Nature Photography is not a Competitive Sport | The Danger of Quantifying Struggle and Sacrifice

Granted, I agree, true art is not an instantaneous action, but nor is it right for one artist to judge another by assessing presumed extent of “struggle and sacrifice” before being considered worthy of acceptance. Besides, who is one person to determine how and when another is worthy of recognition ? A slicing off of an ear ? Near starvation on the streets of Paris ? Hiking 40 miles in the desert with 100 lbs. of camera gear strapped to your back ?

Seriously dude ? Could there possibly be – just perhaps – other life “struggles” endured by that emerging photographer or artist that have had just as much, if not more, impact on what and how they photograph than say, oh I don’t know . . . how much time they’ve sat behind a computer studying digital editing software or memorizing DSLR camera manuals or mastering the zone system to exposure ?

Such presumptions are just as accurate in completely missing the point regarding artistic vision. As soon as an artist submits him or herself to another artist’s validation and approval there’s an inherent insecurity that takes root, one that slowly eats away at the wonder of self-expression and photographic exploration that set the new artist on his or her course toward the beauty of artistic discovery in the first place.

I’ve never bought into the “you have to struggle and sacrifice before we accept you” way of thinking that is so prevalent in just about all mediums of the art world. For the most part it reinforces negative energy through insecurity- for both those who’ve positioned themselves as gatekeeper as well as for those photographic artists who burden themselves with the overwhelming need to be “accepted.”

The few nature photographers who’ve I come across who ascribe to this attitude remind me of the nerdy kid working in the electronics store who has all sorts of technical know-how but prefers to “show-up” customers versus actually HELPING others learn and get started in a fun and rewarding hobby. More often than not there’s something else about their life that is lacking. Here’s a hint – being a parent and raising kids is the great equalizer in all facets of life, and like growing old with patience and wisdom, it’s a good thing.

Rarely, if ever, do photographers with that sort of attitude run a good workshop. The very best in the industry – the top nature and landscape shooters – do one thing even better than creating incredible images. They are outstanding TEACHERS. They guide, they inspire, they coach. They are secure enough within their own skins and with their own talents that they have absolutely no need to process judgment of their students through a filter of doubt and insecurity.

All photographers – all artists – carry with them life experiences, both good as well as those times of “struggle,” that are just as important tools in serving their image making as are their various brushes, paints, software apps, lenses and camera bodies. Learning to finally let go of the self-imposed need to assess and pass judgement on whether or not another artist or photographer has passed muster could be one of those life experiences.

Just maybe.

Moonlight on the Beach by Hilton Head Photographer Jim Crotty

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