That’s me in that photograph there.
I’m not a model and I’m sure I never will be, professionally. But for a brief hour or so, one morning in a classroom in Shanghai, I was.
I was in the classroom taking photography lessons from a very good teacher called Franc Peret.
Franc has been a big influence in me being where I am as a photographer today – either through what he taught me directly or by giving me such a solid foundation to build on with my own learning.
Here’s a question though. Why learn photography in the first place?
And to follow that up, why did I want to and why would you?
Why learn anything?
While I was learning photography from somebody else, I was also a teacher myself.
Not a photography teacher, but an English teacher. Below is a picture of me with one of my old classes, back in 2011.
My students were mainly adults paying for the lessons themselves, with the most common reason they gave for doing so being “I want to work for a foreign company”.
In all honesty, the English they were learning from me wouldn’t have been enough to get them that position all by itself.
The competition for good jobs in China is unimaginable, especially in foreign companies, and average-to-good English is not really a stand-out quality any more.
But that didn’t matter. They were still learning. They were at least getting closer to where they wanted to be. And if they couldn’t get all the way, they’d still make it further than they would have otherwise.
So, why learn anything?
To give yourself a better chance of getting where you want to be. Even if you miss, so long as you improved yourself, it’s not a waste of time.
Why I decided to learn photography
At the beginning of 2013 I read an article on Cracked, by a fellow named David Wong, that changed the way I think about life and how it should be lived.
If you’re keen on self-improvement, you may have read it too. If you’ve not, I would suggest you do.
The gist is that it’s not what you think that matters, or what you intend to do. All that matters is what you actually do.
Despite having wanted to be good at photography for years, before I read the article, I was in two minds about whether to even take the photography classes.
Immediately after reading the article, I knew I should.
Am I a better person having read it and taken the photography classes?
Impossible to say. But I am a better photographer.
So why learn photography?
It took reading an article to give me a kick up the arse, but the reason I decided to learn photography was the same as why my old students decided to learn English.
To get closer to where we want to be.
I’ll never shoot for National Geographic, just like most of them will never work for IBM. But I don’t need to. I have different goals. Continuing to shoot and write for this blog is one.
The photograph above features me (on the right) in Wuyuan, Jiangxi, China. Nobody wants to buy the pictures from that trip, but I loved being there and taking them – because that’s where I want to be.
Learning photography, English, or anything else is a never-ending process.
When I was taking photography classes, I was never waiting for the point to arrive when I could sit back and say “and now I’m better”.
I want to learn photography as a lifelong exercise. You make incremental improvements as the weeks and months rack up, but you enjoy the process too.
The act of going to an actual class can improve your general mood and outlook, make you meet new people, and motivate and inspire you in ways beyond what you signed up for.
It did to me as a photography student and I hope it did to my English students. I can say for sure that it did to me as a teacher, by the way.
So, why learn photography? Or anything else for that matter?
For me, it comes down to the following:
- getting yourself closer to where you want to be, even if you don’t make it
- improving your life as you get there, and not just when you arrive
How about you? Why did you learn photography? Let me know in the comments or hit me up on Twitter. 😀
… p.s. if you’ve found this post on why to learn photography inspiring and think others will too, why not share or pin it?