It’s hard to imagine that I first got into photography in the late 90’s and over 20 years have since passed by but not without having to overcome a few obstacles that gathered like dark clouds overhead before I could best work out how to disperse them. Once I had discovered how good it was to hold a camera in my hand nothing was going to get in my way of discovering this device and the wonderful creative world of photography. This blog is an inquiry into helping you overcome some of the obstacles that may be stopping you from progressing from an ordinary shooter into an excellent photographer.
I remember seeing the large 24″ x 20″ black and white print being held up for viewing by someone who was in my one day a week art group. It completely transformed my life in that moment. I had never thought of photography as a means of self expression. Up to this point I had been playing guitar in bands and was attending an art course just because it offered something different. I wasn’t really getting on with a paint brush but seeing this photograph changed everything. The only photos I had ever looked at were the ones of my friends on holiday that were printed in colour in boots at 6″ x 4″ and did not even compare to this huge abstract black and white photo.
I bought my first camera and some film and took lots of photos. I had certainly stumbled across something that instantaneously filled the void in my mind at that time. It was a journey that would take me through college as a mature student into the digital era. It was exciting yet scary. My first big obstacle I ran into was self belief especially after, and to my amazement, when I was given a place on a BA Hons photography course. The doubts started to creep into my head about whether I was up to this level of learning and could i commit to 3 years of study in a new town with little money. I definitely had the enthusiasm and the motivation to do it but I needed to convince myself that I could pull it off. I wasn’t stupid by any means but I always felt I lacked from a good education and had convinced myself I was not an intellectual who could write 1000 word essays.
Three years later I applied for a place at another college to do an MA in photographic studies and was offered a place. I had well and truly kicked the self doubt obstacle into orbit.
What I learned in these years was you have to believe in yourself because no one else can help you to find such inner strength and self belief. It is your passion and your desire that will be the driving force towards making something beautiful happen in your life.
I was learning photography at the very back end of film and the new beginnings of a digital era and I was met with another obstacle. This obstacle presented itself as change, of letting go of something that had become ingrained in my head, and something that had helped me overcome so much fear. I had a passion for film and all it stood for. The small cartridges of film that you religiously put in the back of your camera, the whole day printing in a dark room with the radio on, the smell of chemicals burning your nostrils, working with the large sheets of fiber based paper and the art of making black borders. This was all at risk to the new digital age and I wasn’t quite prepared for the drastic changes about to happen.
In fact, I stayed with film for a good few years after leaving the MA course and even worked in London for a few companies shooting on large 5×4 format cameras because the quality of the negative was still better when scanned and printed large for billboards around the city. But this obstacle of change began to melt away when I started to embrace the digital era when the quality of the cameras started to improve around 2010. It is true that some obstacles to self development do not go away over night but will linger longer until it is the right moment to let go and move into a new world.
I started to invest in digital cameras around 2010 and took the leap of faith. The obstacle blocking this venture was gone. I had embraced a new dawning for myself moving forward. I was already familiar with Apple computers and digital software like Photoshop since around 2001 when I had arrived at the college. I did hang on to a darkroom for a while but it soon went and I now made inroads into Adobe Lightroom.
I had also started teaching photography at this point and the confidence obstacle had raised its ugly head. There I was with a BA Hons and an MA in photographic studies and still having issues with self doubt around intellect and whether I was up to the challenge. I had never taught before so it was natural to feel a little uncomfortable around this concept but it was something I was determined to do.
I now realize that facing down these demons is the only way forward towards overcoming the negativity that flirts with our very thoughts each day. In taking on the teaching role I became a much better photographer because it taught me new things about photography that I never even new existed and I only found out because i wanted to teach others in the best way i could.
In my opinion the best way to overcome obstacles is through sheer bloody-mindedness and hard graft. You never settle for second best and be relentless in your pursuit to be excellent at whatever you have a passion for in life. The meaning of obstacle is a thing that blocks one’s way or prevents or hinders progress. In some cases an obstacle can be unmovable which means you may have to go round it, over it, under it or even through it but don’t let that stop you from fulfilling your ambitions in life.
When you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you. [zen quote]
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