Friday, 15 April 2011

Five Finger Exercises

There's an old joke that I like very much, which can be varied to taste. A man is walking along the street in New York and asks a musician in the street, "Can you tell me how I can get to Carnegie Hall?" The musician answers, "Practice, baby, practice!" Sometimes the musician is a classical virtuoso like Jascha Heifetz, sometimes it's a jazz legend like Miles Davis, and sometimes it's just a busker, but the answer is always the same: "Practice!"

It seems most aspiring artists, of whatever stripe, choose to ignore the significance of practice -- it's boring, it's too much like work, it requires an uncongenial level of self-discipline. That's why most aspirants, however talented, never get to Carnegie Hall. They prefer to believe in (and blame) luck. But, in the retort also attributed to various "lucky" bastards, "It seems the more I practice, the luckier I get!"

It's no different with photography. You can't expect to see pictures unless you constantly practice visualising them, and you can't expect to capture the pictures you see unless you constantly practice using the camera. It's that simple; it's like playing scales, or sketching. Except, of course, it's nowhere near as boring.

Now, I don't know where the photo equivalent of Carnegie Hall is, and I also know that, wherever it is, I won't be going there any time soon. But, like the busker in the joke, I'm here to tell you to "Practice, baby, practice!" Get out there and take some pictures.


Martin H. said...

Well, I'll be doing just that on our Cornish holiday, which begins tomorrow. In the meantime, Mike, you have been an inspiration, in a planetary and dental kinda way.

Tony_C said...

Oh, yes, Mike, and I LOVE the one about the classical musician (can't remember who it was)who was hailed as a genius in a review of a performance and commented, "I practice fourteen hours a day for forty years, and NOW they call me a GENIUS!"

Mike C. said...


That's a good one, and illustrates the point perfectly. Talent is commonplace, "genius" is the willingness to work talent into gold.