Being labeled talented only means we have survived being untalented.
This post is for all of the beginners, myself included.
From the first time that I read it, I’ve always enjoyed Craig Tanner’s short article, The Myth of Talent. I will refer it from time to time because I like the message within.
I’ve been learning Spanish, taking classes, using an application on my phone, Duolingo, watching Spanish soap operas, much to my girlfriend’s amusement, basically doing everything that I can to come up to speed in Spanish. I’ve learned quite a few words, phrases, and ways to say things, yet I am still an out-and-out beginner. After 6, nearly 7 months, I can utter some phrases if I think about it. Reading comprehension continues to rise pretty quickly, but thinking in Spanish, well, I’m just not there.
I’ve been taking some lessons, online, using Skype. My teacher, Vidal, lives in Antigua, Guatemala – after reading about it, I’ve added it to my travel list. He’s patient, thankfully. Yesterday, I asked him to cover indirect and direct objects. What a difficult lesson that was. I find them confusing, especially indirect objects using he, she, it, and you (formal), which all drop out to exactly one personal pronoun, ‘le’, as they can be quite ambiguous. Also sentence structure is a bit different from English. Verb conjugations are a walk in the park compared to this! Talk about getting out of your comfort zone.
I’m struggling. He reassured me, however, that this part of the language is the one that the great majority of people find very difficult – I would say that I am solidly in that majority. I imagine that we’ll spend a number of lessons on this part. I was really frustrated with my ‘performance’ last night. In other words, I let my ego get in the way. I wanted to be ‘good’, ‘impressive’ – my mind was not really engaged to learn. I was thinking that I was further along than I really was, not being patient. I can of remember having that feeling as a beginning photographer, too. When you stop comparing yourself to others, or to where you want to be, it gets easier. I have to keep re-learning that lesson. Well, some heads are harder than others.
It has been a while since I was a beginner in photography, but I do remember being a beginner in Tai Chi. I remember how stiff I was, how difficult it was to do most of the moves fluidly – after seeing our teachers, who each have a minimum of 10 years doing it, I still think that I look rather clunky, but it is so much better than day 1, or year 1. Lots and lots of practice later.
Talent is a long patience, and originality an effort of will and intense observation. – Gustav Flaubert
I can hardly remember being a beginner in photography, but there are things that I remember such as overexposing, underexposing, improper developing times, use of exhausted developer, accidental opening of cameras with film not wound back into the camera, etc. There were plenty of mistakes, to be sure. Those were just the technical issues. Of course there was learning about balance, composition, lighting, color of light, etc. All of these things are pretty much second nature, now, some 30+ years down the road, rarely thought about. There was daily practice, camera in hand, shooting, shooting, shooting, sharing of photographs with friends, later with other photographers, critiques, and even a couple of workshops thrown in, which is how I came across Craig.
To end this, I would say that it is good to be a beginner again, though sometimes frustrating. I know that if I continue learning Spanish that I will be fluent, after many hours of practice, many, many, many hours – I will get it. Perhaps, some years down the line when I’m sitting in Mexico, Guatemala, or some other Spanish speaking country, having a conversation with someone, I’ll look back on this time and laugh at my struggles of learning Spanish.
It’s the same for photography. If you’ve been putting off learning, why? You’ve got to start somewhere, at the beginning is a good place. Some years down the line, you’ll have something to talk about, about your foibles, false starts, trials and tribulations, but you’ll also have suffered through being untalented.
Also, all of you long-timers, if you’ve got a beginner story to share, please do. You know that I like long comments.