Have you ever wondered why we don’t see more great artists anymore? What happened to the genius that was Einstein, Mozart, and Picasso? I am always amazed at how naive people chose to be because most people when they see a great artist, athlete, scholar, or musician just naturally assume they were born to that privilege. “It’s a natural gift” they might say. Rarely will these people ever think about what it took for that person to achieve the success they see today. Why? I honestly don’t know. Maybe they don’t want to compare their own lives to the life of someone who was willing to do whatever was required for what they wanted. Maybe they are afraid that if they look into that void all they will see if their own mediocrity staring back at them. Who knows?
When I think of great people I have looked up to I often like to remember the story of Peter Dinklage and his first apartment. Before he was Tyrion Lannister he lived in a run-down apartment in NYC. No heat, AC, or stove to cook food. His landlord brandished a knife at him and his roommates several times and refused to fix anything. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine that as your home? Can you imagine sleeping there? Would you feel safe?
I can’t speak for Peter, but I have heard several interviews he gave where he talks about this time in his life, and all I can say is I see the sadness in his eyes. A haunting memory when he thinks back on that time. Was it worth it? Only Peter can answer that.
But that really is the question, isn’t it? When someone aspires to be great at something a sacrifice or two will have to be made. How many people are even willing to consider paying that sacrifice?
For me when it came to learning the art of photography, one of the hardest sacrifices I ever had to pay, was sucking at something. Growing up I had always had a natural talent for so many things. Music, theater, public speaking, and more. I never really had to apply myself to anything because everything came so quickly to me. I had no need to aspire for greatness because I was living on the high end of mediocrity. I was better at most things than most people and that was ok for me. Then…I picked up a camera.
I originally started photography to have something in common with my now ex-wife. She had several Nikon cameras and she allowed me the opportunity to shoot with one of her backups. The first week I started taking pictures I almost quit right then and there. My pictures were TERRIBLE! The composition was off, the lighting was either over or under-exposed, I had no idea what all the buttons did, and my photos looked nothing like the photos I had saved in a Pinterest folder for inspiration. The bottom line was I was a beginner, and as such had no knowledge, experience, or history to draw from. In short, I sucked!
See, now this is the part in the story where most people quit. I’m not naturally good at something? Oh well, not for me. So they give up. They put away anything that reminds them of their abject failure and move on to something where they can be a little bit better than everyone else.
The story I remember was in 2004 in CA. I was eating dinner at a friend’s home and his father, who was in his 60s, was bragging over dinner to me about how when he was my age he had done so much more stuff than I had. His tone was very condescending and I could tell he was VERY proud of himself. So I asked, “So what have you accomplished since then?” He…was…furious! I won’t go into details, but I was thrown out of the house and was never allowed to return…All because I asked one simple question.
So to sum a few things up…Is learning photography hard? Yes! I have been shooting for 10 years. I have read books, watched YouTube Videos, listened to podcasts, gone to workshops, practiced, failed, and did it all over again. Despite all of that work, study and effort I would describe myself as knowing maybe 1% of 1% of all there is to know and learn about photography. Is it worth it?
For me…The answer always comes to me when I work very hard on a photo and I get the exact image I was hoping for. The answer…for me…is always a resounding YES!
So I encourage you to go out, try something new, and be brave enough to suck at something. You can do it! Thanks for stopping by. I would love to hear what you think about all this. Feel free to leave a comment or reach out on Instagram, Twitter, Patreon, or Vero.