Tag Archives: hobbyist
My friend Ugyen told me the other day he borrowed someone’s Nikon D80 to try it out, and he can’t wait to take photos. I’m excited for him. In many ways I envy him the beginning of his photography journey.
A certain nostalgia hits me when I hear of someone excited with their start in photography. Thinking about this led to my questions: why is it so attractive to be a hobbist? What makes it so good to go back to basics, even after publication and all the hundreds of thousands of images of people and places? Why is the hobbist approach so important right now?
I’m tempted sometimes to scroll through the scores of gigabytes of unprocessed shots in the hard drive. Sort of like a pat in the back for having seen them, and captured them. But this I know is not photography. Photography isn’t the past; it’s the present.
The reason I want to go back to basics has more to do with my mind than my camera.
The camera should be an extension of the mind. And the mind of a hobbyist is different from the working photographer.
Part of my lifelong inquiry is about creativity—about what inspires people, how they get insired, and the sustainability of passion that stems from a sense of wonder.
I find hobbyists have a great potential for creativity.
Hobbyists are fearless.
Humans learn to fear, and it’s a product of our own creation. We fear not “doing it right” and of others’ reactions to our decisions. As a working photographer I’ve faced clients whose creative ideas differed from mine; I’ve also faced photography contest judges who slammed creative decisions because they did not fulfill technical interpretations.
But the hobbyist isn’t making images to please a client or judge. He is free to use whatever skills he has to make something that only he can see. This leads to a lot of freedom.
Expectations can kill creativity.
The nature of a hobby is that the expectations are internal. The urge to make something beautiful or fresh out of the daily ordinary can be a professional urge, yes, but in the hobbyist it is unfettered by expectations from someone else.
Experimentation is part of the hobbyist’s freedom.
The freedom to try something just for the heck of it is in the power of a hobbyist. She can make a thousand images just because of something she wondered, or is trying to figure out. This freedom to follow the lines of a “what if…” gives the hobbyist the perfect platform to innovate and experiment.
Passion fuels creativity.
The best part about being a hobbyist is the absence of creativity killers and large doses of passion. Ultimately, this is the ‘high’ a photographer gets from his or her hobby. Passion carries the craft through the difficult learning that we must engage in to become technically and artistically mature in the art.
I wish Ugyen, and others who are starting out on their photography journey, a long and happy love affair with light.
It’s a wish I would gladly receive, too.
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The other day I heard someone say about a friend, “Oh, he’s an amateur,” with a little pout accompanying the statement. The term sounded belittling.
But the origins of the word amateur suggest that the term means someone else entirely. From the French for “lover of,” and the Italian “lover,” the original denotation of amateur gives us the picture of someone who so loves the idea of something that he or she pursues it, enamored, obsessed, breathlessly in love.
Sometimes, itâ€™s more fun to be an amateur. In photography, it’s the distinction between making money for taking photographs or doing it for free. For some reason, this is the most commonly understood distinction. But whether or not you are paid to take photographs, there are some qualities of an amateur that it would be to our advantage never to abandon.
Amateurs are in love with their craft.
You know that old saying that when something finally becomes a “job,” it becomesÂ tedious? An amateur never feels bored. He will shoot every day if he could. I remember back in the day when I assisted for a well-known photographer,Â when he and I were both working at the same place. We would clock in every day at work and whenever we got the chance to get out of the workplace, we would just shoot. Weekends were special because they were times when there was nothing else except photoshoots to do. Long holidays were even better; they meant days and days of getting up early, shooting all day until the sun went down, and then lingering over dinner talking about images, about camera settings, workflow, anything and everything to do with photography.
Amateurs hold their photography like something precious and turn it this way and that way, admiring the wonderful qualities of it, and making themselves happy as a result.
Yearning for a shoot session sometimes gets to be too much. Like missing a lover, the amateur misses their craft.
Obsession develops a love affair in the initial stages. There is always a honeymoon stage, when the lover cannot get enough of their beloved. Because there is so much to learn in photography, it’s like what someone said about falling in love with the world: “If we listened to a work of Mozart every day, we would be happy for a hundred years!” An amateur pays attention to details. No detail is small enough to notice. This sort of attentiveness fuels more energy: when you pay attention, you learn more and get better. So the improved results will inspire the amateur to get better and better.
Amateurs are not motivated financially. Being a freelancer and having income coming in from writing, teaching in addition to photography makes it easy for me to have the attitude of an amateur. The best part is not having to take jobs that I donâ€™t like, for instance, weddings, unless itâ€™s in Goa, India or Kathmandu, Nepal, or Langkawi, Malaysia and I can combine it with some travel. I can still do personal projects, ones that do not have any remuneration but are interesting and that stretch me creatively or technically. I think it’s really important to have time for these projects because these are where you truly experiment and learn new things.
Learning new things is exciting to an amateur. With all the workshops that so many people are offering now, it’s hard not to come across one that might teach you something new, that could take your photography into a whole other level. It’s very important not to think that you know it all and that no one else can teach you something new. I constantly learn from everyone I meet–whether on Twitter or someone’s blog, or reading a book, magazine, or watching a Youtube video. One of the best qualities of the amateur in my opinion is the lack of formal training. Sure, it might take you longer to reach technical proficiency on your own. But you also have an enjoyable lifelong challenge of learning so much, and if you paced yourself right, it could become one of the more pleasurable things about your status as an amateur.
One of the best things about amateurs is that you are not in a box, the box of your formal training. Instead of this being a disadvantage (you don’t have a paper that says you are a “certified photographer”), it could be a great advantage. Youâ€™re open-minded to what is out there, and you will experiment. Experimentation fuels creativity and inspiration, and in the best-case scenario, you might discover something that makes your work even more dynamic.
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