On Being Prolific


Last week was “Photo Week”. First of all it was time again for Photo Expo at Jacob Javits Center. This is something I look forward to every year. Alas, it was a bit disappointing this year. Some big names were missing including Adobe and Hasselblad. Not that I am a big fan of Hasselblad’s newest cameras, but the last time a major manufacture did not appear at Photo Expo (Contax) it meant the company was just about to go out of business. Hmm… come to think of it I did not see Mamiya there either. Not a good year for the photo manufacturers.

Last week I was also invited to talk to the Associate members of the Soho Photo cooperative. I did a presentation on my work process and why I made the choices that I have. Then we had the chance to look at some recent work by members and give feedback. One of the main points I had to make over and over was the need to constantly shoot. Practice, practice, practice. To be a Master anything takes 10,000 hours of practice (at least according to Malcolm Gladwell). To be a Master photographer takes at least 10,000 rolls of film (or to convert to digital – 36,000 frames). This goes hand in hand with being prolific or at least assists in being prolific. While you are shooting ideas are going through  your head or as you process images or sequence images new ways of looking at the world emerge. I have an “idea” book where I write down new things to photograph or new connections between things or new ways of looking at things. Lots of times I write down fragments of poems or songs or writings that I think can be converted to visual truths. The more ideas you have the easier it is to be prolific.

That reminds me of a story about Harry Callahan who once said to a student, “the only difference between you and me is that I have taken many more bad pictures… of course I have taken many more good pictures too”! What he is saying is that you have to keep working on your craft day in and day out and yeah you’ll take a lot of bad pictures (I certainly do) but you will also make many good pictures too. Maybe even art.


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