Monday, April 25, 2011


The purpose of this post is to remind myself that this journey is one of self-discovery. If you don't acknowledge the self-discovery in the journey, you're seriously short-changing yourself.

Seriously. Short-changing. Yourself.

The harder the endeavor. The more you'll learn about yourself. The flip-side is you'll never learn anything about yourself doing anything easy. Doing the same mundane routine over and over again yields zero, and I repeat z-e-r-o gains in the self-discovery department. Hell, it probably yields zero gains in
any department.

Who cares about self-discovery?

Well, I do. And you should too if you value personal growth. But if not, feel free to stop reading here. I'll help you by breaking this blog post up here and forcing you to click "more" if you want to proceed :)

What does self-discovery have to do with anything? Much less photography?

It has everything to do with photography. And everything to do with everything but in my case it just so happens to be that the photographic journey has been the most trying journey of my life. Therefore, I've learned the most about myself as a function of this path.

When people ask me hypotheticals like, "What would you do if... [fill in the blank]?" I pretty much always answer "I don't know". The reason I answer that way is because I feel it's quite literally impossible for me to know how I would act/react in a hypothetical situation.

For example: "What would Charles do if he saw a poor old lady getting mugged in broad daylight?"

Well, I would like to think I'd react heroically and defend the poor old lady. So maybe that's how I might respond. But if you actually put me in that situation, I would probably be scared shitless and pee my pants.

But how would I know about my poor bladder control if I weren't actually
in that situation? Well, I wouldn't. Instead, I would go on believing for the rest of my life that I would/could actually save that poor old lady.

Fortunately for me. The photographic journey isn't filled with as many violent situations as much as it is filled with non-physically threatening but every bit as annoying, financially trying, psychologically taxing, patience-testing... situations. But as a result of each of these situations, I get to find out how I really feel, think, and act/react.

Which is why I rock a pair of Depends on every one of my shoots :)

In all seriousness, my journey has provided me insights into my personality such that I may answer questions like, "What did you do when you feared not filling your Las Vegas workshop?" Questions that I would otherwise never be able to hypothetically answer.

But I pay attention to these learning lessons. I'm constantly evaluating myself, how I feel, how I've grown, etc. throughout this journey. I'm assessing my growth and writing down my take-away points daily.

And it isn't all gravy. I've failed many real situations. Reacted poorly to many situations. Totally screwed the pooch on several occasions. But every time I do, I learn something new about myself. At the very least, I learn how I act/react in that particular situation. Hopefully I learn what
not to do going forward.

And then there's all the great stuff I learn about myself. What I excel in. What drives/inspires me. What great results have come from good decision-making. I have greater appreciation of and for myself. Acknowledging and coming to terms with all my strengths and weaknesses.

But if you don't acknowledge this process, this
temet nosce process, you're short-changing yourself. Because it's not about the camera settings. It's not about the lighting. It's not about the Photoshop. Really, it's not even about the pictures. At all. Those things are the byproduct of self-improvement, growth, and progress. Those things come naturally as you grow internally. The pictures are the results. The growth is the process. Love the process. The results will follow.

I say this because I've been having conversation with a particular student that misses this critical point. Sadly, she'll never read this post because she's too caught up in the final outcome. In the pictures. She isn't giving herself enough time to grow. To truly appreciate her progress. She's pushing herself too hard for results.

But it's not about the pictures.

At the highest level of martial arts, practitioners discover that they transcend the physical art itself and exercise ways to ward off physical conflict. That level of mastery requires a thorough understanding of the physical art itself which is the source of the practitioner's paramount level of confidence to
not have to use physical skills. But more importantly, it requires a transcendental approach to the obvious; to see that the highest level of the art is exercised at the psychological and spiritual level rather than at the physical level.

Same with photography or any difficult journey. On the surface, it's about the pictures. But beneath the tip of the iceberg lies exponentially greater mass; spiritual, mental, psychological and personality development. Those are the elements that are really carrying the iceberg. Not the tip (the pictures). Cultivating the mass beneath the surface yields much greater results than trying to grow the small portion of ice above the water.

Of course it takes time to come to those realizations. So take time and reflect. Never forget that the process is more important than the results.


  1. This is the best blog post on photography I have ever read. I like that you get it, and said it so succinctly.

  2. Cheers Sarah :) Hopefully I don't lose it ;)

  3. Awesome post. The martial arts analogy was very apt.

  4. Yes!!!! Yes yes yes!! You've hit the nail on the head once again. Working from the inside out in this way is how us artists can survive in this world that's only concerned with the bottom line. Produce the right pic, get paid. But if we know, intimately, where that picture comes from.... that place of personal growth that was a reflection of a moment on our journey, well, we add beauty to this world. Untainted by commercial intent.... Gorgeous!

  5. That's a powerful line,

    "The image is a reflection of a moment in our journey..."

    :) Cheers!