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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Don’t Prove...Improve!


Sharing ideas, techniques and feedback gives us all a way to move forward photographically

Labels: ColumnBasic Jones
Bruce did teach me, as did many other photographers at the Geographic. Technical help, honest criticism and enthusiastic encouragement came from many, and my learning curve went up with the trajectory of a space shuttle launch.

I’ve heard Gilka’s words in my head so many times since that day at the Geographic: “Don’t worry about proving yourself; just improve yourself!” What a gift.

Over the years, I’ve watched countless photographers waste countless hours trying to prove themselves to others rather than spending those same hours improving their technique and sharpening their eye. I’ve seen both amateurs and pros refuse to share some technique with their peers as if it was a technique that made their photography special, rather than their vision. Both are a waste of time, folks; don’t go there. You get better a lot faster by focusing on improving rather than proving. You learn far more by sharing than by hoarding.

Recently, I joined a group of iPhone fanatics on Facebook who reminds me so much of the team at the Geographic. Some members of this group are very well known, some are amateurs who have never published a photograph and shoot only for the love of it. Doesn’t matter. No one is trying to prove themselves, just improve themselves. We share techniques as fast as we learn them, give honest feedback and go nuts when someone hits it out of the park. This has led to a kind of creative leapfrogging that’s truly astounding. The pros in the group don’t have to hold up some kind of an “image”; they’re just one of the bunch. Those newer to the game don’t feel judged and thus are free to blow our socks off with some great creative leap of faith. For all of us, another space shuttle trajectory of improvement.
I’ve watched countless photographers waste countless hours trying to prove themselves to others rather than spending those same hours improving their technique and sharpening their eye... You get better a lot faster by focusing on improving rather than proving. You learn far more by sharing than by hoarding.
Gilka knew. He understood that when we shoot from our own unique vision, there’s no reason to “prove” ourselves. To whom? We’re the only person on the planet who can do what we do, see as we see.

Improve ourselves? That’s a different story. There’s so much for all of us to learn to make our vision clearer, stronger, sharper. And Gilka knew that the fastest way to learn is to trust and share rather than compete.

So take a tip from the best boss I ever had. Don’t prove yourself; improve yourself—and then share it.

Dewitt Jones has begun a new project called “Celebrate What’s Right With The World!” Each week, he sends out a single image with a celebratory message, just to brighten the day, just to remind us of all that we have to be grateful for. If you’d like to receive these images, join his mailing list at www.celebratewhatsright.com.

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