One of the things I’ve heard over and over again from many of you is that you really enjoy the info and resources I share on creativity and personal growth in general. There’s lots of information out there on the technical aspects of photography, including gear, software, and technique, but much less when it comes to the creative challenges we all face.
Over the past few years, I’ve been asking students and buyers of my books what their greatest challenges are. And nine times out of ten, those that respond tell me that they struggle most with composition and originality, followed by lack of motivation from a sense that they are not meeting their creative potential.
I don’t think this is a coincidence with the prevalence of technology and its promise of near-instant results. When we buy into a company’s marketing message and invest in their latest products, we fall victim to the promise that our images will instantly improve. But technology doesn’t create art, you do.
Yet many try to justify their reliance on expensive gear with the belief that it sets them apart from the “amateur” crowd. Maybe it’s a way to avoid the old adage; it’s not the hammer but the carpenter. Have you seen the images captured in the latest iphone photography awards?
The point I’m making here is that regardless of how important the gear is in your success as a photographer, it can never match the impact of vision, deliberate practice, and creativity in your success as an artist over the long term. This has nothing to do with amateurs vs professionals but rather with a commitment to engage with your creativity in the most meaningful way possible—developing your unique voice.
And so from this point forward, I will be dedicating this blog to answering the following question: How can we maximize our creative potential? It’s the question I’ve been exploring my entire life, and I remain as curious, motivated, and inspired as I was when I first started on this path many decades ago.
Not only is this critically important for the creative photographer, but for any artist who values creative growth. In fact, I’ve used myself as a case study, spending twenty plus years in a music career, followed by the past fifteen years as a landscape photographer.
I also continue to challenge my own self-perceived limits. Over the past three years of intense study and practice, I’ve been learning how to paint. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted artistically. I committed to this not only because I’ve always dreamed of painting, but because it challenges me to the very limits of my capabilities, and often beyond. But that’s where true growth happens.
I also wanted to put myself in the best possible position to help others through my own experiences, both positive and negative. I want to help those who think they don’t have the “natural talent” to create meaningful work, or who think that creativity is some innate gift that only a select few have. I also hope this will enable me to produce better workshop experiences for students, and enhance my overall ability to teach and mentor others.
I’ve had two profound insights from my recent experiences learning to paint. First, all of the visual arts, as well as music, are extremely complementary, with many parallel modes of expression. I’ve been able to apply concepts and ideas across mediums especially when they are driven by a clear sense of what it is I want to share with others.
Second, the greatest factor in success is deliberate practice. Nothing influences your ability to harness whatever potential you have more than focusing on growth over results. Sure we are all limited to some degree by our genes, and so while sustained practice may not make you the best, it can make you different. By combining your skills and knowledge over the long term, you learn to treat failure as the necessary part of the path that leads to growth and success.
You learn from the wonderful experiment that you undertake every time you press the shutter button. I can not emphasize how creatively healthy that mindset is for all us given the competitive nature of our pop culture.
I will continue to share everything I’ve learned about photography, and I remain deeply committed to my photography career. But I will also be expanding what I share to encompass a broader spectrum of ideas in the hope that it will help you become as creative as you want to be, whether you are a photographer or not. Expect more of the same from a photography related perspective, but much more in terms of creative and personal growth.
For me, it’s about living a fulfilled, meaningful life, and I believe that would be impossible without creativity.