Until recently, the last—and only—photography class I ever took was back in the ’90s in high school. To put that in perspective, I mainly recall learning how to use a darkroom. Working in the dark with chemicals to make pictures magically appear on paper was fun, but in the decades since I’ve had a sneaking suspicion I have a lot left to learn.
So, I got up my nerve and signed up for a one-week online class through Maine Media Workshops earlier this month. The night before our first workshop found me searching for 10 shots to represent my work and share for discussion, and wondering if out of thousands of pictures I’d taken recently none were good enough.
Of course, this was why I signed up, and in the end, the class was a small, lovely, supportive group who met for a few hours each day. I entered expecting to learn how much I didn’t know about photography technique, but the opposite happened. I realized (well, was told) I already knew how to use my camera to take a picture. Instead, I ended up rethinking what I wanted to compose and craft, spending more time looking for the light (or lack of), pushing myself to try new angles and consider my options, allowing more room for creativity—which all makes sense since the class was “Composition and Craft.”
For homework every day, which I did at home, mostly in my yard, the process generally went like this: set out to take pictures in the evening after class/work/family duties, realize it wasn’t working at all because of fading light or feeling uninspired, start to worry that I had absolutely nothing to share with class tomorrow and they would realize I am a fraud, stop to see what I had, decide to try something else, end up with some unexpected pictures to share.
Sticking with the work, even when I felt like I was failing, having to try something else, led to pictures I wouldn’t have otherwise taken.
This Chuck Close quote sums up the process for me:
“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.”
I had to have something to show each day, so I ended up with something to show each day.
Here are a few pieces that came out of that work. I don’t know if any are “good” or not, but regardless each one made me think differently, more intentionally, deliberately, and creatively about my photography and how I approach the process going forward. There’s still a lot to learn, but I’ll keep showing up for the process to work and for things to occur.