Skipping corners, Giving in, or Giving up

This weeks challenge was to find “A person making their life harder than it needs to be.” Sounds easy, but it’s tougher than you think. We took different approaches, but the photograph outcomes were stunning.


Katie’s Experience:

I think everyone is probably making their life harder than it needs to be to some degree. Very often these are internal struggles and I was having trouble figuring out what they might look like on the outside. I did come across one, more literal interpretation of someone making their life more difficult than it needed to be. It was a guy stretching and doing lunges outside a local coffee shop, while smoking. I missed that shot. Darn!

In a previous version of myself, I would have pounded the streets, walking until I found this, and it would have been pure joy! However, the more recent depression I have been dealing with has left me doing all of the things I love much less..I don’t feel like making photographs, or walking to find them, or even getting out of bed…so I don’t, which is making my life harder in a vicious cycle. You do the things you love less because you’re feeling so down and unmotivated, causing you to feel even more down and unmotivated than you did when you started.

So, for my challenge I chose to photograph myself. I’ve been making my life harder for about a year now…and probably most of my life, in one way or another. But now, I am choosing to do little things to shift my life back to one of joy, because it was in a previous version. Life will always be hard, but it can still be fun. Life is short and it’s time to work on making life a little easier and a lot more enjoyable. Little baby steps, combined with great big leaps, and one day at a time.


Ryan’s Experience:

25mm, F2.0,

There are parts of everyone’s life that we make harder than they need to be. These are things we do on a regular basis, things we make more difficult because we lack the necessary tool, skill, or support, and things that are harder simply because we’re having a movement of laziness. Skipping corners, giving in, or giving up, against your better judgment can potentially cause one’s life to become more difficult. So why do we do it? I’m not sure exactly, but if I had to guess I would say that there are so many things we need to think about, do, and accomplish that our brain has a hard time keeping up. And in order to move us forward, it provides some subpar, occasionally reckless, ideas for how to go about completing the task at hand.

At first, I thought it would be easy to find someone to photograph that is making their life harder than it needs to be, but most of these hardships are difficult to capture in an image. I was hoping to find something obvious that would translate beautifully into a picture. Something like a person shoveling their driveway with a tiny toy beach shovel, or someone trying to start a fire with a magnifying glass, but these Darwin award winners didn’t exist. 
To complete this challenge I was going to have to tap into my creative process of developing a concept and then find someone willing to humor me long enough to recreate my imagination into a picture. My goal was to come up with an idea that could obviously show someone doing something the hard way. I came up with a bunch of silly ideas, but the one that resonated the most with me was someone trying to open a beer with their teeth. I could have easily created this picture with my wife or a friend, but that would have been too easy. And considering this was a challenge about people making things harder than they needed to be, I thought it would only be fair for me to take the hard route and find a willing stranger to pose for this picture.

There was karaoke taking place at the local wine bar in Grinnell, and I thought this would be the perfect place to find someone to open a beer with their teeth. Alcohol + karaoke = people willing to be silly. The biggest challenge for me was the lighting conditions. I’ve avoided low light photography as much as I can. This is one of my photography weaknesses and something that I have to work on getting better at. It’s not that I don’t understand how to take pictures in low light, but I just haven’t figured out the best balance of being able to take a quality picture when your camera settings need to be less than ideal (e.g., super high ISO.) After chatting with a couple of wannabe singing superstars, I finally found someone tipsy enough to agree to pose for my picture. Behind the bar, there was a cooler that was illuminated, and that was the light source used to improve the quality of the picture. My tipsy participant started posing by pretending to open the beer with their front teeth, but it looked too unnatural. After a little directing I had them move the beer off to the side a little and then intensify their facial expression. As a photographer is sometimes hard to slow down and actually see the scene. We snap away hoping we are capturing a great picture only to find out later that we didn’t get what we wanted. Slowing down and processing the picture in its entirety before pressing your shutter allows for you to fully evaluate what you’re photographing and make composition adjustments as needed.

I have to admit that I’m a culprit of making things harder than they need to be more times than not, but this challenge has allowed me to slow down and think about why I’m doing things the hard way and to work towards trying to figure out ways of making life easier. There are always going to be hard parts of life, but with a tiny bit of extra planning and thinking, I bet life can get slightly easier, or at least flow a little smoother.

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