He provides a few examples to illustrate the problem he’s addressing:
Along the way I figured out enough about Ansel Adams style landscape photography to know that I could probably, by applying myself diligently for a year or two, get good enough to churn out black and white landscapes of a certain caliber more or less at will. Perhaps not Adams, but anyways Picker and a whole lot of other acolytes. Pick up a copy of LENSWORK and you’ll see a lot of this stuff. This is not because I am special, it is because I am a normally competent human being. Almost anyone can learn this. There are 1000s, maybe 10s of 1000s of people out there banging out this material on a regular basis.
Basically, though, I am lazy. I don’t want to do all that hiking, and I don’t want to arrange my life such that I would be able to do all that hiking. It takes more than normal abilities with the camera, it takes a commitment and a lifestyle that I found unappealing.
The same story can be applied to, say, photographs of models. Again, I learned enough along the way to see that if I applied myself for a year or two I could get Quite Good at it and then I could churn out Fashion Styled photographs, or Figure Studies, or whatever. Again, the skills necessary to grind out the pictures are a minor part of it, it’s the business of rearranging my life to make room for a lot of hired models and lights and enormous octoboxes that I found uninteresting.
Ditto macro photography. I never did make a serious attempt at wildlife photography, but by now I see the pattern. I could buy the gear, devote some time to learning some skills, and then I could rearrange my life, and lo, I could churn out endless Birds In Flight or whatever.
And goes on to say something important:
The question arises naturally: if I am so damned serious about photography, why am I so unwilling to rearrange my life a bit in order to do it better, to produce better photographs?
It is, essentially, because I perceive the kinds of pictures I could have made down any of those paths as not worth the trouble. They would have been fine pictures, but they would have been just like a lot of other pictures put out there by a lot of other normally competent people who applied themselves rather more diligently that I am willing to apply myself.
I have exactly the same problem. Through study, practice and decent gear I can become reasonably proficient in most genres of photography. But unfortunately, from my studies of great photographers I know that I’m not likely to reach their exalted levels.
So what to do if you know that the chances are that your pictures are not often likely meet your aspirations. As one of the comments to his post says: “Sounds like the perfect recipe for frustration …”. Indeed it is, but the alternative would be to stop entirely and I can’t do that. So I’ll just keep plugging away and hope that I’m able to produce pictures, which show improvement over time even if they aren’t masterpieces.
Mr. Molitor puts it much better then I can (in one of the comments):
Well, there are two parts to my response here.
1. This is the system, the philosophy, I use to judge other people’s work. It is, essentially, the belief that some work is better than other work, together with the idea that there is some very very good work indeed.
So, that part impinges on my picture-taking not at all!
2. It does affect my aspirations for my own work as well, of course. If we take as my personal Mt. Everest something like “to make something as good as Minamata” well that’s pretty demoralizing on the face of it.
Still, I am having a good time doing a lot of practice climbing and summiting smaller peaks and so on. If I continue to work my way up, making better work, well, I may never end up at the top of Everest, but I will still be pleased with myself.
Having a very high goal maybe just means never running out of things to do?
So why the quiche at the top of this post? He uses the example of a quiche in his post, but I’ve already quoted too much so you’ll just have to read it.
Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.