Part of what I’ve always loved about creativity is that inspiration and humility often go hand in hand. And if we’re confident enough in our own skin to see it for what it is, a way to learn and grow, then we really can gain from every experience we have.
During the last Digital Fine Art Printing workshop a few weeks ago, I had such an experience. In the processing portion of the workshop, I ask each student to submit an image for me to evaluate and develop in Lightroom. One image in particular was rather difficult due to deep shadows and lots of mood, and I made several adjustments based on what I thought was needed. But in reality, I wasn’t quite sure. After several adjustments, I asked for feedback, and while most nodded in approval, one lone student voiced his opinion that it was better before I had started.
At that moment I had a choice to make. Defend my adjustments, or accept in front of everyone that he had a point. He apologized for being the dissenting voice, yet I thanked him for being honest and suggested we back track to see how I might have gone wrong. After more evaluation, I had been too aggressive in opening up the shadows, emphasizing detail over “feel.” The print looked better from a technical perspective, but the overall mood had been greatly diminished.
Don’t measure yourself by your friends and don’t ask someone like me to tell you what’s working and what’s not. Learn to see. Test. Experiment. And be patient.- Seth Godin
After thinking about it carefully, I realized that my mistake was in letting the medium become the most important part of the process. And it’s never about the medium. It should always be about the work, the statement, the creative act. Too often it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking the medium, in this case a print, is the goal of the process. The medium is simply a vehicle to deliver the message, whatever that might be. When we allow the medium to exist apart from the creative statement, we have failed as photographers, and as artists.
In that moment, I was grateful to that student. I was humbled and inspired at the same time. It proved a learning experience for everyone involved, and from my seat at the workshop, it doesn’t get better than that.
Register for our upoming Digital Fine Art Printing Workshop on Saturday July 26 here. Spaces go fast, so don’t wait too long.
Sponsored by Canson Infinity and featuring their amazing papers.