Cringeworthy

When I photographed this image on my Pentax ME Super in 1988 I thought I was a genius.

Two Truths:

  1. As I develop my eye, I will notice all the flaws in my older artworks.
  2. I think my current art is the bomb.

This cycle constantly repeats, and will continue. This is normal. Mostly we suck but think we’re awesome, then we figure it out, then we die. Just wait a few years and — unless you are an egomaniac — you will see the flaws in your current work too.

“ … you get to a certain point and your work is going steadily and each picture is better than the next, and then you sort of level off and that’s when you realize that it’s not that each picture is better than the next, it’s that each picture ups the ante. And that every time you take one good picture, the next one has got to be better.”
— Sally Mann

We all do it. We all start as creative-sponges. At each stage of my professional development, my experience, my style, my eye, my viewpoint, and the story I was telling with my images grew clearer. I still look at my old work and wonder: What was I thinking? It’s natural to look back on past work and cringe, because generally you are a better artist today than you were yesterday. If not, you’re doing it wrong.

I tend to be fully immersed in whatever body of work I’m working on this month. Sometimes I get excited and distracted by the body of work I plan to do next. But I almost never go back and devote energy to a body of work I’ve already completed. The legendary artists and photographers whom I admire were the ones with humility when I met them. If you ever look back on the work you did five years ago and it’s still as good as you thought it was then, you might finally be getting the hang of it.

Or you’re simply delusional.


Chapter 4 from the book: Don’t Shoot | 66 Reasons NOT to Become a Professional Photographer by S. Dirk Schafer funded on Kickstarter in 2015.