‘You’re so talented!’
It’s something I’ve heard over and over again in my short photographic journey since turning professional 4 years ago. I don’t tell you that to gloat. If anything the comment makes me feel prickly and uncomfortable every time I hear it, no matter who it comes from as I don’t think it's true.
I’ve never seen myself as talented or gifted or any of the other adjectives that are used to describe any working creative who’s had some form of success. Even though I’m fortunate (when we’re not battling a global pandemic) to travel the globe and work with some of the best athletes in the world, I’ve never once thought of myself as talented. I’ve achieved what I have in my short career, not through talent, not by some god given gift or worse(!) luck but through hard work and persistence.
It's been said repeatedly on memes and quotes around the internet by wildly successful people in the world of sports, arts and business that behind every overnight success is years and years of hard work that you never see. We often use the word talent when we describe high achievers because it's an easy way to heap praise on the person but talented people and in particular naturally talented people are very rare. What makes most people successful is the fact they worked themselves harder than those around them and didn’t give up when the going got so tough that everyone else turned tail and went home. Success is built on hard work and persistence. Not talent.
Famed music photographer, Jim Marshall, once said of photographers at a music festival
‘There’s lots of people going around with cameras but only a few photographers’
If you’re a photographer, then you’ll like me have your photographic heroes. Those talented individuals we look too rarely got where they are today by some random gift but by hard work and persistence.
If anything has made me successful, it's not any talent with a camera that I have, but because I have an ability to graft when I need to, to sit for hours after an event or photoshoot if need be to work through images and deliver my best work back to a client. Only when that’s done will I stop, rest or sleep. When I’m working, I work hard to stay present, to watch what’s happening in front of me rather than snapping everything in sight. If what I’ve achieved in the few 4 years is down to anything, it's not talent; its down to hard work, sweat and persistence.
Lots of people are willing to work hard and graft until things become miserable and everything feels lost. But it's at those times, when most people decide that they’ve worked hard enough and it's just not happening for them, that those who achieve something keep working hard, every day. Everyone these days gets pumped when they talk about hustle and working hard but that has to be a constant way of life. You have to do that when all hope is lost, when the bridges are burned and when everyone else has gone home.
So I don’t have talent. I never have. I do however, have the ability to work hard and keep going even when the odds are against me and I’m exhausted from the effort.
Talent isn’t something I have.