Feb 15, 2010

Failure & Fear: Photography - Keep Moving

I've spoken about failure as a "good thing" in a prior photography related blog post and so when I across this Harvard commencement address by J.K. Rowling (aka Harry Potter for those living in a closet) recently, I was again quite inspired once again. There is something profound in the notion of coming to grips with our fears and failures in photography (and life) and moving forward despite all of it. It's not that I believe people really seek failure, maybe some do, but those that have failed miserably and persisted to greatness are particularly inspiring.  The idea is beautifully expressed through her address.  

Fear often paralyzes us before we even get to the starting gate.  I know when I NEED to do something by the nerve racking feeling inside that causes a semi-paralysis of thought turning into over-exaggerated fear of all the reasons I might fail, if I do this "thing".   I guarantee [and I rarely use that word] we all experience fear of failure about something in life, whether it be a job, relationship, public speaking or simply photographing something new.  I sure felt this way leaving a corporate position in a Fortune 500 company to become a professional photographer, all while considering my family responsibilities, mortgage, and future "retirement".  Failures have come along the way and will surely come in the future, but those failures shape me as a person and an artist.

If we get past the initial paralysis that fear brings and do that "thing" we feared, often we still find the result is failure, despite our best efforts.  I often call myself an "experimenter", but in reality it would surely be failing.   With no formal photography education, I work really, really hard to understand all aspects of photography and motion from both a technical and an artistic perspective and then I experiment like mad.  Just ask my wife!  This past weekend for example, I was preparing for an upcoming commercial photography shoot so I took over the largest room in our house, kicked the kids out, moved the furniture and set-up shop.  After three hours of experimenting (failing), I had a a few shots and concepts that I would consider successful, but not many.  It seems that most of my successes in photography however, come after a lot of failure and the principle is to keep moving, moving, moving.  JK Rowling kept moving both toward her true passion as well as forward in life after what she calls complete failure.  It is easy to hang up the camera after having felt the fear, acted and then failed.  "At least I tried", we might say to ourselves as we move to something that is less risky and ironically, less of a passion.  We just aren't "visionary", "artistic", or "technical" enough to be great at photography.  Wrong!  In reality, most of us feel this way.  We keep moving forward driven by the passion, even when we feel overwhelmed by failure.  Success comes because we keep moving!  Be courageous to find your vision!

I intended to simply post the video this morning, but hopefully my ramblings have been somewhat worthwhile for you.  Here are a few quotes I found insightful from the address:
Quote 1: "Rock Bottom became my solid foundation"

Quote 2: "Stripping away of the inessentials"
Kevin Winzeler is a Commercial Photographer based in Utah and available worldwide.


Jeff Zimmerman said...

Well said. My path with photography has been very similar to yours although I am in the earlier stages. I believe I have currently located my foundation. With the uncertainty and doubt lingering I continue to move forward to pursue my love and passion. Thanks for the post. With all of the negative information being thrown around out there about the photography industry these days, it is great to find this post

andy kemmis said...


Kevin, I frequently read your blog and check out your images. Great stuff, especially this post. Can't tell you how refreshing it is when another photographer, such as yourself, shows his/her cards a little bit. Every one of us has fear and stumbling blocks and learning curves. It feels good to be reminded that the only way to keep the wolves at bay is to work, try, learn, fail, repeat.

thanks again.

The Sentimental Bloke said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and this video. Quite thought-provoking on a number of levels.

Frozen Forever Photography said...

Well put and thank you for posting. I always enjoy your blog. keep up the good work.