Sucking Is Not Enough

In Creativity and Inspiration, News & Stuff, Pep Talks, Vision Is Better by David22 Comments

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.


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  2. A man I greatly respect, Col. Norman Vaughn (who has passed on, unfortunately) Had as his motto, or more accurately, his way of living, “Dream big and dare to fail”. An invaluable way to approach things. Very difficult to do, giving up the excuse to not do a thing, but incredibly valuable when you can achieve it.

  3. Confession Time: Have spent the last week in Cabo San Lucas on vacation with my husband, and my camera. Have wandered through town every day, waiting for a “snap worthy” moment. None have come, til yesterday. As we were walking back to the hotel from breakfast, a 3 yr old girl came runnning out of her mother’s shop, yelling in Spanish that the wash water had overrun the bucket her mother was filling. Mom ran out to start mopping up the spillage, and the 3 yr old ran over to me, put her hand on my leg and stopped me from walking on the wet tile floor. Whether to protect me from slipping or from messing up Mom’s clean floor, I don’t know. She was precious, and earnest, and bossy, and in control of me at that moment. That was the “snap worthy” moment. And I was too afraid to ask to take a picture…hopefully next time I will be brave enough to ask. Til then…your appreciative student.

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  5. Author

    @Kevin Williams – Well played, sir, well played. If you’re looking for an invitation to spend Christmas with the family you’ve got as good a chance as I do now! 🙂

  6. Dear Mrs. duChemin,

    I know David will always be your little boy, but right now to many of us he is Da Man. I don’t mean he’s grown up, you know that; what I mean is he is making a positive impact in the lives of many many people he’s never even met.

    Good job. You must be a great mom. I don’t think David got to be so inspirational just by luck.

  7. Balancing the geek and the creative side of photography has always been the battle for me. I am a technical person by nature, but I have this craving for artistic release. And that is where my suck place is.

    Thanks for the good words.

  8. Say 2 Hail Marys, 3 Our Fathers, and a good Photographers Act of Contrition. Go in Peace.

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  10. ditto to comment above. your recent posts have been welcome words of encouragement for those of us who are still relatively newcomers in all of this. thank you.

  11. I’ve really been enjoying your sucking series (That sounds weird).

    Just want to let you know how uplifting this series of posts has been to me. Please reconsider and post some more about sucking (Again, that sounds weird).

  12. I love it. I suck and consider myself a relative tech geek (not saying i know what all tech toys i’m interested are actually capable of…) i just feel pretty comfortable using my tech stuff and enjoy figuring out how to use the capabilities of my camera to improve my photography.

    Awesome post.

  13. Ha! A few years ago I used the word “sucks” in front of my family to their shock — so I know whereof you speak! Enjoy your visit!

  14. Another nice post! I feel fortunate, because I have always loved both the artistic and technical sides of our craft, I sometimes don’t quite know the difference, I mean, post processing is just as much fun (to me)as capturing the image in the camera! It’s also cool and creative to think I have been using Photoshop since the early 90’s and yet I can still learn something new each and every day.

    I hope your parents don’t ground you for too long!

  15. I love the last two posts they resonate with me. Enjoy Ontario, sorry about the weather it was nice a week or so a go. Some spring buds are popping up though the lighting is not that ideal lol

  16. Author

    @Meredith – That may well be the first time anyone has ever used the words “very cute” in my vicinity, never mind in reference to me! LOL. But thanks. I think. 🙂

  17. amateur speaking: That’s the wonderful thing about digital — I can take as many shots as I want and as long as I’m having fun (and hopefully learning), then great! I just have to learn (so long as I remain in suck-mode) that everyone may not enjoy the product (my photos) as much as I enjoyed the process! (My wife kindly reminds me of this.) Good luck w/ the parents — hope they don’t make you suck on some Lifebuoy Soap!

  18. 16, …plus a “big but” joke 🙂

    I’m going to be stuck looking for the un-suck filter if I don’t get out of LEARN-mode and get busy.

    (love the new ad for Craft&Vision, by the way!)

  19. My wife is an amazing painter who somehow has zero pressure on here always – she does it for herself and its great – Im often times jealous of that freedom.

    Spot on man. Good stuff again.

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