I stumbled on this graph- the stages of a photographer- roughly 7 years ago (and blogged about it then). Truthfully, this graph could pertain to any type of art and wasn’t meant to be a scientific representation. Each artist grows at a different rate based on different milestones. However, the fundamental theory being expressed is the artist’s perception of success is independent of actual skill and quality. It has had such an impact on me that here I am blogging about it again. I have yet to discover the creator but they were a damn genius. Leave it to a photographer to demonstrate that, like a photo, a graph can be worth a thousand words. And leave it to a photographer to conjure the full range of emotions from a single image.
Now I’ll admit, I found it humorous…at first. Photography depicted in graph form, the designated milestones, when they happen and the usage of sarcastic extremes. Clearly, the creator was projecting humor. So, I laughed.
And then I laughed because, although relatable to my experiences as a budding photographer, I felt I was ahead of the curve. The blue line didn’t apply to me. I had started taking pictures way before my ‘phone had a cam’. I laughed because I was past the ‘just started’ and ‘had a tripod’. And, yes, I had even taken amazing photos of flowers and cats. A large number of friends, relatives and even strangers were requesting sessions. I liked what I produced. My graph was different.
So, thus, the graph became inspirational. The graph showed that regardless of when, knowledge and quality would go up if I invested the time into learning. I felt good with my level of composition but knew I was lacking in technical skills. I needed to get out of my comfort zone and learn the mechanics of my camera and more complex Photoshop editing tools.
But with increased knowledge, comes awareness. Just as the blue line cautioned, I had been overconfident. My eyes had been untrained. My earlier images fell victim to over exposure and over editing, which became painfully obvious.
Once I had seen, I couldn’t un-see. I became disgusted with the majority of my work, some to the point that I will never look at again. Others, I have been able to ‘save’ by reediting but I’m still not proud of them.
This has ultimately lead me to understand the profound torment of the graph. Despite all learning and/or positive customer feedback, I will never be truly happy with my work. Even if I was viewed as the best photographer in the world (which would be a long road from where I am now), I will never reach the bar I have set for myself. It keeps moving up as I continuously improve. For it is an art, a passion and an addiction. But perhaps that it is the way it’s supposed to be.