I think as photographers and creatives, we can learn a lot from scientists. Scientists, when trying to discover “truth” — they experiment. They don’t always take conventional wisdom for granted. They challenge pre-existing beliefs, and see whether it is correct or not.
The same thing should go for our creative endeavors. Rather than asking others for their opinion, or reading books on a subject, we should experiment for ourselves. Because with self-experimentation comes self-truth. What is true for others may not necessarily be true for us. The only way to discover this is through experimentation.
Experiment with everything in your life
I’m quite obsessed with diet and fitness. I remember when I started to work out, everyone told me that milk, dairy, and cheese was good for you— so I started to eat a ton of it.
When I was younger that worked fine, but as I got older, my stomach started having issues. I realized that 99% of Asians have some sort of lactose intolerance (smaller percentage of whites have lactose intolerance). A lot of these fitness writers are white, and therefore can tolerate lactose. However it didn’t work for me. After cutting out lactose and dairy from my diet, I felt much better.
For fitness, I was always told that doing a lot of reps and sets was the key to getting stronger. However doing that at the gym, I was always bored. I heard instead of the “1-rep max” concept from powerlifting, that everytime you go to the gym, you just try to increase the maximum amount of weight that you can lift. Everyone told me that it was dangerous and a bad idea, but I just experimented. And over the course of 5 years, I was able to raise my deadlift from 200 pounds to over 400 pounds. And have sustained far fewer injuries than I did in the past.
One of my passions is writing. I’ve experimented whether it was best to write in the morning, afternoon, or evening. I’ve tried everything— and discovered through self-experimentation that I write the best in the morning (with a strong espresso).
With my photography, I experimented with lots of different styles. I tried the “fishing technique” (finding an interesting background, waiting for interesting people to step into it), tried shooting black and white with flash (inspired by Bruce Gilden), experimented shooting with a rangefinder and later film, and also experimented with different format cameras (medium-format, 35mm, etc).
At the moment I found that I prefer shooting on a digital Ricoh GR II camera— I love the compact size, the portability, and image quality. I also love how it frees me up when I’m shooting.
All of these things I discovered about myself wasn’t through asking others for their opinion. Rather, it was through self-experimentation that I was able to discover what works best for me.
I encourage you friend to try your best to find the truth for yourself. Don’t blindly take what blogs (including this one), social media, TV, or society tells you what to do and what not to do.
Everyone is different. Everyone has different preferences, life experiences, and personalities. What works for one person won’t work for you.
I still do believe it is a good idea to learn ideas from others, and always ask others for their opinions. But use this to stimulate your own ideas for yourself, rather than listening to what everyone thinks is best for you. Because nobody knows yourself as well as you do.
At the end of the day, there is no “right” or “wrong” in the objective sense. But there is a “right” or “wrong” for you.
Discover that for yourself, and treat your life like a series of experiments. Try a daily experiment, a weekly experiment, or a monthly or yearly experiment. Everyday try to get 1% closer to the truth, in order for you to find happiness, purpose, and a motivation to live.
So go forth and experiment!