For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of photography is the learning experience. It is a constant, never ending journey. My usual approach to learning is rather chaotic in so much that I do not have a grand plan. Generally, if I have an idea for a new photography project or image that requires me to learn new techniques or use new equipment I much prefer to simply jump right in and learn by doing as opposed to first reading the books, going to class or attending workshops. I value these resources, but for me they are generally a means to an end. Although this method can be extremely inefficient at times, I prefer it simply because once I commit myself to start working on an idea I need to build sufficient momentum to convert the thought into an end product. Since the idea was exciting when first conceived I want that excitement to remain right through to the final product. If I have to go away and learn new skills before starting work on the idea the excitement may start to dwindle and I will loose momentum to such an extent that it may never even get off the ground.
However, I have many examples of projects that have stalled because something other than the learning process has prevented me from simply jumping in. For example, although the majority of my photography work is digitally based, every once in a while the work of a photographer that is film based catches my attention and I get excited at the thought of creating a project that entirely uses one of my film cameras. Whenever this happens I might drag out my large format 4×5 view camera and blow through a pack of my favorite, severely out of date Polaroid PN-55 film to get “reacquainted”, or dust off my Hasselblad and load a roll of 120 film. However, very soon afterwards the excitement dwindles because I start to build my own mental roadblocks. I often tell myself that I don’t want to waste film that is often hard to find and very expensive. I worry about where I can get my film processed or if I should try to do it myself. I wonder if my scanner is good enough to give me the results I want or will I have to get the film professionally scanned. Etc. etc. etc. For some unknown reason, unlike my more chaotic approach to learning, I feel that I need to resolve each issue before I get started, meaning I usually don’t get started and the idea does not get off the ground.
And so I am thinking about this as I venture into a new field of photography. For some time now I have admired the work of many “low-fi” photographers who use inexpensive, often home made or modified cameras. I understand that although the inherent technical limitations of the equipment can give unpredictable results they can be a great tool in the creation of powerful, expressive images. Since this is a goal in my own photography I have been thinking about giving it a go. Therefore, I bought a Holga camera several weeks ago and 20 packs of 120 roll film with the intention of jumping in and learning as I went along. However, the demon mental roadblocks started to pop up and the camera sat on a shelf until last weekend when I realized that this was crazy and decided to take the camera with me on a walk with the kids to the park. I just started shooting, figuring that I would have to demolish one roadblock at a time. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have a starting point and now I just need to keep up the momentum.