Saturday, September 14, 2013

It's NOT Magic II

The previous post stirred up some responses. Here's one that I thought was quite insightful. Attached is my response:

After reading the article - a number of times today - I thought I'd comment if I may. I've done two workshops with you, and probably close to ten workshops total. I've vowed to stop doing workshops. Ill explain later. To be honest I've walked away from your workshops and others very disheartened - but never at you; but because I didn't make the most of those moments. Sometimes I'm too nice to others, I don't push harder to get the image i see, I put a wall up, I lack confidence in front of others, I tire quickly because I stupidly fly to the events without rest. I walk in with a preconceived notion, I focus on one aspect, and neglect the bigger picture..I.. I.. I make excuses. And no workshop image will ever really make me feel complete - because it's not really mine, not completely. But it's a stepping stone. In the same way, mimicking someone's style is not me. Granted I gravitate toward certain aspects, certain styles. But the truth be known - my photography doesn't not resemble me - or the best of me. It's a watered down version because I'm mimicking others and I lost me along life's journey. I became something others expected, but never good enough. I lack the confidence - the truth of me.

There's a point you really need to stop chasing and make a stand.

Charles, you freely give all the information - but many times the student may not know himself / herself well enough to be asking the right questions for them.

I noticed many of your images early on were - like all of us - flat, static, lacked dimension, lacked energy and movement - but the lighting setup was nice. It's about knowing you. Your work shifted. Became dynamic. I think you realized the technical element was hindering your 'human' element. It's not about the light, rather the human moment. And even better when both. I think you stepped away from traditional posing that was stifled and didn't engage the viewer. Oh.. And the models took off their clothes now. :L

I've been in a room with the most beautiful models and then an below average looking lady walked in, and she was more attractive than any of them in this instance - because she was comfortable and confident in who she was and what she was about.

We live in a commercialized world where have grown up to innately believe the answer is outside of us - when it has always been within us.

Your workshops provide excellent tools and learning environment but we need to confident in us to get the most out of the experience.

For me, I sat down and looked at my earlier work, and really thought about why I love photography. And I realized I got lost along the way; Both in life and my approach to the art form.

I hope to be sharing with the world a more accurate reflection of the best of me very soon through photography.

I have always pushed you guys to ask the right questions. I've said time and time again it's not about the answers. The answers are useless if you don't know the right questions. But how does one ask the right questions?

The right questions come from the right mindset. It's why I'm so big on the philosophical stuff on this blog. The blog is where you learn how to learn. Learn how to think and ask questions and not just do stuff for the sake of doing it. Those of you that have read the blog understand this. Yes, it is *tediously wordy. But it's what gives you the right mental framework to advance your photography properly.

The other source for proper questions is wisdom. Time and experience. There is simply no replacement for displacement. Just as I said nothing to my first model during my first photoshoot, one can not know what questions to ask if he/she hasn't been around the block a few times. You won't know what to look for and what you like, what you don't like, etc. It's why I like it when photographers have been kicked around a few times either by agencies, models, stylists, etc.

And allow me to suggest the following: The challenges you experience in your photographic journey are often a reflection of the challenges of you in real life. They're often personality flaws. Learning deficiencies. Bad habits. If you examine your frustrations closely you'll likely see that it transcends photography and occurs frequently throughout various aspects of your life.

It's just that you care more when it happens as you're trying to create better images.

Case in point, I see everything as glass half empty. It's my blessing and my curse. Technically speaking it allows me to fix the flaws in my images. Realistically it makes me never happy with anything. Things can always be better. Nothing is ever good enough for me.

My wife will tell you that as a result I am generally an unhappy person :)

And that's a broad brushstroke truth that applies to all facets of my life. It's not limited to photography. I have the same expectations of everyone and everything. And often I'm disappointed. It's something that I have to work with and against, at all times because it's a function of me. And while it perhaps surfaces the most through my photography/retouching, the truth is that it's a *personal* challenge. Hell, let's call a spade a spade. It's a personality flaw. A defect, if you will.

But it's a defect that I work with (and against) and it's a defect that I don't (and can't) expect anyone else fix or even help me fix. The important thing is the realization. So at least I don't put it on my models or my clients or whomever else I can find to blame. I put it on myself, to figure things out and work with it. It's why I keep going back to the whole "it's a journey" thing. The point of the journey is self-discovery. Not image perfection. It's about getting to know yourself better. Understanding yourself and what makes you tick. Sure we do this via "image perfection" but to make "image perfection" the goal is to miss the real purpose of the exercise. It's about the experience.

But in the same way that you can't fix me... I can't fix you. And perhaps the wiser thing to realize is that we're not broken to begin with, though I have yet to truly make that realization. And prior to that realization I will still try my best to lead all my workshop photographers the best I can. To show them every door that is available to them. To give you the tools to make your own realizations. But I can't make you open the doors. I can't make you walk through them. I'm merely a guide. Hopefully a good one, but at the end of the day there's still a lot of work to be done and I can't do it for you.

In closing we're right back where we started. As any good movie and book ends, I hope I have left you merely scratching your head and wondering, "well that's a mindfuck..." But if I've done that then at least I've accomplished my goal. Because there are no right answers. Just the right questions.


  1. "My wife will tell you that as a result I am generally an unhappy person"

    Gee Charles, your wife and mine must be married to the same guy.

    In all seriousness though, nobody creates from a position of contentment. If we are content with our lives, our jobs, our family...what reason do we have to strive for anything greater?

    Have you ever noticed that no great scientific, medical or technical advancements ever seem to come from places like Hawaii or Bora, Bora? Why not? When one is already in paradise with beautiful weather, abundant fish & game, exotic tropical fruit of all kinds, etc. what need is there to invent anything?

    No, that defect as you call it, it what drives the creative mind.
    I remember reading somewhere that there are a large number of bi-polar people in the entertainment industry, That makes perfect sense doesn't it.

  2. Perfect example. Great point Joseph.

    On some level I wish I had a little more "crazy" in me. I'd explain but I have to bury this dead hooker and meet my coke dealer later. Cheers! :)