I was reviewing my old notebook from business meetings and came across notes from a lunch I had with a friend who owns a PR firm. He has a practice of having lunch with someone different every day of the week. This practice allows him to meet new people, connect new people and learn a ton about the city.
As he and I shared lunch, he explained that he had a different lunch every day because he felt that at the core of meaningful work was a relationship. The work and sharing over lunch would lead to a meaningful relationship that could benefit both people. We discussed how at the end of the day, what we really do is connect people so that they can solve problems, learn new things and find a better way to live. He felt that by meeting as many people as possible he was able to build those connections. I think our photography is similar. We build meaningful relationships to our subject and subject matter to create work that really matters to who we are as individuals and as a society. It is our work to find and build connections to those ideas that makes our work important.
As he talked about his daily lunch practice, I was reminded of how yoga is similar. When you talk to photographers they speak of being a photographer as if it is something to mark off a list. When you speak to people dedicated to yoga, they describe it as a practice. Something that they do over and over again in an attempt to improve knowing that they will never be done with yoga. I think our photography can be a lot like that. When we realize that really good photography is about practice, discipline, and dedication to something that we will never fully know it can shift how we approach our work and our images.
I was also reminded of a lesson from a yoga instructor about how the three levels of students–beginning, intermediate, and advanced–make teaching a challenge. The challenge being that beginning and advanced students were a joy to teach. They were willing to try anything and push themselves as hard as they could. Intermediate students only wanted to work on what they liked. They were often stuck in a rut. I think our photography can be like that. We get familiar and comfortable and stop working on new skills. This takes the practice of photography and makes it about just redoing what we already know. The result just might be really boring photographs.
Don’t forget to check out my 2017 Workshops including the Perceptive Photographer Workshop focused on the intersection side of photography.