Learning to photograph and the value of competitions.

Many people ask me about the usefulness of photography schools, photography workshops that will take you to “the next level”, and competitions.
My opinion is don’t take them too seriously.
They will certainly help you become a good photographer, and they will certainly prevent you from becoming a great one.

You will not develop your own voice, but instead produce images that conform to current trends and there will be little in them that is any different to any other photographer.
Go into classes and competitions to educate yourself and not to be educated.
Think: ” my education is in my own hands”. Write it out and nail it where you will see it every day.
If you took the work of any of the great photographers (Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston, Gary Winogrand) and entered them in a competition their images would mostly get a “not accepted”.
Yes, you have to learn your craft. But once learned I urge you to take a torch to what you know and what you are expected to do and burn it to the ground.
In 99% of your work you will fall face forward in the mud but in that remaining one percent you will have work that wipes the floor with the competition/school trained because what you have will come from a genuine vision. And don’t fret if those trained through competitions and schools don’t “get” your work. If you want useful feedback there are several ways to do that. More on that next time.

In the search for your own voice don’t compromise, don’t take prisoners, shoot to kill.