News & Stuff

Sucking Is Not Enough

Ladakh, India, 2008. Finding images to illustrate these things ain’t always easy, so I picked something completely at random and because, well, I guess because Ladakh doesn’t suck. I dunno. Just read the post, ignore the caption.

Lest anyone think the last post about Suck-Mode was a license to celebrate mediocrity, I want to look at this all from the other angle. If this weekends post was about Everyone Needs a Place to Suck, then this one’s closer to Sucking is Not Enough.

I truly believe that our creativity thrives better without the pressure of ego or the expectation of performance. But – and it’s a big but (hee hee, he said “big but!” Ahem…) – we create better photographs when the Artist and the Geek are in balanced tension with each other. I know the Artist in some of us rejoices when we’re given permission to suck. To hell with the technical stuff right? But here’s the catch – the better your craft and your ability to use your tools, the more fully you are to express yourself. By all means, be bold about sucking. Suck with all your heart and let that freedom push you to create great work. But don’t neglect your craft because the moment you neglect your craft you put a shelf-life on that new-found creativity.

It’s all about balance. And of course there’s no reason that “work on your craft” must mean you need to learn it all. If you have no desire to learn to use multiple off-camera strobes, don’t. If you don’t want to learn to use a 4×5 camera, then don’t do that either. But for the love of Dorothea Lange make sure you are increasingly better at using your camera and lenses because they are all we have as photographers to speak the visual language. Don’t let permission to suck be become license to stagnate. Mediocrity, in any endeavour, well, it sucks. But it’s, ahem,  the bad kind of sucking, not the, uh, good..kind…of…sucking. Ok, metaphor’s falling apart.

A couple weeks ago I posted Confessions of a So-Called Pro, and it’s been easily the most popular post on this blog. I followed it with From Confession to Photographic Penance because I think we need to balance the need for encouragement with the need to move on. Same here. We really, really need to celebrate the amateur, ie.  doing this purely for the love of the craft, and that means we need to grow and learn. So, artists, find your place to suck and do it boldy, but don’t neglect the geek. Stay on it. Keep learning. Keep reading. Find photographers you respect and learn everything you can. Because embracing the fact that we all suck sometimes might be a great place from which to create, but it’s only a means to get there, not the destination.

This is the last post about sucking. For now. I’m visiting my parents in Ontario and there’s a real chance my joke about being grounded for using the word “sucks” might actually happen, so I’m back to my best behaviour the moment I hit Publish.

Mar 18th


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CategoryPosted in: News & Stuff, Pep Talks

Speaking At Amazon – 5 Things.

I spoke at Amazon yesterday in the middle of a whirlwind trip to Seattle. Had a great time, met some amazing people. To all of you who came and were so hospitable, thank you! For those that didn’t come because, well, ahem, you weren’t invited because you don’t work at the Amazon mothership, this is […]

Mar 15th


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CategoryPosted in: Books, Craft & Vision, e-books, Links, News & Stuff, Resources

Monday Roundup

Planting Rice outside Chiang Rai, Thailand. August 2009 Good morning. I’ve got a handful of links for you this morning, some worthwhile stuff I want to point you towards. Scott Kelby and his gang of elves that never sleep have an online show called D-Town. I watched a few episodes when it first came out […]