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Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

I was recently interviewed for a popular photography podcast (details coming very soon) and one of the questions I was asked concerned my willingness to share my failed images in my recently released ebook. I’ve never considered that a problem, probably because I think most of my images are failures in some way or another, and I’m not afraid to admit that. In fact, the real challenge was choosing which successful images to include in the book. I could have filled several volumes with failures no problem!

So often we’re protective of how we come across to others, and only want to share what we consider our successes. I set a really high bar that I constantly strive to reach – whether in photography, or writing, or as a parent. There’s a lot of risk in that approach, and often I have to take a good look at reality and adjust my expectations.

As a parent, I make it a point to share that with my 9 yr old son as often as possible. I am flawed, and I want him to really understand that. The most important lesson I can teach him is that even with the flaws and mistakes, it’s the perseverance, determination, and willingness to be authentic that makes the difference. And that earns respect which in my opinion is essential in parenting.

In photography, the more failure there is, the better. I went out this morning and failed. I went out yesterday and failed. To be honest I haven’t succeeded in several weeks, and I go out three to four times a week. This is often due to conditions that are out of my control, such as the weather. That’s ok, success will come, and that will give me the confidence I need to know I can succeed. I still stay up at night wondering if I really have what it takes to see this through to the end. Then the morning comes and I tell myself there’s no way in hell I’m giving up.

Be authentic, share your fears and flaws, let others know you deal with the same crap they do – in the end they’ll trust and respect you unconditionally. And that’s the most important thing as a photographer – not your work, you.

Do you agree with my perspective? Have a different point of view you want to share? Please let me know, always looking for other perspectives. thanks!

RR Jr

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Rob, I believe that intentionally sharing our flaws makes us vulnerable and that in itself suggests strength, as it takes a strong sense of confidence to be comfortable in ones vulnerability. As far as keeper images, I read somewhere that if you get 12 fine art pictures a year that you really like, you’re doing quite well. Peter

    1. Yes Peter, I believe it was Mr Adams himself that said “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” For sure that’s a great target to shoot for, though of course it depends on how “lucky” you get. Strength is something you gain through adversity, and the more adversity you survive, the more your confidence grows. I remember my first few art shows – talk about adversity…thanks for the feedback as always!

      RR

  2. Yes, Robert, I do understand the importance of failure in learning and betterment in any area of life. However, in any realm of new undertaking that might be a bit intimidating to a beginner (or for that matter, even an advanced amateur), too much failure can too easily lead to giving up. For this reason, in order for failure to be an effective tool to self-improvement, it almost always has to be coupled to adequate successes or better yet, coupled to the prodding and encouragement of a teacher/mentor. And that’s a particular gift of yours. Thanks!

    1. Hillel – yes you are absolutely correct, perhaps my own criteria for success has changed over the years as I evolve as a photographer, and that has to be different and personal for each of us. The more I continue along this creative path, the further I reach for things that seem out of reach, that’s just a part of my personality.

      Nonetheless, I will say that if you are passionate about what you do, have fun doing it, and feel like it is truly worth the time and effort, then that is the greatest success regardless of what everyone else thinks. thanks for sharing your thoughts and making me re-think some of what I wrote 🙂

      RR

      1. I very much agree with that last sentence of yours…”if you are passionate….regardless of what anyone else thinks”…
        Thanks again!

        HKB

  3. Hi Robert. I agree with most of your thoughts. We need to be making mistakes regularly otherwise we aren’t pushing our own boundaries far enough. I believe Galen Rowell wrote in one of his books that at one point in his career he was worried that he didn’t have a definitive vision because of how many misses he had, until he sat in on an editing session of a top National Geographic photographer and realized that person’s entire assignment was littered with failures too just like himself but when you edited the work down the person’s vision became apparent.

    1. Hi Richard – thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Much of the creative process is experimentation, so for sure there will be photos that don’t seem to work, but as you mention when you have a direction, then careful editing will reveal a theme or direction. I love the saying “snap shooters take pictures, photographers tell stories”. Love your blog as well! Much thanks

      RR

  4. Thank you for your wonderful eBook. I’m passing it along by several methods.

    Yes, I agree with sharing your failures. I think that too few acknowledge their failures and accept “good enough”. I was amazed at how hard it was to get an image of the Grand Canyon when there last November. Yeah, it was easy to get a picture, but something that captured to true wonder was much more difficult. I was helped by a snow, but my failures of my first two-days at the canyon prepared me for the morning when I woke up to a wonderful snow and low clouds in the canyon at sunrise.

    Dave

    1. Dave – first thanks for taking the time to leave your feedback and for sharing the book- I really appreciate it. Yes I have had the same experience myself and it has taught me to be patient and determined. For sure it is very easy to get a good photo these days – the gear is just amazing. But everyone knows that already, and so viewers are used to seeing great images. Making another great images just adds to the noise in my opinion,there has to be something more…much of what I talk about in the book.

      Any way I can help you with your photography in the future, just ask!

      RR

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