Woulda ~ Shoulda ~ Coulda?
I think there are two kinds of photographers among those who are honest enough to admit they compare themselves to others. The first looks at the work of another and says, “I wish I could do that.” The second looks at the work of another and says, “I could have done that.” So because I’ve been, alternately, both of those people, and can still be so from time to time, I feel the need to preach the following sermon. I’m preaching first to myself, if you listen in that’s your choice.
I could have done that.
But you didn’t, did you? You were too busy doing something else while the other guy went and did it. Too busy comparing or procrastinating or getting distracted with gear. To busy making excuses. I could have done that if….If I had a better camera, if I had more lenses, if I had studio lights. If, if, if. I think every time my ego says “I could have done that,” someone should be allowed to say, “but you didn’t.” Much of the time these thoughts come not because I truly think I could have done that particular thing, or shot that particular shot. The thought comes because I’m too busy comparing myself to others and not busy enough working. You know what? No one cares about what you could have done but didn’t. They only care about what you’ve done. Crap or get off the pot. There is no good place in the creative soul for this kind of thinking, it’s toxic. Turn it into something better; let that enviable image or job push you to think “Hey, I’m going to try…” Because, honestly, this isn’t rocket-science. It’s photography and to one degree or another, when you say “I could have done that,” well of course you could. That we didn’t make that photograph tells us more about ourselves. I’m not being hard here, just saying what needs to be said, even if it’s only me listening sometimes. Comparisons are a waste of creative energy.
I wish I could do that.
Do it. Find a way, and do it. You won’t do it the same way but why would you want to? Still, do it. Life is incredibly short. Your time to redeem the few days we all have is now. Your time to change the world and make a mark is now. You are the one who assumes the photographer you envy has more hours in the day, more cameras in his bag, and more skill in his shutter finger than you have in your entire body. Bologna. And even if that is true, so what. I get more and more emails telling me I’m living the dream, telling me how badly they wish they were doing what I do. Great. So few of them have a plan to get there. So few of them even think it possible. I’m not saying you can do anything, I’m saying the biggest failure is not trying and these dreams – I know, I’ve said this before – are not going to chase themselves.
It’s hard enough to create a compelling image when you’re focusing all your attention on the ground glass of the focusing screen, infinitely more so when we’re also looking over our shoulder or looking around to see who is taking notice of us, what others think of our work, or what others are doing. If you must look around, do so to learn and improve your craft. For some of us this means less time on Flickr looking for affirmation. For others it means less time online and more time shooting. And for others still it means sitting down and making a plan instead of simply wishing. Just, whatever you do, don’t finish life thinking “I could have- should have – done that.”