I was reading the myth of talent by Craig Tanner the other day and it got me thinking about how the idea of talent relates to the photographer.
Many people say that photography is, much like music, a forum for the talented. You either have it or you don’t, as the popular saying goes. If you have it, if you are one of the “lucky few,” nothing can stop you, and, sadly, if you don’t, there’s nothing you can do to get it. You can’t go out and buy photography “chops” in a jar, for example, anymore than you can go out and purchase a bag of “rock star” or, you know, bring home a bundle of “jazz singer.”
My impression is that you have to have some kind of talent, some kind of “eye” if you will-that you can’t will yourself into it, nor can you mold yourself into something you are not. (I can’t suddenly will myself into being a world class gymnast, for example, I’m just not built that way and, I suppose, if you just don’t have any kind of eye at all for photography, you can’t will yourself into suddenly seeing the way the camera does.)
But talent is far from enough.
Like a diamond in the rough or a building under construction, talent is but a starting point, a foundation for photographers. You have to start with a good eye, but this is only the mere beginning. It’s your launch pad, if you will. It’s no coincidence that so many great things happen at the intersection of talent and hard work. You have to start with talent and work hard to cultivate it. Talent alone is not enough, you need hard work, determination, passion and a little bit of luck never hurt anybody either. You need all of these things, plus certain intangibles like creativity and artistry. You need to apply yourself, you need problem-solving skills and you need people skills. You need marketing, lots and lots of marketing. (Oh, God, show me one photographer who could not use more marketing.)
Missing any one of these elements? Sure, you’ll have some success, and maybe even enjoy yourself along the way, but you’ll always come up a bit short in one way or another. (All of the pieces of the puzzle have to come together to make things happen.)
I think it was my mentor’s mentor, a fellow by the name of Roy Flukinger who said it best, “In my career, I’ve encountered one or two people who could be the next Ansel Adams and one or two people who inspired me to take them aside and encourage them to reconsider a career in fast food. Everybody else falls somewhere in the middle.”
So, does talent play a part? Yes, absolutely. You have to have some talent. But, it’s not the only game in town.
Until next time…