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This Week’s LIDLIPS

81. The boldest creatives dance on the tightrope when it has no safety net.

82. If you don’t believe in your self, then don’t expect others to believe in you.

83. Sometimes the best way to see something is to not look straight at it.

84. The enslavement of photography as a 2-D medium will one day be thought of as ancient history.

85. Get used to the idea of other people running forward with your ideas.

Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School 81–85

81. The boldest creatives dance on the tightrope when it has no safety net.
Creativity flows best when it’s unleashed without concern for outcome. Steering creativity away from potential failure simultaneously steers creativity away from potential success. Rather than be paralyzed by the fear of failure, the boldest creatives are energized by the opportunity to find a new way to succeed. A tightrope without a net could be an opportunity to fall. Likewise, a tightrope without a net could be seen as an opportunity to dance like one has never danced before. The only difference is one’s state of mind when stepping out onto the rope.

82. If you don’t believe in your self, then don’t expect others to believe in you.
Your journey as a photographer will be degrade periodically into a vat of self-doubt. Often there will be no warning before you find your emotions plunging into an abyss. As photographers, we wear our insides on the outside. Our best images show the world what we think and how we feel. Rejection can bash around our souls like a pinball at the arcade. One over-zealous comment from an editor, one job not given by a prospect, one errant comment from a spouse or dear friend and the emotional free-fall starts. Likewise, sometimes your sense of worth will come from these same people – like a buoy during stormy seas. Ultimately though, it is always your sense of self-worth that will serve as the barometer for others when it comes to how much faith they should put in you. Your journey back to the surface often begins with the simple mantra “I believe in my self” – saying it again and again even when you don’t. Eventually you will. And when you do, so will others.

83. Sometimes the best way to see something is to not look straight at it.
When we’re not thinking about it, our vision is driven by intuition. Our eyes dance and flit around without a specific purpose. As photographers we are captured again and again by sights – captured initially without understanding the source of the magnetism that drew us in. When we truly see, what we experience is not what’s in front of us, but rather our connection to what’s in front of us. Conversely, when we look too hard, we often cannot see.

84. The enslavement of photography as a 2-D medium will one day be thought of as ancient history.
For millennia, we made pictures without understanding the principles of perspective. We expressed ourselves on cave walls, animal skins, cloth and paper. Then the birth of the camera obscura during the Renaissance created an understanding of two-dimensional vision. Our ability to decode sets of converging lines and the size of one object relative to another has served us well for the past 600 years or so. For the most part, photography has followed this path. We may be in the midst of a digital revolution that is replacing drops of ink with pixels of light – but photography by and large remains a way of reducing our three-dimensional experiences into displays of tone and color spread across a flat surface. Even our brief forays into 3-D technology for the most part rely upon the visual merger of two images initially presented in 2-D. Looking forward, just as the Paleolithics who painted their enchanting pictures of horses and cows on cave walls had no concept that perspective and photography would ever be invented, I’ve no idea what the distant future of photography will look like. I am certain, however, that our never-ending search for more faithful and efficient ways of capturing and portraying the world around us will one day take us across a threshold that renders the era of 2-D photography as primitive as an aboriginal hand painting seems to us.

85. Get used to the idea of other people running forward with your ideas.
The thing I hate most about not getting a job that I’ve pitched hard is knowing that some other shooter will likely benefit from the ideas contained in my proposal. In hindsight, I often chide myself over ideas given away in good faith while pursuing a job that I really wanted to land. There’s a delicate balance – one that’s hard to see at the moment – between collaborating with a prospect during the pitch and not giving her enough insight into my creativity.  Every time a noteworthy project slips beyond my grasp, I put myself under cross-examination about what I did and didn’t do.  Through the years, I’ve decided that my creativity is meant to be shared. But, the bitterness still returns every time I have to swallow the pill of knowledge that someone else is running forward with a few of my ideas.

Previous Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School

The entire LIDLIPS Series

 

14 Responses to Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School 81–85

  1. Great post/hard lessons. #85 has happened to me several times but the one that still stings was the first one, about a trade show display warning of the dangers of lead-based paint. Sitting there with the client having just secured the shoot, he said “So, what have you got in mind?” and I laid out the whole enchilada while his eyes and smile got bigger and bigger. “That’s great!” he said, “I’ll have our designer get in touch with you to set it up right away”. LSS, she never called and gave the assignment (with my concept)to “her” photographer. Found out much later that they got into some trouble over model releases and the images weren’t used. Didn’t make me feel better one bit! Now, I wrestle with staying just vague enough not to give away everything I’m thinking of away, but detailed enough to let them know I have several ideas.

  2. Doug says:

    So true re:working without a net. I think the more pressure is to get the clean/boring shot out of the way as fast as you can so you can spend more time ge tting the shots you want.

  3. I have waited a while for the next LIDLIPS. thanks Syl :)

  4. Ken Burg says:

    Just discovered your “Lessons” posts and I’m loving them. Thanks!

  5. Jeff Lynch says:

    Syl,

    I’m surprised that you’d be “out bid” for a project? Just give me his name and we’ll send a couple of the hands from down here in Texas to straighten out that low down varmint.

    All kidding aside, you can’t hold back on a proposal, even when the client is “fishing” for ideas and “sharing the wealth” between prospective shooters. Just one old fart’s opinion but ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the implementation makes or breaks a creative project (or any other project for that matter).

    Clients that fish for creative ideas in proposals and then share those ideas with other shooters are unethical, immoral and probably not worth your time. Folks with that business ethic generally change their minds several times during a project creating a lot of wasted time. They usually beat you down on price and pay very (VERY) late. I know it’s tough to do in this economy but I’d steer clear of these kind of folks.

    Your talents in innovation during the project’s implementation are what set you apart Syl. That’s not something that the other guys can fake. Look at the “Sylinator” for example. Who’da thought of using a paint roller extension as a light-weight, portable (human powered) boom stand. It sure beats hauling a C-stand to a location shoot.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t sweat Rule 85. Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s ingenuity, imagination and innovation that get the job done!

  6. Mark Owen says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m always eagerly waiting for your next installment. Keep em’ coming. Thanks again for the lessons and the inspiration. =)

  7. Mark says:

    Boffo again.

    And if those hand from Texas can’t help you out, I know a few from Jersey…and South Philly…that can.

  8. Sly,

    Hello. Did you know that Rusty Arena designed my logo? Relative? He also has flaming red hair. Please come see us at the tasting room when you’re not out shooting Fair Folk and Cowboys. We hang photographers here. I lost an original Diane Arbus in a divorce once. Shoulda let the furniture go… Look forward to saying hello.

    Cheers,

    Pamela

  9. […] Syl Arena: Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School 81–85 Even if you can only manage to read the bullet points, this is still a great post. Soak it in like […]

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