Essay 7 - Create Less to Make a Bigger Impact

I believe Ansel Adams once said that creating 12 good photographs a year was an incredibly productive and successful year.  While I intellectually understood this sage advice, it has taken me probably 20 years to fully absorb and ultimately apply.

I suspect there were several unspoken nuances buried within Ansel's statement. First, I have learned over time that it takes a really long time to get to a place where you feel you are creating photographs that measure up to your emotional potential.

In the beginning years, there are so many technical skills to learn and eventually master, that it consumes us.  Unfortunately, it is very easy to get stuck in this rut and never move to the next level.  This is all part of the evolutionary process for a thoughtful photographer who aspires to create evocative and impactful photographs.  

We want to eventually get to a place where we can create photographs and not think to deeply about the technical underpinnings that are required.  We evolve to a place where we know what we need to do in order to produce a specific result.  I suspect that most photographers invest many years in the technical phase before they are truly ready to move into the first stages of the creative realm.  

It took me many years of literally working through the processes, from beginning to end, where I felt that I was competent and ready to create the type of photographs that I thought I was capable of.  It is important to invest time in different techniques, methods and processes to identify what best suits the personal style that you are building over time.  If a photographer focuses on using one or two films along with a couple different papers, It could take two or more years to fully connect and master the unique characteristics of these mediums.  Depending on where this segment of the journey leads you, a decade could pass very easily.  

The core part of my thought in this essay is to offer the idea that by slowing down, creating less exposures, that you will watch the quality and impact of your photographs improve significantly.  It probably took me nearly twenty years to internalize this concept and apply it to my working mindset.  If I can help save you some time and help you evolve to a higher place by sharing my wisdom, that makes me happy.  

I have finally arrived at a place where I don't care how long it takes me to create a single print that I feel reflects my original vision and portrays my true capabilities.  This is a very freeing idea for me and this allows me to experience more joy and happiness along the way.  The instant gratification mindset that fuels the new world of social media doesn't help a creative soul stay focused on what really matters in my opinion.  Rather than race to share your photographs with your friends and social network, invest the time in creating a handful of impactful images over the course of the year and then do a reveal when you are ready.  Share the many interesting and fun aspects of your creative process instead of clogging the Internet with work that you won't be proud of in the long term.

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-Tim Layton

Tim Layton
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