I'm taking an e-course from talented photographer Tracey Clark. This week, Tracey challenged us to arrange a shot--to design a vignette and then take a picture. She admitted her reluctance to manufacture a photograph. At the same time, she recognized the power of practice--if we mindfully manufacture, then we better understand the elements of strong composition; and we see those elements more easily wherever we look. She let go of a self-imposed limitation in order to grow.
Interestingly, as I listened to Tracey's lesson, a voice inside me said, "Joy, you shouldn't set up a shot; you should let it organically form; you should see the beauty in the ordinary." (Notice the many shoulds in those last sentences.) I had the same self-imposed limitation as Tracey. But why? What was its purpose? Indeed, these limitations often have purpose, if only for a short time. When I became a student of photography, I wanted it to feel real and to come from my heart. I needed that no-manufacturing limitation--it gave me a sense of authenticity. But now I feel more comfortable and confident, and I understand that designing a shot doesn't lessen its value. I can let that restriction fade away.
In my early years as a teacher, I felt compelled to cover as much material as possible. I was hesitant to drop any topic, since they were all (so very) important. That limitation helped me create my classes and gave me a structure. But gradually that structure didn't work. I noticed students didn't learn deeply with so much crammed in a course, and I felt uncomfortable rushing through material. I refocused on the main topics, shedding elements each term.
What's important about this process is noticing when a limitation is no longer helpful and remembering that it's self-imposed. Then there's much freedom and growth from releasing the restraint. I've eased self-imposed restriction in many areas of my life: exercise (my heart rate must be really high to call this a workout), emotions (I can't let others see how I truly feel), style (I can't wear colorful scarves or big earrings), and living (I can't make mistakes in front of others). All these (parenthetical) limitations served me for a while, but then they didn't; so I chucked them. Why? Because I'm the one who imposed them; so I'm the one who can take them away. What an empowering realization.