Saturday, March 26, 2011

Comfort Zone

Several years ago I took a course from Mark Power at Photoworks in Glen Echo Park titled, "Contemporary Ideas in Photography." In many ways it was a photography life-changing event.

The structure of the course was incredibly simple. One evening Mark would pick a particular genre such as landscape, nude, theatrical or whatever. He would then give a lecture about what was happening in contemporary photography in that genre with lots of examples of contemporary work and we'd discuss it. He would give us topics fitting that genre and the next week we'd bring in work of our own to discuss.

I also have to give a big thanks to my classmates who were creative, supportive, articulate, and trusting. They helped make the course even more inspirational and effective.

I really enjoyed the course at the time but I don't think I had any idea what a profound effect it would have on me as a photographer. Not to oversimplify but it got me out of the comfort zone in which I had been photographing for the last 40 years. I realized it was OK to explore color, surrealism, Photoshop manipulation, and other means of expression.

Over the years I have judged many camera club competitions. One of the criticisms that I most frequently gave was that they were doing the same thing today that they were doing 10 years ago when I last judged a competition for them. They were stuck in a creative comfort zone time warp.

After taking Mark's class I realized, so was I.

The "Comfort Zone" is seductive. It's comfortable, easy, not really challenging, warm and fuzzy. It's also a blinding rut. It cuts off your ability to see the broader world around you, to experience creative failure and success. Creative failure can be as exciting as creative success. You have an idea or concept, you explore it and it doesn't work. So what? You now know something that doesn't work. You never know when something that you learned in the "failure" will be the right solution for something else later on.

I guess the point of this rambling is to encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. Nothing bad happens. It's OK. Today, you don't even have to go to the trouble of developing film. All you risk is time and pixels. The time is well-spent and the pixels are cheap and recoverable.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


While I have been remiss in taking advantage of Flickr in the past, I have decided that the time has come to get with the program. To wit, I've placed a number of the "Veruschka" images on my Flickr account. You can see them at