In a photography group I watch online, a member posted a photo from a model shoot, asking for constructive critique. Another member’s praise prompted him to lament with something like, “… if only (my work) were consistently this (good)”.
I understand that, as a developing Professional, you want to be consistently producing excellent work, if only to serve your clients well enough to bring ’em back. And/Or, on the basis of personal pride in one’s work, consistency in grace or technique or inspirational quality or compositional leanness, etc. seems like a worthy benchmark.. . like it means we’re a “real” artist.
Looking to become consistently awesome is a great way to undermine myself, I find. Having sweeter successes than my “usual” is a very promising and healthy sign that we are growing and deepening.. not necessarily in the skillsets that we often try to cultivate, but in mysterious talents and exciting discoveries that keep us in the game, pull us forward. The cyclical “rut” is, then, more obvious, and bearable, since we have the experiences of those peak successes to remember and look forward to. Meanwhile it is practice…
not to become “perfect”, but to trust intuition as much as any skills.
In short, Play On.
That’s where the learning is.
For years, as a “professional ogler” (a newspaper staff photographer), I simultaneously explored photography as craft/process/medium in its own right. The photojournalism work –credentials and mindset– got me into (and out of) places I would certainly never have had access to on my own. I was also practicing the discipline of getting a picture where there didn’t appear to be one and getting it Finished in a timely manner, to professional standards. I also learned to create imminently readable images despite poor reproduction in a small size. Though it took me several years to get this, the value of making photos that illustrated something already laid out in the story was suddenly Not Enough, and I began to make assignment pictures that added dimensions not already in the writing, or better Yet, raised questions so that the reader would go to the story for more answers.
Having gained more than dreamt of, when starting out, I left to pursue my own personal photography, mounting exhibits along the way. I also worked with commercial photographer friends doing studio product photography, and making headshots for actors.
Later, I also helmed a Public Radio “spacemusic” program, and acted in a Wilmington, NC drama company.
I put the cameras away for a few years, to finish shedding the habit of self-limiting my identity as just “Photographer”, and can now pursue personal pleasure and expression through the freedom that digital imaging offers.
Sharing photos on Flickr and participating locally in meetups and outings has renewed a passion for making new images and for sharing the process with others. For some time, I’ve found myself writing detailed comments on other people’s photos, as well as thoughts and pet ideas about photography, in general.
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