Education in the West has been very focused on preparing people to be workers, but that leaves lacking the qualities that make someone a good world citizen. -Daniel Goleman
Photography is abound with workshops, tours, classroom discussions, and the never ending search of the spectacular (for what that’s worth) photograph. Online forums, entire YouTube channels, and blogs of camera and technique mastery. The world of photography is literally filled with such things. Teaching is a noble and honorable pursuit. The World can never have enough teachers. Or can it?
I come from a technical background. Born into the electronic age. In 1985 I received a technical degree in electronics. Personal computers where in their infancy and the digital camera was about 10 years old, but had not come in to play as a device most if any people owned.
During my youth I had my share of built in competitiveness. Not much different I suppose than most adolescent boys. A little showoff mixed with a little attitude. There was always something I wanted to prove. To somehow show everyone I was better at something or at least take notice of me for some reason. As I have aged the competitiveness has not left, but it has changed. I no longer wish to compare myself to others. Or even compete with others as far as that goes.
I have no interest in using others measuring sticks as a determination of success or well being. I am not sure if this is a fact of age, knowledge, experience, or possibly even arrogance. What I do know is there seems to be a portion of society that has something to prove to others. It’s not enough to create a nice photograph. They need others to know how, when, why, and tremendous struggles they endured for that one image, or award. They are the ones who strive for acceptance, notoriety, awards, and acknowledgement. This external acceptance criteria can indeed tell us what they have done, but very little of who they are.
There is a competitive nature to society. One that has brought about tremendous discoveries. The medical profession is one that comes to mind immediately when considering the advancements of mankind. It does not stop there. Competition which began in fierce during the industrial age then swiftly moving into today’s technology age has brought the World to our doorstep and directly into our everyday lives. Like it or not, we are connected much more closely than may be necessary.
Small communities have given way to the metropolises. Personal communication once rare, taking place by letter, phone, or personal visits has given way to a constant bombardment from every direction. I can now find out when someone I have never met, will never meet, and may live on the other side of the planet, has walked their dog, went to a movie, even what they had for breakfast. This once rarity of communication instilled an importance, attention, and appreciation for such. Today communication can literally make a person ill.
School Of Thought
There seems to be two main ways of thinking today. One is to believe nearly everything that is presented to you. The other, to be skeptical about nearly everything that is presented to you. I am not sure if there has ever been much thought given to this.
During an interview before his death, the noted astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, Carl Sagan stated, “belief in something should be held until there is compelling evidence to do so”. Later in the same interview Sagan stated he would like to believe death was more than just a dreamless sleep state, but he knew of no evidence that would compel him to believe such. In thinking about his own death Sagan told how even though he had no evidence to belief in any type of afterlife the mere thinking of death had enhanced his own appreciation in the beauty of life, the Earth, and the Stars, in his present daily life. A somewhat physiological conundrum. On a little side note of interest, look up “physiological conundrum”, that in itself seems to be a conundrum.
When we consider our own time on this planet, however long or short that may be. Are we looking for evidence in which to substantiate our belief, whatever that belief may be? I suspect that we are not. At least I can say I am not. What I do believe is that this is simply a way of thinking. We believe what we believe. But do we know why we believe it?
I know this may not be something most think about, or possibly have ever thought about. That being our own mortality. Honestly this seems like a strange topic for me to be writing about on this blog. That is until I listened to the interview with Carl Sagan. Only then did I give any of this pause for thought.
In an attempt to tie this in to photography all I can say is, why would it not be? I don’t think of photography as some “stand alone” act. Taking place as “art only” separate from any type of science. To the contrary, art and science have been related since the beginning of the arts and sciences. Throughout history the two have had a interwoven web of cohesion. Such as in the writings and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, and Design.
According to Dr. Dave Featherstone, Professor of Biology/Neuroscience, “both science and art are human attempts to understand and describe the world around us. The subjects and methods have different traditions, and the intended audiences are different, but the motivations and goals are fundamentally the same. Both artists and scientists strive to see the world in new ways, and to communicate that vision.”
Featherstone goes on to state, “Scientists do experiments over and over and over, trying to pin down some new aspect of reality. Artists often start with the new vision, then work through ‘periods’ in which they explore how best to get the message across.”
More Alike Than Different
Art and science. To those who practice neither, they seem like polar opposites, one data-driven, the other driven by emotion. One dominated by technical introverts, the other by expressive eccentrics. It has been common place for me to wonder what it is about photography, which I do consider an art, that compels me to do the things I do. What is it that motivates me? I can give common run of the mill answers, but they are almost meaningless when I truly think deeply about it. They are superficial at best, and inaccurate at worse.
But then, why does a scientist go in search of the unknown? What compels and motivates them? I can help but believe the artists and the scientist experience very similar motivations.
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
This has been a somewhat difficult post to write. Like many things I feel strongly about I don’t have the communicative skill or deep enough knowledge to fully get my ideas across. One should never shy away from something just because they think they are not good enough (well, maybe skydiving). You can share a beautiful picture of a prairie sunset on social media and get hundreds of likes and comments. But if you share a quote only from Nietzsche most will quickly scroll on by.
If you feel strongly about something there is only one way I know of to expand your knowledge and understanding it. You won’t get much if any notoriety, and probably no award. But truths will surely await you. About a subject, condition, or yourself. And that will never fade away.