I love this video:
It’s directly about writing, but it also applies to pretty much any other creative endeavour — cooking, playing a musical instrument, painting, knitting, drawing, furniture making, and yes, photography.
To quote Ira Glass (from the video above): “All of us who do creative work, like, you know, we get into it because we have good taste, but it’s like there’s a gap — that for the first couple of years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, ok? It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you . . . a lot of people never get past that phase, and a lot of people at that point, they quit.”
And it’s also at this crucial point where creative influences — the work of people whose skills we admire — can become as much a burden as an inspiration. At this juncture, I find myself paging through books of photography masters and despairing.
They’re all so good. Their work seems so effortlessly beautiful and emotive and impactful, and yet here I find myself literally *struggling* to produce material that might conceivably, and only under the right circumstances, be viewed as better than average.
But somehow, and I don’t know why, I still love what I’m doing.
I fail continuously, deleting hundreds (to thousands) of photographs that don’t match up to my expectations for what my photography should be, while keeping the few that I feel show at least some small promise, that exhibit baby steps toward the end goal.
And as I continue to follow the mentoring of photographers better than I am, I find that I’m slowing down, taking a step back, evaluating more carefully and consciously just what it is I’m photographing and why. Which means I photograph less, but invest more in each rapid shutter burst.
It doesn’t automatically make me any better, of course, because “it’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.”
Getting *good* at photography will take years of practice and work . . . goddamnit. It’s unavoidable. There are days I wish for a shortcut, but there isn’t one.
As e.e. cummings once wrote: “If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.”
Replace “written one line of one poem” with pretty much anything creative — taken one emotionally striking photo, written one infectiously boppy tune, sewn one terrific pair of jeans, concocted one gorgeous perfume, designed one beautifully simple rucksack, crafted one amazing bottle of wine, and so on — and the “fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling” still applies.