I was talking with a colleague today who plays the clarinet. He needed to leave work to practice with his orchetra and we started thinking about the need to practice photography in the same way as music.
My daughter plays piano and appears to be fairly able. Her practice regime consists of the bits that she doesn’t really like – the discipline of doing her scales and exercises as well as some (limited at this stage) music theory and most of all learning new pieces that are ‘too hard’ until they are learnt – and the bits that she does like. The practicing that she likes consists of playing music that she already knows, but uses to express her moods and feelings, together with all sorts of improvising.
I think there is a lesson for us photographers in here. The nature of our vocation is that we are often technically minded people who are very happy thinking and learning about the technical aspects of the craft – what we know and are comfortable with – but often fail to try new creative ideas or just get out and practice making pictures. Yet the best way to improve our seeing and picture making is simply doing it and looking at what we come up with.
I wonder if one of the barriers to this is that we feel the need to make worthwhile pictures every time we shoot, or to be able to bring home something wall, or at least print, worthy… But, if we can see being out with a camera as an enjoyable way of seeing – without pressure as when Hannah practices the way she likes – perhaps we’ll develop our photographic musicality more readily than all the planning and learning will ever allow. Much of what I photograph is basically mundane, the things that catch my eye as I walk through life, yet this lends itself to a no pressure approach. I can take pictures whenever anything interests me. It doesn’t matter what camera I am carrying and what other people think. If the picture pleases me I print it and put it in my box, otherwise I don’t. Provided I remember that I am doing this for fun then I can practice my musicality, my artistic vision if you must…, to my heart’s content. Actually thinking about it, I don’t even need a camera – I walk around without framing pictures in my mind as I pass:)
Edited to add – this sort of practice is really just playing:)