The fall photo session is wrapping up, and I have to say after loading up my last few sessions this year, I am darn proud of this work. I’m not saying I’m an expert or that I’ve reached the pinnacle of where I’d like my work to be as there are always new things to learn and new areas to explore. But if I look backwards at the images I was producing when I first started out, even for the first hundred plus sessions I did, I am proud of where my work now stands. I hope that comes across as happiness and not arrogance.
Photography, like any creative pursuit, is tough because it’s so easy to second guess the work you’re producing. It’s easy to compare yourself to other people, or feel like you’ve missed the mark somehow with light or emotion or moments you didn’t grab in time. And so much of it is trial and error and endless hours practicing, practicing, problem solving, practicing. Making huge mistakes, and trying again. Finding your own style, getting into a rhythm in a session, shopping for the right light, figuring things out.
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the creative process and the evolution from beginner to not-beginner. Ira Glass has a great bit (quoted below and beautifully illustrated in this video by Daniel Sax) about minding the gap between the level and quality of the work you’re making at the beginning of any creative pursuit, and the level of work you feel capable of making.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there is this gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not that good.
But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, 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. They quit.
Everybody I know who does interesting, creative work they went through years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. Everybody goes through that.
And if you are just starting out or if you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.
I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It takes awhile. It’s gonna take you a while. It’s normal to take a while. You just have to fight your way through that.”
For those of you following me since the very beginning (2006!) as I’ve meandered around trying to find my way, thank you for coming along on this ride with me. And cheers to everyone who’s figuring it out, fighting through, and bravely pushing to close the gap for themselves.