaster. She has moved from that first success of something flashy, colorful and surface to photographs that convey meaning and depth, have a point of view and share that sensibility with increasing scrutiny and perspective. She receives growing praise on her work from those that matter, the professional critics such as gallery owners, museum curators and journalists, as well as her peers that she respects. This then boosts her to take risk, to go with her gut more for she now knows what her contribution can be rather than simply emulating within someone else's territory.

Committing is a first step to the realization that this is a discipline just like any other that needs hard work, intelligence, training, practice, determination, innovation, a sense of humor, humility and uncompromising standards of quality.

Topics: Commentary

Permalink | Posted February 13, 2018