I had a lot of input over the last weeks. More concentrated and more significant than ever before. One thing it changes it the way I look at my work so far.
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”— Henri Cartier-Bresson
When Cartier-Bresson said that, that meant by the time you had used up 300 rolls of film, today it depends on the resolution of your DSLR, but a couple of memory cards will hold these. Be it as it may, what he meant was that by the time you have taken all these exposures you should have learned the basics. And that you could have already created a foundation for what someday could become a unique style of your own.
It might take you a couple more or less, but eventually, you should not worry so much anymore about technical questions. You should know when to use which aperture, what to do in post and on which paper you’ll print that pano of the mountain range.
But what I found now (and I totally am beyond that 10,000 image mark) is that I start asking myself questions which I either have no answer to or the answers don’t satisfy me.
One book I have read was “The War Of Art” by Steven Pressfield, which is a definite must-read for everyone who is doing something creative and artistic. One might not agree with the connection to the divine he makes in the final part of the book, but there is much to learn about what holds you back. And that most of that holding back is done by yourself.
So far, so good. No awkward questions there, although I asked myself how I could not have seen that myself. Why I didn’t start really fighting that without someone having to explain that to me.
But the frustration that I feel now really started when I started to read “The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook” by Harold Davis. Of course, it is not the intention of this book, which is a wonderful source and a beautiful book no doubt, to frustrate the reader. But it is now that I gain more knowledge about black and white composition, using negative space, framing, patterns, contrast and shades of gray, that I realize that I have done what I have done without knowing in depth about all this and so much more (Another Davis book, Walker Evans’ American Photographs and the first part of Edward Westons Daybooks are sitting on the shelf waiting for me).
So for a moment, a long moment even I felt frustrated today. Like I had wasted my time. I felt bad that my images had not been better. But then I thought that they weren’t bad at all. And that I wouldn’t like them less because now I knew more. Instead, this should make me feel better because eventually when this knowledge sinks in and becomes second nature, my images will be better.
What I will do now and since I have been reading and reflecting on what I read (and will continue to do so) I will have the necessary tools, is to reevaluate my own work. Respecting that they represent my knowledge, craftsmanship and artistic level at the time, but defining what needs to be done to make me a better photographer and a more meaningful artist. And just as when being confronted with the changes one has to make to become a better person, these changes will also cause resistance, fear, and frustration.
“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I ‘m going to take tomorrow.”— Imogen Cunningham
But as long as there is momentum, as long as I keep growing as a photographer, as an artist, and as a human being, I don’t have to worry about anything.