Societies are self-serving and self-perpetuating structures. There is constant pressure to conform and to fit into predetermined slots. It can be difficult to find one’s path for personal growth and creative expression within the confines of societal norms and pressures.
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Of course there is logic for shared values, rules of law, and other fundamental guiding principles that define a specific society. Without them humankind would be little more than our most base instincts, the destructive power of which has been seen amply throughout history.
There seems to an overabundance of people who take it upon themselves to tell you what you ‘must’ do. Often this advice is little more than you being encouraged to mimic and parrot the actions of other people. This occurs for many aspects of life, and seems to be very prevalent with things photographic.
To think that anyone is infallible and worthy of blind emulation is not a productive road to follow. All that does is promote banality and undermines individual growth and creativity.
That’s not to say that one cannot learn from others. Exposing ourselves to outside thoughts, and viewing the works of others can help broaden our perspectives, as do our individual experiences. Enhanced perspectives of the world around us, however obtained, can fuel creative expression and accelerate personal growth. The key is not to copy what we have learned, but rather apply it in our own, unique way.
Human beings go through many life phases. As infants we are full of wonder and exploration. Everything is new and is in need of discovery. We are consumed by a voracious appetite to learn and experience.
After feasting upon knowledge and new experiences in our youth, we sometimes reach places where we think we have all of the answers. The expanse of our ignorance is directly defined by the limited knowledge that we have acquired. Quite simply, we aren’t the slightest bit aware of how much more there is to learn, nor how little we actually know.
If we are able get past this point of inertia and push ourselves to keep learning, something magical happens. As our knowledge grows, so too does our appreciation of the incredible depth and width of our own ignorance. Once that reality is accepted and understood, we have the opportunity to become infants again, and experience the world anew. We are hungry again to go beyond our self-improved limits.
What does any of this have to do with photography?
To me, it is one of the core elements of our personal creativity as photographers, and as human beings. Regardless of the knowledge path that each of us may choose, if we stay green and growing, we will continue to evolve our creative capacity. We also need to have absolute trust in our creative instincts. That is worth infinitely more than any accolades or criticisms our work may garner, or any income that it may generate.
When we have a camera in hand, composing an image, all that matters is that we are consumed in the act of creation. Whether someone else likes what we have created or not really doesn’t matter. When we create we are demonstrating that we are truly alive. We are ultimately standing alone, but making a contribution to humankind.
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