So last week I ran into an online article that I found myself sharing on Facebook. When I first saw it, I had to chuckle a bit since it made me think of all those cheesy "Learn Real Good Photography" kind of things -- which I absolutely love, don't get me wrong -- but this one made me reach for that second cup (ok, my third) and do a little pondering. I hate pondering, but that's what coffee's for. This brave little article put forth 8 tips to staying motivated and inspired by your photography, and its author, one Anthony Epes, gave me food for thought, and I am grateful for it.
Each tip provided some valuable advice, but it was the third one that has me, even now, reflecting on what I do as a photographer, and even why: take photos not to see the result, but to enjoy the process. Bear in mind that when we were shooting commercially, some very specific results were uppermost in our mind; it's the inescapable fact of making a living. But it was the zen of the motions -- the hours spent in the studio, the hours spent in the darkroom -- that provided the gravity of joy that has made me realize, over and over again, that I'm simply not capable of doing anything else in this world. I think Mr. Epes wants you to feel that same sense of fulfillment, and I applaud him for his effort.
I don't work commercially anymore, apart from some technical training and lighting workshops, but I think I'm enjoying photography now more than I ever have. I've re-discovered that process: of embracing chance, of celebrating serendipity, of actively engaging my photographic heart, soul, and eye every waking minute of every day. You don't always need a camera.
It can all be distilled into one defining and incredibly powerful statement (attributed to Ansel Adams, among others) which I have long ago taken to heart, and is the only advice I feel qualified to make to anyone wishing to understand this thing we call photography: Expose for the secrets, develop for the surprises.
Go ahead. Surprise yourself.