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15 - Mistakes

Take risks so you can make lots of mistakes.

Mistakes are good, as long as you're not photographing your best friend's wedding.

In a New Yorker profile of a jazz musician, it was written:

Mistakes can swing you off into a wholly new direction, and often it is better than the one you were going in.1

I often take beginning students on a night photography excursion.

One reason for doing so is that night photography is a genre some of them may want to pursue.

The more important reason is to model risk-taking.

They're doing something new, photography, in a challenging environment, night.

They expect their photographs will be terrible.

Many are duds, while there are a couple that are amazing.

The risk was worth it.

Make mistakes.

They're good.

The artist Milton Glaser spoke about the need for risk in the arts.

He calls it, continuous transgression:

Early in my career I couldn't wait to become a professional.

That was my complete aspiration in my early life because professionals seemed to know everything - not to mention they got paid well for it.

Later I discovered after working for a while that professionalism itself was a limitation.

After all, what professionalism means in most cases is limiting risks.

So if you want to get your car fixed you go to a mechanic who knows how to deal with transmission problems in the same way each time.

I suppose if you needed brain surgery you wouldn't want the doctor to fool around and invent a new way of connecting your nerve endings.

Please doc, do it in the way that has worked in the past.

Unfortunately in our field, in a so-called creative activity – I've begun to hate that word.

I especially hate when it is used as a noun. I shudder when I hear someone called a creative.

Anyhow, when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough.

After all, what is desirable in our field, is continuous transgression.

Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success.

Professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.2

Again, take risks and make mistakes.

They're good.

1 New Yorker.

2 Glaser, M. (2002, March 23). 10 Things I Have Learned [Speech at AIGA Voice Conference]. http://miltonglaser.com/pages/milton/essays/es3.html.