Most of the time,
I’m clear focused all around,
Most of the time,
I can keep both feet on the ground
I can follow the path,
I can read the signs,
Stay right with it,
When the road unwinds,
I can handle whatever,
I stumble upon.
Bob Dylan: Most of the Time
I read a tweet recently from a photographic organisation who stage photography competitions advertising a talking event as part of a larger photographic show. The tweet named the photographers due to speak (two of which I know well) and suggested that by listening to what they were going to say an insight would be given into making ‘IT’. The use of the word ‘IT’ in this context immediately caused me to question exactly what ‘IT’ could possibly be.
I have no doubt that the photographers speaking would be able to share knowledge and experience, wise words and insights but could they really help anyone in their audience discover how to make something as abstract and open to interpretation as the mythical ‘IT’.
I suppose that it would not be too much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that the ‘IT’ in question was a reference to achieving success. A concept so open to interpretation as to have very little actual meaning. Financial success, personal success, life-goal success, photographic success, popular success, family success, material success, or just success! Everyone one of us has our own interpretation of the word success. So what is ‘IT’?
The past few years has seen an awakening and acceptance of the need for personal mental wellbeing, and many people have shown great strength in sharing their own stories and on-going challenges. The photographic community has not been slow in stepping forward in this respect in both sharing their own stories and documenting the stories of others. To deal daily with such debilitating issues and hopefully overcome them are in themselves a success. But I do not expect that this is the kind of success that the photo organisation in question was referring to.
The ‘IT’ is of course a success as defined by a photo organisation, the ‘IT’ means to win competitions, get noticed, get commissions, exhibitions and large financial reward. To live the dream-life of a successful photographer. But sadly that dream is open to only a few, and can take many years to realise and require limitless resilience, commitment and sacrifice. It is perhaps both unfair and unrealistic to suggest that the key to such success can be found through a presented talk at a show, however well intentioned the participants are. You could also I believe conclude that it is more than just unfair and unrealistic, it is dangerous. Dangerous to promote the idea of making ‘IT’, with the pressures to conform to a specific outcome judged by others as to a person’s success relative to a societal rule or agenda. Dangerous to build an audience with a false promise. Dangerous to make promises that cannot be met.
My suggestion is to make your own ‘IT’. It may be a big ‘IT’, it may be a small ‘it’ but it will be your ‘IT’ and that should be enough for anyone.
Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Professional Photography at the University of Gloucestershire, a working photographer, and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Focal Press 2014) and The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Focal Press 2015). His next book New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2019. He is currently work on his next documentary film project Woke Up This Morning: The Rock n’ Roll Thunder of Ray Lowry.
His documentary film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay has been screened across the UK and the US in 2018 and will be screened in the US and Canada in 2019.
© Grant Scott 2019