Work For Play

Betwixt Birth and Death [Explored]

A recent essay in Harper’s has me thinking about the importance of play in children’s lives, versus the demands that modern school systems are placing on them. Public education is so concerned with test scores and achievement, argues Malcolm Harris, that there’s little time to let kids be kids.

Now, take that into art and photography. What’s the balance between cramming your brain with technical information and learning by accident?

Photography education is fine. It feels like you need to learn all you can, especially at the start, to be a “good” photographer. But I would warn that too much of that leads you into birds and blooms – tricks instead of a voice and a viewpoint.

I think the balance should be like 10/90, formal technique education versus experimentation. Learn a little, but play a lot. Pick up a book, grab your camera, and try to recreate what you like. Be a photography kid.

The school system my kids are coming in to kind of terrifies me. With lower funding for music and art class, and more rote memorization and “teaching to the test,” there’s little room for kids to enjoy their time in the classroom. Summertime at school? Yuck. Adults don’t like that much pressure – why would children?

So it goes when you pick up a camera. Don’t be so burdened with learning all the technical stuff that you don’t stumble on a new (or “you”) way of doing things.

All my best techniques were picked up by accident – me just playing around, shooting for fun.