« (Q: Why Doesn't flickr Work?) | Main | The Zeiss Batis »

Monday, 02 November 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

When you get married you get lots of un-solicited advice about what to do. After going through the process I thought of the perfect answer:

"Thank you for that thought. We meet at [local place] at 7:00 AM on Saturday to discuss wedding related ideas. Please come and share your idea with the team."

I'm glad you realize that an (intelligent) opposing comment just means that someone has read and thought about the issue. Sadly, some writers take such comments personally, and even sadder that sometimes trolls respond (which can be unintentionally amusing). Keep up the good work.

Far enough. In your past post, I almost linked to Mark Cuban's advice, which is, "Don't follow your passion, follow your effort." I think this is similar to the point you were making.


I can't find a link to another bit of advice, which I believe also came from Cuban. The advice: when looking for something to do, don't look for something you love, look for something that ticks you off. Something that to you is just obviously wrong, stupid and broken. You may be the best qualified and motivated person to fix it, and to have success doing so.

To quote Wesley Liebenberg-Walker: though provoking (sic) and thought provoking indeed.
Thank you Mr. Johnston

In the other post, I mentioned that this whole issue really bothers me, especially as it affects other people that I know and like. (Usually young people.) It seems to me that it always boils down to one thing: you have to choose. It almost makes no difference what you choose, as long as you do. You can't let anything simply drive you, especially when it comes to an art form. YOU have to drive IT. Instead of putting your camera in the car and driving around aimlessly, hoping for the best, you have to choose what to do (driving aimlessly isn't a choice.) If you do that, even if things don't get better, they certainly get more interesting. And ultimately, in all your varied daily activities, you have to choose a longer-term strategy: how do you want your life to work. What do you want to do? That's even more complicated, but is perhaps made less so if you try to cooly (as you put it) assess your interests, and your strengths and weaknesses, and figure out what you CAN do. If you're 45 years old with no musical talent, deciding to be a rock star probably isn't a cool decision. (Although, I admit, it could be interesting. Might even make a book -- but you'd have to decide in advance that you're really a writer, not really a rock star.)

It's all very complicated, but IMHO, choosing is the critical action.

Mike, in my case I'm afraid you're preaching to a converted. After an initial all-encompassing enthusiasm for photography, shooting virtually everything I saw, I've been gradually dropping lots of themes and concentrating on only a few. I remember finding it awkward to answer the question 'what's your favourite subject?' without a long speech which nobody had any interest in hearing. (The fact that this question is so often asked is actually quite telling, if we think about it: you're really supposed to have made a choice.) For instance, I found my strengths to lie in composition and exploring lines, so I try to make that work for the benefit of my photographs. (Whether I'm successful at it or not is something I prefer to leave for others to assess.)
What you should have stated more emphatically is that self-assessing one's own strenghts and weaknesses and concentrate on the former is instrumental in finding a language of his or her own. If we span our efforts over a large number of subjects and techniques, or shoot regardless as if there were no tomorrow, we'll never develop it. Being a dilletante can be nice, of course, but dilletanti seldom achieve greatness. If one's serious about photography, chances are he (or she) will go through some kind of selection process which will allow them to concentrate on their strengths. That's how they'll find a language of their own, a form of expression that's unique to them. Some find it for themselves, others need advice. The latter should spare your writings a thought or two.
Your advice would have been nicely complemented by this one: people shouldn't take too many pictures. Digital photography brought the habit of making a plethora of shots of a single subject, but I find there's nothing to learn from that. It's much better to have one satisfactory picture of a subject than having a memory card filled with mediocre ones.

An off-topic reply, but - I love the top picture of the truck cheese advert.

Thanks, Mike, for this elaborate essay. Actually for me your advice came at the right time to corroborate my yet wayward decision to stick to an explorative style that I unintentionally developed in the past two years or so and dismiss other more canonical styles and subjects that folks around me do like more but are less satifying for me. Makes for less applause but more of an inner journey.

EEK! "... to happily say ..."

Has one of the last stalwarts of intact infinitives on the web given in?

Personally, although they jump out at me, and stop the flow of my reading, I'm not sure there aren't times when split infinitives read more felicitously, and occasionally struggle with them when writing.

Here, though, "... to say happily ..." reads no worse, and doesn't grate on some sensibilities. \;~)>

I agree with essentially all you have said in this post.

And yet, "There's actually nothing prescriptive about advice. It just always looks that way." is so true that perhaps making the implicit explicit might be useful?

" what's implicit is, "hey, some people might find it useful to think of this in this particular way."

That might help those who are too easily swayed by "authority" from being pulled away from a nascent movement in the direction of their more true calling of this time in their life by taking too seriously advice that's not for them.

When practicing as an engineer I went on a lot of training courses, typically a couple of days up to a week. I soon realised that if I picked up just one idea from a course it was worth the money. If that idea came up the first day I didn't switch off, of course, because there might be a bonus second idea. But I never tried to absorb most of what was said.

I think one of the problems with advice is that it is more of the same when it comes from someone working in the same field.

I had a personal transformation two months ago and it has radically altered my photography. But nowhere do I read that being kind to the self will improve your work in the world of photography.

Closer to home, I read Eric Kandel's extraordinary book on neuroscience and painting, Age of Insight, and it has given me a tremendous insight. Here is my review of the book

So in this new photographic world where you don't really need technical assistance, maybe other worlds should be your first port of call when you want to change your photography?

VLRT = Very Long, Read Thrice

Stimulated a lot of discussion between my wife and me.

At 73, I'm not interested in "where do you want to be 10 years from now." If I'm both healthy and lucky enough, I'll still be reading TOP and VSL.

BUT ... but ... from the point of view of someone who aspires to "more" than snapshots at family parties, (where the constant question is, "Mike, What do you DO with all the pictures you take?"), this topic makes me just take stock a little bit. Do I have a consistent thread in my more "serious" stuff? It's a good question to ask from time to time. (Btw, I do. But who cares, except me?)

So, Mike, I appreciated your initial post, I read and appreciated both Ctein's and Kenneth Tanaka's response, I found useful nuggets in all of it.


FWIW, I liked your original article. A lot. And it got me thinking even several minutes after I had left my computer.

You see, in the beginning I was into portraiture. Plus fashion / model shoots. I liked things like the H&M catalogue (see http://www.hm.com/us/) a lot, thinking that this is where the pros are shooting, and the way to go.

But now, after several years - and yes, I've done my share of that - it's all same old, same old. Don't wanna shoot like everyone else, that's just plain boring.

And while I've also tried land- and city scapes, even astro imaging (hard to do, it's a numbers game of extreme precision), I come back to portraiture, but 'purified' in a sense. I want to see and show people, not breathing clothes stands. And while a super model has its charms (and mostly, looks), "normal" people are that much more interesting, at least to me they are. Waiting for the right moment is so much better than trying to "pose" them...

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, as always. Very appreciated that you share these with us.

Mike, you are not so much giving advice but giving well-informed opinions (founded on much knowledge and not a little wisdom); as indeed, do most of your readers who post comments. That is such a great rarity in this inter-tube age that I usually read your posts and every comment, which is also a great rarity. My advice to you is to keep writing, because it is making your readers beautiful, as well as rich; that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it.

“Find out what you don't do well in life, and then don't do those things.” Bill Bishop, http://themarineinstallersrant.blogspot.com

hi, i've been a reader of this blog for years now. i think almost a decade. i still remember the first post i read - "Great photographers on the Internet". that was really funny.

i don't normally comment, but the line " 'persisting' in his increasingly unreasonable, quixotic dream" in your apparently controversial previous post resonated with me. i'm 34 this year, and i feel i'm on track to being that 40 year old "musician" guy you mentioned in that post. :P

This present post with the featured comment atop did help me understand better the original article.

I can see now how I easily think I "have to" master some photgraphic genres because... they're beaten like dead horses on the Internet.

There's some kind of paradox lurking in this post. You're advising that we shouldn't take advice prescriptively, and presumably that applies to the advice to not take advice prescriptively. So we can take advice prescriptively in order to not take advice prescriptively. For what it's worth, I agree with at least one of those bits of advice.

Advice is the gift of the giver.

Hilarious, Bill Tyler!

Here's a simpler, unambiguous take-away that's impossible to deny: Just make/take/capture the images you like and/or need. Let future historians/curators deal with your taxonomies! (They'll need the work.)

A well designed sofa may not look right in your living room, but years later it may inspire the decor in your next one.

To a large extent I think you need to be 'ready' for advice, however 'well designed' it is.

The Vermont Cheese Truck!
Glad to see that. I used to pass it at least twice a week driving between NH and NY...the scenic route, as if there's any other kind in VT.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007