The Perseverance of Storytelling

Some pretty inspiring videos came across my RSS, facebook and twitter feeds yesterday.  Its just the kick in the pants I needed to get back to posting on the blog. The rundown is below and I’ll share some personal thoughts at the bottom.

The first  video comes from a blog post by Chase Jarvis.  Chase shared video interview from The Atlantic with National Geographic photographer Sam Abell (one of my personal favorites).  In the video he talks about taking an entire year to make a single image. Like Chase I have to admit I’ve never spent an entire year trying to make a single image, some have taken hours, and a few have taken days but never an entire year.  However I have had the experience of watching someone thumb past those images in a newspaper or magazine, and really wish I had handled it like Abell did instead of just hanging my head and walking away.

The next video came from facebook page of the South Carolina Arts Commission. In this piece edited by David Shiyang Liu, Ira Glass of “This American Life” (another one of my professional heroes) talks about the amount of perseverance that it takes to really become good at your craft. In his case it is telling stories through spoken word and moving images, but the same applies to photography. This is something I was told, albeit a little less eloquently, almost two decades ago when I started with photography.

If you are interested in watching all four parts of the original “Ira Glass on Storytelling” from Current_TV/PRI, I put together a playlist you should check out

I think the most interesting part about these two videos is that I am somewhere in the middle.  I’ve been doing this for long enough that a large volume of work has been produced, but not yet at the point where I can spend a year making a single image.  This is a good reminder of why it’s important that you don’t just persevere through creating a large volume of work at the beginning of your creative endeavor. The real trick is persevering through this process over several decades, just like Sam Abell has done.  Just like anything else, the skill of seeing and developing a story, whether its with photographs, video or words, can grow dull over time if its not kept sharp.  I will admit that I have fallen victim to this in the past when trying to focus on business, marketing, etc… It was easy to say to myself “ok I’ve got this photography thing down pat, now I have to focus on the business side of things to be successful.” Unfortunately thats not the case and what you are trying to get out there grows dull in the process.

I’m interested to hear what you think. Do you think you have this level of commitment and perseverance?  What’s the longest you’ve spent working on one thing? Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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