Monday, August 16, 2010

"Will This Be On the Test?" and other reasons that "being the best" is difficult for most photographers

Recently there was a post on a forum that asked "Did You Ever Think You Could Be the Best?"

And sadly, many responses were of the "No, I only want to be fairly good", or "Well, those people are special". Or simply a concern that it was too hard.


It is simply as hard as being the best in anything.

There was once a young skater who wanted to be the best. She was very young. She worked very hard. It has been said that she was the first one on the ice in the morning and the last off at the end of the night. She fell more in a day than most ice skaters do in a week.

There was a basketball player who had some pretty good moves, but not all that impressive when matched with taller, faster opponents. The coach of his first team noted that he was already on the court working out when the rest of the team came in and he was still practicing when the rest of the team was heading home.

A young actor with nearly no experience wrote a screenplay about an 'everyman' who beats the odds and does the impossible. The studios told him they loved it and wanted to do it - with another actor. He responded "No, I wrote it for me and I am the actor." They said they would pass... he told them fine and went home. Later... they called and said, yeah, OK, they would reconsider. The young screenwriter breathed a sigh of relief for sure.

A director had a purchased the rights to a movie and was awaiting the greenlight from the studio who had been fronting him a ton of cash... at the very last minute the studio  refused to greenlight the project in a power-play to force the director into relinquishing the rights to the movie because he couldn't pay them back the money they had fronted him. Unfortunately a typical play in the hell-hole of Hollywood. He had less than a few days to get backing from someone else or he would have to give the rights to the studio. He talked to studio after studio and was turned down... until he had lunch with the head of NewLine Cinema who cut him a check for a couple million right there at lunch. The trades announced that NewLine had committed studio suicide with the untested director and the ambitious project that would "never be made."

A photographer we know loved shooting babies. She was simply enamored of shooting babies and it was all she wanted to do. She took her book to the big city and was told that there was no future in shooting babies, and that her work was a little cloying... perhaps she should branch out and shoot other things.

Tara Lipinski won Olympic Gold at 15.
Charles Barkely was one of Basketball's greats.
Sylvestor Stallone made Rocky and a few dozen sequels.
"The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy was a huge success for director Peter Jackson - and NewLine
Anne Geddes makes millions shooting what she loves.

Can you be one of the greats?


A Little More Talent.
Self Starter.
Self Motivated.
Self Aware.
Someone who others like to be around.
A Desire to do whatever it takes to succeed.

... And a work ethic that simply dwarfs the competition.
In fact, work ethic can trump talent (Kanye? Disney kids?)
(On second thought, forget talent if you got a lot of peeps with cash behind you, but we digress...)

Being able to juggle the good time and the bad times and saving when you should and spending when you shouldn't and taking risks that are far far far above what most people will EVER risk... that will get you to the first rung. It is terrifying, thrilling, depressing, exhilerating and downright effin fun being a photographer. But it is also a lot of hard work. Work we generally don't see on all those glitzy BTS videos with the music and the models and the lights... yeah. It's all like that.

Except for the other 90% which simply isn't.

What I see a lot of is the "will this be on the test?" mentality in young shooters. Even on forums (yeah, seriously) there will be questions that practically say "I really don't have time to do this and learn it, can you guys simply tell me how to do this without me having to read and actually LEARN stuff?"

Will this be on the test?

Of course there is a bit of luck, and there is some realities. I once had a friend tell me they wanted to be a Country Western Singer ( and he had the chops and the looks) so he was going to move...


... to Denver.

I would have though maybe, uhhh, Nashville?

If you want to shoot fashion, there is a little island just east of New Jersey. It is called Manhattan. It is where you have to live... at least for a while.

"I want to be a fashion shooter so I am moving to...
a. Memphis."
b. New York."
c. Dayton."
d. Phoenix."

Which would you choose? If you really wanted to be a fashion photographer that is.

Is it easy? NO.
Is all the above something that just anybody can do? No... and I think the biggest problem is fear.

Fear is what makes someone ask "Will this be on the test?"
Fear stops us from going one more step to make it even better.
Fear keeps us making the safe shots instead of pushing to the limits with the possibility of failure.
Fear makes us timid about possibilities and forces us to keep to the path well traveled.
Fear keeps us happy being mediocre.
Fear challenges our ideas of what we can do, and wins too many times.

The people who astound us, who make it look easy, who challenge the status quo and simply destroy it have all of the above.

And way less fear than most of the rest of us.

Hank Aaron held the home run record for a long, long time.
He also held the strike-out record for a long, long time.

Did you know that?

Posted via email from Now This is Cool...

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