I follow a number of great photographers. Joe McNally is high on my list of qualified people to speak about the process. The 10,000 hours. I subscribe to his blog and newsletter so I don’t miss a word or photograph.
Joe was the last staff photographer for Life Magazine before it was no longer a publication. He worked with some of the great photographers there and literally cut his photographic teeth during this time.
To me this excerpt from his blog post today sums it up well. Just because you can, does not mean you should… I’ll let Joe have the last work on this.
“Too often now, the excellence of photo technology preempts the understanding that there is knowledge and experience needed to put that formidable technology to good use. The game of making pictures is not an exercise in automation and pixels, but a decidedly human enterprise, rife with calculations and enterprise even the priciest camera cannot enact. Sending reporters with Iphones out into the world as a means of cutting through the expensive underbrush of publishing is not an answer.
A dear friend has recently switched venues as an editor, from a very visual publication to a emphatically non-visual one. He’s inundated now with writers who come back from the field absolutely imbued with the sense that their smart phone snap really “gets” the story and is the perfect visual complement to their peerless words. He sighs patiently, and assigns a photog. (I’ve been blessed with working with many writers who know the most stirring combination in all of storytelling is an effective combination of words and pictures. But then, there are those writers you grapple with occasionally. A TIME writer I was working with on a cover story once announced at the dinner table that “Joe’s pictures are the whores that sell the chalice of my words.” He was being utterly serious.)
The “10,000 hours” rule applies dramatically to photography, despite the allure of instantaneous success presented by the high technology. Earnie, a former military shooter and a fourteen year newspaper veteran, has logged that irreplaceable time as have his mates still at the paper. Just because there are motor driven cameras out there in the world churning out easily procurable, well exposed, sharp images doesn’t mean those images are pertinent, or even any good. Ya gotta have an eye and a heart behind the lens, and if that head and heart are possessed of wisdom and know how, that is to the betterment of everyone–the editors, the readers, and the all important advertisers.”