The longer you do something, the more success you have the greater the pressure gets. That’s my experience any way.
I was recently asked what the best photograph was that I had made in the previous week. I answered that I hadn’t made one that fulfilled that criteria. My wife had made a photograph of our daughter that I really liked, but I hadn’t made anything that I felt was of any true value. As a professional photographer I am happy to make a handful of images that please me over a year, let alone seven days.
The very experience and knowledge that I have gained that allows me to understand how to create a successful image is exactly the knowledge that forces me to be hyper critical of my own work.
I deal with this by not looking at what I have just completed. I don’t read my books after they are published, listen to my podcasts after they go live or look at my photographs in magazines or books. I avoid the pressure of judgement by only looking to the future, to the next thing.
I am more interested in what is to come over what has been, and cannot be altered. Of course the pressure comes from knowing that improvement can be made, and personal ambition suggests that improvement must be made to progress.
Continual progression is a central tenant to our creative practices and to analyse the nature of that progression is challenging. When younger such analysis can be limited in its depth and breadth, but with age such analysis can be destructive and confining because of the very depth and breadth that can be missing when starting out. It’s a creative conumdrum and one which can result in issues of mental well-being and health.
I have no answer I’m afraid to prevent these issues showing themselves. Photography is not easy. Pressing a button is, as is buying a camera, but photography requires much more of you than that. If you sign a deal with the devil you can expect the devil to come calling, the secret is how you deal with him when he does. I refuse to open the door.
Dr. Grant Scott is the the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 www.donotbendfilm.com
© Grant Scott 2022