Life Is Short, Pep Talks, The Craft, The Life Creative, Vision Is Better
When I dropped into the waters of Queen Charlotte Strait a couple weeks ago it was a bit of a graduation for me. I’ve spent a year working towards it. Four different SCUBA certifications, a lot of reading, research, and far too much dreaming about the photographs I hoped I would make. And there was the gear. Figuring out housings and strobes and which part connected to what other piece. But I finally had it all together. So when, in the days before the trip I forced the lens port in a direction it didn’t want to go, and loosened it in ways it wasn’t meant to loosen, and then broke another piece because the directions were so poor, and then completely forgot a piece I really didn’t know I needed, it meant leaving my so-called big-boy camera on the shelf in my cabin while taking my little Sony compact with me instead.
I’ve toyed often with leaving my big gear at home and doing my work with smaller so-called entry-level cameras to make a point – the point being: the camera doesn’t matter as much as we like to believe it does. I say it alot, but maybe putting my money where my mouth is would convince the dubious. I never did, at least not to make a point. But when I took my Fuji gear with me to Kenya for my recent assignment in Kenya, and then my compact Sony because of this recent adventure in learning the hard way, and still returned with images of which I am as proud as any other work shot on cameras I once considered more serious, I started to think I’ve made my point as well as it needs to be made. And if you have eyes to see, artists all over the world do so everyday.
We all have raw materials and tools at hand. We have what we have. Some we have in abundance, some we have very little of. Money. Talent. Time. We’re constrained by life at home and emotional distractions and physical limitations. This, my dear friends, is life. We always have, and always will, make of it what we can, with the tools at hand. Or we won’t. But that’s our choice. There will always be something better, some tool or resource we don’t have. The great masters faced this same lack. And they still made do with what they had. All the advances in typewriters and paintbrush technology hasn’t made their work less powerful, less beautiful, or less meaningful.
You have everything you need to create something great. Something compelling. Something human, You also have what you need – the constraints – to make enough excuses to keep you from your work for the rest of your life, or to get creative and make something amazing. Something authentic.
I don’t know what you’ve been told, by your teachers, the guy behind the counter at the camera store, or that one a$$hole at the photography club, but you’ve got what you need. And you’ll grow into what constraints you have, and make something great not despite them, but because of them. Because you need constraints as much as – no, more than – you need a newer, shinier, better lens. Sure, we need the tools, but we need them much less than we imagine.
I can make art with my Sony RX100. And with my Fuji X-T1. Sure, I might make bigger art, sharper art, with this new camera or that pricey lens, and there are good reasons for doing so, but it’ll be no more compelling. It might even be less compelling, because when we rely more heavily on our gear than on our creativity, our work suffers. Our process suffers.
You’ve got what you’ve got, and for now it is enough. Go make something.