The Hard Way

Posted on 4th July, 2016 - - Back to Blog Listings

Our world is an instant world. Communication between humans is getting shorter, faster and shallower. Letters have turned into emails, which in turn have been swapped with text messages, ever shorter and more concise. Today’s generation has less patience, not only for reading longer text, but mainly for learning. In the course of my short academic teaching career, I witnessed a significant change in the students’ mentality. It seems like not long ago they used to be able to concentrate and put an effort into learning, whereas now they just need to pass the exam and never look back. They simply don’t want to withstand anything challenging.

This attitude is prevalent not only in academia, but also in any area of life where learning is required. People are less and less able to realize that the only way to learn, by definition, is the hard way. I claim with high certainty that it’s the very process of putting an effort into something that makes learning, or any kind of advancement for that matter, possible. Quite simply, progress isn’t possible without struggle.

When people take up photography, lots of them enroll in classes, both theoretical and practical. They think – or perhaps are led to think – that sitting in a classroom, being lectured by a photography teacher, will make them better photographers. I think this kind of process makes for incredibly small progress in reality. The only way to overcome a difficulty, to learn something meaningful, to make any kind of actual progress in any area in life, is to tackle it head on. To fight the battle and take the blows yourself. To do it the hard way.

You can try to learn from others’ errors, but you won’t make much progress. We are hard-wired to learn only from our own mistakes and hardships. Hear someone talk about a missed shot and you will be sympathetic, but it will be soon forgotten. Miss a winner shot because of a wrong parameter or white-balance setting and the experience will be embedded in your brain forever. I still can’t forget a whole shoot gone to the trash bin due to Jpeg enabled instead of RAW, years and years ago.

When trying to improve your photography, difficulty isn’t something you should be avert. It’s something you should embrace. For each sleepless night of contemplating why your results aren’t like you want them to be, for each frustrating repetition of a post processing idea, for each futile trip that ends in nothing, there’s a prize: the truest progress, leading you one step closer to where you need to be with your art. Effort is the universe’s way of making you earn your art, appreciate it fully and go your own way.