Musings on Photography

On failing

Posted in process by Paul Butzi on December 12, 2009


Years ago, my kids were avid rock climbers, both indoor and outdoor. Climbing indoors, in a climbing gym, things are pretty controlled. It’s an environment where you can improve your skills by repeatedly trying to push past the limits of what you think you can do. If you screw up and fall – well, you’re on belay, and a fall in the gym is pretty much a non-event.

One of the coaches for their climbing team had a saying that I really liked – “If you’re not flying, you’re not trying”. That is, unless you’re taking falls, you haven’t yet tested your limits.

Samuel Beckett is not my favorite playwright. But I’ve been told that he had a bit of paper stuck up next to the desk where he wrote, on which he’d written “Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” I think he had a clue.

And another interesting quote, this time from the world of mathematics:

He was gifted with the special capability of making many mistakes, mostly in the right direction. I envied him for this and tried in vain to emulate him, but found it quite difficult to make good mistakes.”

– Goro Shimura, speaking of Yutaka Taniyama

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Progress isn’t a matter of getting it right every time. It’s a matter of getting it wrong, learning from the mistakes, and making better mistakes the next time.

2 Responses

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  1. Juha Haataja said, on December 13, 2009 at 2:20 am

    And in photography, trying and failing is fun. In fact, what is the point of success when the most fun part is in the trying?

  2. Gavin said, on December 13, 2009 at 4:11 am

    My lecturer in inviscid fluid dynamics always told us the day you don’t make a mistake is a day you don’t learn anything. Given the subject I made many. I always enjoy your blog, your fern pictures are beautiful, thanks. Gavin

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