Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Stages of the Photographer

Why, oh why, does every pundit want to break things down in to stages? They all do it differently, and generally pretty lazily, but it always looks something like this:

First there is the larval stage of the photographer, where he's just got a point and shoot, and he's shooting, I dunno, everything. Or if he trying to emulate the style of Ansel Adams?

Then there's the chrysalis stage, where he acquires a flash, or a DSLR, or begins to experiment with slow shutter speeds, or takes a lot of pictures of fire hydrants. Or maybe it's the teenaged stage, or the tadpole stage, or the white dwarf stage.

Then there's some other stages where the photographer thrashes about doing things wrong.

Finally, there is the last stage. This is the stage in which, invariably, the pundit finds himself. It's a stage with total synthesis of everything and full control and blah blah blah a bunch of other bullshit, hey I have some workshops you could take.

There aren't any god damned stages. There's just stuff you know, and stuff you don't know. Independent of that, there's a degree of seriousness. Independent again there are goals and intentions. Put these and a few other things together, and we come up with "are you shooting the pictures you want to be shooting or not?"

Loads of superb photographers have no idea how to use a flash, or don't own a DSLR, or just started taking pictures a year ago. Tons of crummy ones own all the gear, have taken all the workshops, and have proceeded through every possible stage.

There is no via dolorosa to be traversed, you need not visit a set of stations in order to arrive at some final blissful state in which you are, finally, offering your own line of workshops. There are tons of people out there trying to force you on to a via dolorosa because they're pretty sure that the path they took is universal, and they'd like to sell you stuff. It's absolute bullshit to say that you have to progress through a bunch of stages. You can go out and start taking pictures that satisfy right now with whatever camera you have.

If you're not doing it already, you probably won't. But it's not because you haven't done the required suffering. It's probably because you don't know what pictures would satisfy you. It's possible that you simply don't know enough stuff about pictures yet. It's possible but extremely unlikely that you don't know how to control your equipment adequately. These are solvable problems, and none of them require visiting the stations of the cross.

I took a path to where I am today. I can't recommend it, and I certainly can't remember enough details to help you along it. Why would you want to take my path? I've been blundering down it for like 30 years or something. Find your own damned path. It's practically guaranteed to get you somewhere faster.

You can teach a kid to make good, weighty, work in a couple of days if you're paying attention.

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