Friday, March 12, 2010

Why do you want to be good?

7:00 am, waterfall, Bass Lake, Sierra National Forest, California 2010

7:00 am, waterfall,
Sierra National Forest, California 2010

2.5 sec at f/22, focal length: 19mm, ISO 50, Aperture Priority, +1 1/3EV,
- 27 February 2010 7:00am PST. Photographed with Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 17-40mm f/4L, tripod mounted.

I recently read an interview where the photographer was retelling about meeting another photographer that he had admired. After a bit of conversation the admired photographer asked the other why he wanted to be good? I thought it was a poignant question that we most likely don't really give much thought. If your answer is fame and fortune you'll most likely be disappointed. I don't have a proper answer for my self just yet, but I do keep going back to it. If anything, it helps keep your mind busy during those early morning long exposures.

Do you know why you want to be good?

*I unfortunately can't recall where I read the interview or who the photographers were. If I come across it again, I'll update this post. If you happen to know, please leave a link in the comments.


  1. Great question John. I think photography, like many of the "Arts" is a career path that is very easy to romanticize. With the digital revolution, not only has the art of photography changed, but industry itself has grown exponentially. Everyone with a camera now thinks of them-self as a photographer and dreams of "making it big" in the photography world.

    The truth of the matter is that that "fame" you mentioned is an illusion...a fantasy of sorts. Non of the true pros shoot because they want or have fame. In reality, aside from Ansel Adams and maybe Anne Leibovitz, how many actually amazing photographers do you think the general public could identify by name? Probably non.

    The truth, or atleast for me, is that I didn't choose photography as my career chose me. I do it because I love it, because it is my passion. It is allows me to connection with nature and humanity and share that connection with the world.

    Having said that, I don't think there is any problem with wanting to improve your craft. However I think, as you said, that if you are doing it to make a ton of money and be famous, well it is going to show. The best photographers in the world but a little of themselves in every photograph and that is just not possible to do if you have EGO driven intentions.

    Colby Brown

  2. "Good" can mean many things to many people...I don't always consider my work good but when a photograph is more successful than another it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I work in a cube, behind a computer all day and to be able to create a *good* photograph simply makes me feel good. It helps me realize that the real world is not always about spreadsheets and databases.
    Sure, I'd love to be recognized for my work but I'll settle for for a few comments of encouragement from others for now.

  3. Maybe as you write, do not all think too often the "why". I think about it. Especially when something goes wrong :-)

    And seriously. Just good to be good at something. Prove that you may be better than you are. It is satysfying. And when you're good in something, this is what distinguishes you from other people. And everyone wants to be a little unique. Even if only you know it you're diffrent.

  4. Interesting question John.
    I suppose I just want to continue to refine my way of seeing so that I will never look back on a moment with regrets that I didn't handle it another way.

  5. Is this to what you refer?,Essays,v2.pdf

    It's a great question. I'll have to give that some thought myself!

  6. I don't know so much about being good but I think for myself its about photography just happening and letting it happen. But understanding that we are not in as much control as we may think when it comes to "art" allowing oneself to be open at least for me seems to reveal something beyond conventional thought. Sometimes disecting what your doing can really draw energy away. "Its called the present for a reason." Read anything Paul Caponigro has written or any interviews he has done, it is his words that have truly made me think about things both in photography and the world diffrently. His one quote kinda goes someting like this its in Ted Orland's book Scenes and Wonder of Curiosity "There's chaos out there, however if you remain at the mercy of the chaos depends on whether you see anything beyond the chaos." Ted Orland also, has a quote that goes "A photographh is worth a thousand words, and a thousand words is worth twelve cents." --from the poster Photographic Truths. For me good is to conventional or rational I want more abstract where my reason is more subtle if hopefully not there at all. This is just something I wanted to share hope it makes sense.

  7. Right now I want to improve, have fun and aim for being good - because I believe I'm called to do it and what He wants, I want - and it makes me happy.

  8. For me, I appreciate, admire, and am inspired by great art. Since I can't read music, sing, or draw/paint worth a damn, photography gives me an outlet to pursue my own creation of art. When we find something we enjoy doing, I believe it is in our nature to want to do it well, whatever that means.

  9. This question is a very intriguing to me. The reasons I have used over the years to help me become better at what I do have changed over the years.

    I first start photography when I joined the military. It was a way to show my friends and family the places I had been and the memories I making. The more pictures I took the better I wanted them to be. Film was expensive to a private in the Army so every photo

    Later, as I started to spend more time on the actual art of photography, I just wanted to take pictures...any pictures. It was a way for me to express myself and remove myself from the grind of day to day life.

    But lately, we'll say the last few years, it's about the memories. My family is getting older. I want to preserve those. Not just for me..but for anyone that I happen to do work for. I want for them to have something that 10..20..heck..great great grand kids...I want them to have something that tells a story of who these people were. What they were like as people.

    Be good has become the chase to be able to tell a story with every picture I can.

    Thanks for asking that question. It felt great to answer it for myself.

    Scott Beach

  10. "Do you know why you want to be good?" Yes, I want to be able to express myself through photography, for that I need to know both myself and photography. When I achieve an image that does that, it acts as a reminder of what is really important to me, and as an expression of gratitude.