Practice and exercises
Michael Johnston has an interesting post over on TOP about some exercises he recommends. I don’t have much to say about Mike’s suggested exercises – I think they’re probably pretty useful. It’s really the comments that I find interesting.
The interesting thing about the comments is that they reflect a trend I’ve noticed before – that the people who protest that the exercises are stupid and counterproductive and useless are the people who have never done and would never consider such exercises.
I mean, what’s the cost? The one exposure exercise is opportunity cost only, a fallacy if there ever was one. Potential photographs stream past us at infinite rate, and all we can do is dip into the stream now and then. How many photos have we missed if we don’t make any photos? An infinite number. How many photos have we missed if we take one? The same infinite number. How many have we missed if we take 10,000? The same infinite number.
And the ‘make a lot of photos’ exercise – what can the possible harm be? You go out with your DSLR for some time, and you make 300 exposures, and perhaps all of them are crap. Ok, delete them.
It’s staggering to me that so many photographers think photography is about sitting at a computer and reading stuff on the internet, or sitting with a book and reading about photography in their den. And it’s really about – dare I utter the phrase? – *making photographs*.
As Ted Orland puts it, the function of 99% of the art you make is to enable you to make the 1% that soars. You can’t go through life making only perfect art. You have to make a vast, staggering pile of stuff that falls between outright mistakes and stuff that’s pretty damn good but not quite there, along with the stuff that takes people’s breath away.
The thing about photography, especially digital photography, is that the feedback is so good and so fast. Make some photos. Look at them – are they good, or bad? Which ones are good? Make more like that. Which ones are bad? Make fewer like that. Repeat. The more photographs you make, the more feedback you get. If you don’t make photographs, you don’t get any feedback. It’s not rocket surgery.
Maybe the reason I feel this way is that I think *I* ought to make more photographs. A lot more photographs.