I love this notion of “tabula rasa” (clean slate philosophy).
What does “tabula rasa” mean?
The basic notion is this:
Everyday, approach your photography as if you had an empty slate, an empty mind and approach.
In Zen/Taoism they call this “beginner’s mind” or “child’s mind”. We start photography without preconceived notions. And the more concepts we develop in our mind, we often become trapped in dogma (our own dogma, and the dogma of others).
So if your goal is to stay inspired to make photos until you die at age 120, it seems an ideal strategy is to treat everyday like its your first time in photography.
Algorithms, AI, machine learning
An interesting cross-pollination notion I got from AI/machine learning:
In AlphaGo, the AI had many new innovations that made even the masters of the game of GO rethink the rules/strategies of the game.
For example in the game of Go, there are many moves considered “ugly” or “bad”. Pros frown on certain moves. But AlphaGo was able to innovate many new moves and strategies, and this is very interesting because it became a learning moment for us humans:
- Always challenge convention
- Recognize there are still many new innovations to be discovered. AlphaGo overturned nearly 1,000+ years of traditional Go wisdom.
- Learn from the masters, but don’t blindly take their wisdom for the ultimate truth. Seek to discover deeper levels of truth (I call this “truthiness”— discovering a deeper degree or depth/level of truth, as there is no ultimate truth).
AlphaGo learns from scratch (tabula rasa), and learns via self-play. And through a very rapid iterative process, it learns new approaches, strategies, and ideas.
And the “tabula rasa” notion is essential—
Start with a clean slate (no preconceived notions) and discover new truths.
In the past, they literally used wax tablets to write on. And when you were done (or needed more space), you would wipe the wax tablet clean.
Perhaps this is a good approach for our mental/creative hygiene — keep our mind fresh, clean, and ready to imprint new ideas (but not to keep them forever).
Applied to photography
- Learn from the masters of photography, but challenge them and their thoughts, and strive to discover new truths. And eventually you gotta kill your masters in order to learn and grow.
- Always test “common wisdom/knowledge”. Rebel against what you learn; never take anything for fact or ultimate truth, no matter how “qualified”, “knowledgeable” or “legitimate” the photographer/teacher/curator is.
- Follow your own gut, intuition, and instincts in photography. Never let anyone else hold you back!