One of my favorite quotes was by the legendary Bruce Lee. His quote was “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own" The quote can apply to so many things in life and even in one's photography. When I look at the quote I see three elements that are very powerful and meaningful. When it comes to photography I like to break down the quotes into each specific element, studying them, and apply them to my life.
The first element of the quote states that one should absorb what is useful. In photography, there are so many things that a creative person can study and obtain for his or her art. However, the question is, what is useful? Of course, the answer to that question is different for each individual. I see so many photographers that fail to absorb what is really useful. They feel everything is useful or important. The reality is, not everything is useful or even important. Many times we do not need the latest and greatest equipment, gadgets, and spend money on things that do not bring true value. I have seen some photographers spend so much time and energy on nonproductive adventures and materialist items that are not helpful and bring no real or productive value to their craft. There are those that devote a great deal of money on repetitive activities that bring no real value to the development of one's photography. Some photographers equate being extremely busy and spending money on what they believe will improve their skills as a useful benefit, but in reality, it is a waste of valuable time and energy that could be used more productively.
The second part of the quote is disregarding what is useless. I actually love that part of the quote because I am all about ridding myself of things that I find useless. Useless things could be how I spend my time and money, ineffective communications, wasteful research, interacting with unsupportive people, and trying to revive worthless past practices that really are not productive. One of my latest productive actions involves Facebook. Using Facebook as well as Instagram to market my photography products and services was a waste of time and money. I was able to see that there was no value in continuing to use the social media outlets for my business and advertise my brand. Using Facebook and Instagram was a waste of time and money. I decided to discard Facebook as a marketing tool and unpublished my Facebook page. I actually deleted many other posts about my photography business, because I realized that many people were never really interested. Of course, I don't need to waste my time on such people.
The third element consists of adding what is specifically your own. Bruce Lee was a master at that. In his martial art practice, he studied all he could from others, hacked away the things he found useless and used what he determined was useful for him. He made his martial art practice and study uniquely his own. The art of photography is somewhat similar. A great photographer studies other artist and works hard to improve his skills. Over time, a great photographer will learn what is useless and what is useful. He or she will eliminate what is not needed and focus on what will help him or her improve their skills. By doing so, he or she is free to create more effectively. Their work becomes a part of who they are and is uniquely their own.
Bruce Lee's quote has always been a great quote I that feel it can be applied to not only in photography but in life itself. I personally do not like wasting my time, energy, money, and life on useless activities. I do enjoy ridding myself of things and people that do not help me grow. There is nothing wrong with making things in your life uniquly your own; even in your own photograpy.
Until next time, keep shooting!