Saturday Evening Post #101 : Making Us Something

Go to the people.
Live with them. Learn from them. 
Love them. 
Start with what they know. 
Build with what they have. 
But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, 
the people will say We have done this ourselves

Lao Tzu

As a young photographer learning the ‘craft’ was not about sitting in a classroom taking in facts, comparing oneself to others, and straining to meet the expectations of a system-guided-scorecard.  The right composition, the right camera technique, correct processing the ability to talk to the theory of lighting, exposure, physics, lens design and meeting the necessary passing marks to gain a qualification. Add interminable hours of Occupational Health and Safety issues these days.

My journey, at least in the main, was through a series of tutors, some of which paid me to clean the studio, others that I paid in my own time, to learn from, and a few that with hindsight was simply wasted time.

I press the shutter on the camera standing on the shoulders of great ones who have gone before me.

We are, I fear, accustomed to ‘doing the hard yards’ over the books, and that will lead to ‘success’ in the field.

The wonderful mentors that I had the opportunity to ‘disciple’ with, were not so much interested in teaching facts, theory, or even skillsets. They thought of it more of what it means to make me a better photographer. Teaching to them was not so I could learn ‘stuff’, but what it would make of my craft.  Learning to calculate depth of field,(DOF) and doing it on the back of a napkin, does not mean I can transpose that into a photograph sometime in the future.  Say, with a 180mm lens on a 4×5 Linhof Technika with a subject at 5m, gives a DOF of   31mm in front, and 35mm behind the subject. But what the great ones wanted to know is how does that affect the end result of the photograph. Knowing the theory becomes very much a, “So what is the use of it”.

If all the teacher could impart was that I needed to do was get the exposure right for the highlights, or process the print for the ultimate rich black, or hold the shadows to allow the form to show, then it  leads more to despair than growth. What if I fail the test?

Setting tests for what I know, only separates me from the subject. The story.  The involvement. The message that the viewer should take away.
What I end up with is a carbon copy of what my instructor would have done. True mentors fire the inspiration within me, looking not only to what I have just experienced, but all that I have yet to be.

Someone once said, of 20 years in a business, “Have you had 20 years of growing and honing your craft, or have you just had One year Twenty times over?”

It is not meant to teach us something, but to make us something. The classroom may fill with useful knowledge, but it’s out in the field when all that  stands behind us as a foundation, where we humbly struggle with the story of our subject in front of our lens that true mentorship is rewarded.

Addendum, because every Melburnian needs a Laugh

6 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #101 : Making Us Something

  1. Well written, David. It is the same with any craft. In a lot of ways I am very glad that when I started my journey as a sound engi. there were no classes. They came later (I taught many and wrote a couple of the text books). I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be in the room with some of the greatest, watching listening, learning. Hopefully I have been able to share that experience with others. Combine that with the theory, starting with 320 metres per second at sea level at 20°C (the speed of sound) and 440 hz (the wavelength of ‘A’) and we should see some well trained, creative engineers. Those who regard the mixing desk as an instrument and not just a piece of tech, thereby leaving their fingerprint on the end result. But no matter how much theory is known/remembered it is the hands on that is the best teacher.
    As to photography, I have learned much from you, simply standing beside you and then later viewing your images, and I thank you for that. One day I might just take that shot of the bird that approaches 50% of your results.
    Your header image of the Sea Eagles is brilliant, technically and artistically. Just as I know who ‘pulled a mix’ by listening I can recognise your work without it being credited.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI David, thanks for the fine thoughts and compliments. I’ve been fortunate through my life to have worked with some great photographers, and the great one all has one thing in common, a readiness to share their skills and techniques with me. I have taken I guess to paying that forward.

      Like everyone, I daily struggle to bring my vision into a reality others can see and enjoy. I’m not much of a brain surgeon, but I think the constant honing of skills is similar. 🙂


  2. A fabulous shot of the Sea-Eagles David, and interesting thoughts about how we learn and grow. I too have learned a great deal from looking at your images and appreciate your generosity in sharing your skill and knowledge with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A brilliant areal shot David ! Brilliant and wise philosophy of leadership also. So true that to mentor and train a person, it must be their own experience learnt from the teacher, and not a rehash of the teacher. This also flows over to parents who try to get their children to achieve what they did or even more try to achieve what they did not, which causes its own stress to both parties. Your insights and testimony of your learning journey is truly inspiring and very relevant to our next generation and to us in our golden years who want to leave a legacy.

    Liked by 1 person

G'day, Please feel free to Leave a Reply. Now auto approved

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s