Yes, It Will All Be On the Test
Photographers, artists, designers, writers… the tests always appear.
At some point, the test reveals itself.
Of that, you can be damned sure.
It is quite obvious to me today, that being a photographer has different meanings to many people.
Being a photographer to some folks means the quickest, fastest, easiest, form-fitted, methodized, one-size-fits-all ‘solution’ to parting folks from their dollars. The work isn’t particularly interesting, nor is it designed to be. It looks like everyone else’s work, whether it be the ubiquitous ultra-wide bride on stairs shot or the newborn wrapped in an old gravy-stained apron grandma wore…
And, quite honestly, there is nothing wrong with doing work that people want. If people want something, a good business person delivers what is wanted. There is absolutely no shame in that. It’s business.
And there seems to be no shortage in the folks who want that cookie cutter, ‘make it look like my sister’s pictures’ work. People seem to like that all their pop divas sound alike. They approve of TV shows where everyone is a ‘10’ or above. Stories that are complex, or too long, or cause one to think are not the big hits, with a few exceptions.
We flock to the movies to see re-makes of TV shows that were canceled because NO ONE WATCHED THEM. And then re-makes and sequels of the re-made remakes… Spiderman XII? Really?
Sameness… the new ‘unique’.
So photographers seem to be flocking toward simple, easy-to-understand ‘solutions’ instead of flocking toward hard work, development of a style, or personal growth. What ‘action’ do I use… where do I put the lights.
They want to only emulate, not create. To simply be ‘good enough’ to turn the den into a ‘shooting room’ and cram 15 ‘sessions’ of newborns into a Saturday afternoon.
And I know, I DO KNOW, that not everyone can be the best, or the most creative, or reach the top of their craft or profession. Not everyone can stand on the top.
Or even should. Maybe the big pack of mediocrity helps define the better, and gives context to the great.
But that shouldn’t keep us from the attempt.
My sadness is that there isn’t a big pool of mediocre folks trying their damnedest to be better — even great — while there is a vast pool of folks totally happy to be mediocre, and to go on to teach that mediocrity to people totally ready and willing to accept mediocrity as the end of the journey. The Destination, so to speak.
There are willing accomplices online and in the schools and the so-called ‘internet rock stars’ who not only perpetuate the lowered standards, they actively PROMOTE them. They engage and PROMOTE being the same as everyone else, simple solutions, an easy-peasy approach to something more complex than they are able to imagine. They sell smoke, mirrors, and the soft underbelly of ‘success’.
And they are all the more popular for it.
Telling someone that it will take some hard work, some practice, some diligent editing, and a hell of a lot of failures is NOT a winning message. “Hey, it’s easy, it’s fun… just shoot it and fix it later or better yet, just shoot it and have someone else fix it later” is so much more welcomed.
[To attempt anything other than the basics is to risk failure. Failure is to be avoided at all costs. Only attempt what has worked for someone else and never fail. Try going above your level and failure is imminent. So stick with the mundane, the expected, the same-ol same-ol… and never fail.]
When reading the above, use a monotone ‘computer generated’ sounding voice. Cause that is what it is, folks… pure mindless drivel.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) without failure, and a good deal of it, there is no stretching beyond the banal, expected, mundane experience. You do not stroll to the top of the mountain. If it were that easy, EVERYONE would already be there. A plateau of ‘we can all do it’ is also a plateau of mediocrity.
Embrace failure, for failure is proof of one's attempt at growth. In fact, adopt a mantra of ‘fail more — fail smart’. That means you fail and correct, fail and correct… but always moving forward.
It was bound to happen. When digital lowered the bar of learning from ‘moderate’ to barely a bump, it allowed those with the “will this be on the test?” world-view an easy opening. And it also allowed some terrifically talented people into a new and exciting world of imagery (so, it ain’t all bad, ya know).
The bar was both lowered and raised at the same time. Lower entry position, higher ‘achievement’ position. It makes for a lot of interesting possibilities.
But in this brave new world of ‘show up and impress the judges and get instant fame’ world, it is those who offer an “easy, simple, awesome way of getting ‘epically good’ without the barest attempts at learning anything… follow my lead… do this — do that and you will ‘rock it’… or something” — that gain the highest of praise.
From those willing to do the least amount of work.
My hat is off to those who eschew this ethic of thin veneers of talent and work diligently to do something more than simply copy this ‘rock star’ or that ‘guru’, it truly is. It becomes harder and harder each day to push against the tide of mediocrity. Especially when ‘mediocrity’ has become not only desirable but the absolute goal. Reach higher… work harder… accept only the best you can do.
If you ask anyone if they are totally happy with being mediocre, they would be insulted. They would be enraged. They would be hurt.
You didn’t tell them it would be on the test.
I am a photographer, designer, and photo editor. You can find me at my self-named website or at Project 52 Pro System where I teach commercial photography online. This is our tenth year of teaching, and it is the most unique online class you will find anywhere.