Every night I read books to my two girls before they go to bed. The routine is simple: they each choose a book and I read. However, earlier this week the routine was broken. My eldest told me that she wanted to read to me. She has been “learning her letters” in pre-school and she wanted to put her learning into practice. She chose a book and proceeded to spell out each word. As a parent this has got to be one of those truly amazing moments. She knew what she wanted to do and despite the fact that she struggled through it she was proud of herself when she reached the end. More than the actual story itself she wanted to share her learning. In other words, the story itself took a back seat to the act of reading the story.
Later that night I was working on some of my photographs and it just wasn’t happening for me. I couldn’t quite recreate ideas that I had in my mind and I started to get frustrated. I wanted my ideas to be clearly evident in the images and if I couldn’t make the images tell the story I wanted to tell then they could not meet the expectations of my audience – they would not be able to understand what I was trying to say. I was thinking of simply giving in when I remembered the amazing experience from earlier that evening of hearing my daughter read for the first time. Sticking with something is a vital part of learning and if we don’t learn then we don’t grow.
But I think it goes even deeper. I had created an expectation of myself to recreate ideas. But was it that simple? Was I really concerned at my lack of skills to create images or was I more concerned about what others might think of my images if I felt that I was falling short of meeting their expectations? Although learning may indeed be the barrier to recreating ideas, was learning new skills the only thing that I needed to learn in order to grow? The more I thought about it the more I realized that my expectation was more to do with what other people might think of my work than what I thought about it. I realized that growth is not just about learning new skills, it’s also about becoming confident in the work you produce. My daughter didn’t care what I thought about the story – she only cared about telling the story. I’m sure that as she becomes more confident in her reading skills she will care more about the story, but even then will she care about what others think of the story? Why should my photography grow any differently? What happens in our lives that makes us jump the necessary step of becoming confident in our own abilities without influence from the expectations of others?
My “Mentor” viewing artwork at her first gallery exhibition….