Wednesday, February 23, 2011


a random confession, inspired by postsecret

What is talent? What role does it play in photography? In life?
How much of what we can do is innate ability? How much can be taught?

The above are some of the questions that have been floating around in my head recently. I don't really have answers to them... but I'm going to think out loud here for a bit to see if I can come up with anything.

I think we are all on one side of a figurative fence. We either believe that talent is the driving force behind creativity, or we don't really believe in such a thing as talent.

If talent is the driving force, then we must assume that people are born with their artistic abilities. As such, we should assume that photography cannot be taught. Oh sure, you can teach people the technical aspects of things. How to light, what an Aperture is, how to use a layer mask. But if you believe in talent, then I assume you also believe that creativity in any of its forms cannot be taught or otherwise influenced by others.

On the other hand, if there is no such thing as talent, then anyone can constantly improve their craft, given the right resources. If talent doesn't exist, then our success as creatives depends solely on how much effort, will, passion, sweat and blood we pour into our craft.

One theory assumes that true artists are few and far between; either you've "got it", or you don't. The other concludes that anyone can be an artist if they truly desire.

I admit, I don't know which side of the fence I'm on. In photography classes throughout high school and now in college, I have seen a fair few people who clearly produce higher quality art than others. The question is: do they wake up, pick up their camera, and fire off amazing frames one after the other? Or do they struggle to express themselves like the rest of us? Do they fire off tens or hundreds or thousands of frames to get the one image they show proudly in class? In short: do they do it by talent, or by hard work?

I'm going to go ahead and guess that the students (and non-students) whose work I see and respect on a regular basis are working significantly more on their craft than those students who turn in crap every week. They ponder endlessly the possibilities for the way to get across a specific emotion or idea. They do research. They experiment. They try and try and try to get it just right. They spend hours with their camera and then spend even more time in their darkroom (wet or digital) to come up with the final photographs we see.

I base this off my own experience. I have to work at my craft. I don't wake up and pull amazing photographs out my ass. So, by my own (twisted) logic above, I guess I am not one of the talented ones.

Man, what a depressing conclusion.

Or is it? Honestly, as awesome as it would be to produce gorgeous works of art without any thought or effort - I think I like it the way it is. I have to think. I have to try. I have to fail. I have to work in order to grow and to learn. The process involved in making photographs, good or bad, means I am learning and growing. I'm becoming (hopefully) a better photographer and a better all-around person.

I guess I haven't really answered any of my own questions... Though I don't think I am meant to. I don't think these questions have concrete answers.

What do you think? Leave me a comment below!