Human nature motivates us to look for “the secret”. We search for the one thing that will unlock our potential and makes our goals easy to meet. What secrets we know of are held close, not casually given away to others who we don’t think have earned it like we have. The classic parable of the Guru sitting atop a mountain comes to mind; Only with great effort can we earn the right to knowledge that will set us free.
I was recently visiting my brother Jesse who has followed in the footsteps of our late father Walt Horton as a sculptor. Our conversation turned to what made dad so unique. He was the most successful sculptor of his time, though he never sought formal recognition. He had a lot of knowledge that most would have kept secret. He took pride in sharing what he had learned though, making the path to knowledge easier for those who would seek his advice.
Still, after sharing what he knew with anyone who would listen and opening his studio to anyone who cared to share the space with him, very few people were able to turn that knowledge into art. Even fewer were able to build successful careers.
What is the secret to great photography? In truth we all have the same skills. Taking a picture is not hard if you are willing to put a little effort into learning the details. For me, it is to go places other people don’t go, to put my camera in places that a camera has never been before. I have very little fear of becoming obsolete even after sharing what I believe makes my work unique.
There is a reason the secret remains with the Guru at the mountaintop. It’s not the words of the guru that matter, it’s the climb itself that unlocks the knowledge. The willingness to put forth more effort than those waiting below for the knowledge to find its way back to them.