Climbers talk about conquering a mountain. Yet the mountain is unchanged. As challenging as the task is, and as much courage and skill as an ascent requires, it is still only a tiny human climbing up the side and down again. Climbers must submit to weather conditions, and be respectful of the magnitude of the mountain. The reward is exhilaration.
My opinion (and others may differ) about photographing nature is that we are inspired by what we see, we seek to capture an aspect of it, have the humility to let the subject speak to us, and then share that message through our artistic interpretation.
Let me tell you of an interesting experience I recently had. I was on my way to a physiotherapy session, for a shoulder injury. On the back seat was my portfolio of 13×19 prints, to show my physio guy. As I drove there, I was reflecting on how the injury had given me a feeling of vulnerability. When I showed him my pictures, he liked them a lot, and commented that they were special because they had a sense of vulnerability.
I later thought a lot about this, and realized that this was how I approached taking pictures of beauty in nature. By losing myself and becoming totally open to what the scene or subject was saying. In a sense subordinating myself to the beauty, and allowing the joy to take over. For me, at least, I need to set aside my ego, and seek to be humble, to do justice to a subject.
And later when I am working on an image, I have to be modest enough to realize that what I thought may have made a great picture, simply is not. Just because I take it, doesn’t mean it’s good. I may spend a day working on a print, only to come to the realization that it is not anything special. That moment of letting go, of putting ego aside, is a difficult one.
When I finally create something that is satisfying photographic art, that other people find attractive and compelling, that someone wants to frame for their home or simply tell me how much they like it, or when I look at one of my own pieces that is now framed in my studio and find it pleasing, then that is the moment of reward. It is then that I can allow my ego to think, “I Took That!”.
Part 2. Ego Limits Expression and Learning
A friend of mine often says how much he thinks of my photographic work. Personally, I think I have a lot to learn and a long way to go. His view is that I have no ego. The truth is I have my own ego and pride, but often keep it under control it or put it aside, in the interest of a situation, or simply to learn from others.
My friend is both charismatic and controlling. His presence fills most social situations, and he dominates conversation. He travels, has fascinating stories to tell, and an enviable opportunity to take many interesting pictures in exotic locations.
He uses a quality camera, has the latest Photoshop and a current computer, and studies Photoshop techniques. He frequently tells me what I should learn about Photoshop, and techniques I should adopt. Sometimes these are helpful, sometimes I already know them.
Many of his pictures have good potential, so I wanted to help him lift them to the next level. I thought, given the credibility I seemed to have as a photographer in his eyes, he would welcome feedback and tips, on taking pictures in the wonderful places he goes. Also, I offered suggestions on how he could work these up in Photoshop, into stunning and engaging images to share online, and possibly publish. I was wrong. I was sharply told that he took pictures for the purposes of recording, and that I should mind my own business.
So now, I rarely share any suggestions or tips about how he can improve his images, only when he has done something to the next level, and then I acknowledge and encourage what he has already done. I feel I have so much I could offer. My friend has a good eye for subjects that tell a story. But in this case, ego seems to limit my friend’s opportunity to learn and grow, and make his pictures stunning.
Part 3. What This Means
An overactive ego gets in the way of learning to make the most of ones photographic eye, and how to then craft brilliant and compelling images of people and places.
Some of the most inspiring photographers I have met have a quiet and gentle ego, and have experiences from which they have learned the humility that allows their work to be great.