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On Being Trash

I had an epiphany recently.

I was looking at some of my photography and comparing myself to some of my favorite photographers of all time.

Below you can see some of their work:

(Photographers I want to emulate in their respective categories, @ is for instagram.

Urban landscape: @5.12, @mmeyers76

Nature landscape:

Street photography: @monaris_

Fine Art: Deepak Ghosh (my friend)


I also caught up with my friend who is a professional photographer and amazing at his job. We talked about some of the things he does to hone his skills.

At some point it hit me like an incoming freight train:

I am trash.

My photography is trash.

Now, this is not self-pitying. Nor is this necessarily a bad thing. I suddenly realized just how trash my photography is, and that this was a good thing. Now that I could see how trash my photos were, I could get good.

I look at it this way.

When people first start out taking photos, they buy a DLSR and point and shoot everything, and think every photo they take is good. In reality, these photos are not good. These beginners just can’t tell the difference. (I was here at one point.)

As people slowly get better, they start to understand what not to do, what rules to follow, what is a good photo, how to copy, what makes a photo good. At some point they might find a photographer that they really look up to. And about 1-2 years in of seriously pursuing their art and improving (I’d only say 1 if you are pursuing it seriously, consistently, and putting in a lot of time), they suddenly realize that they’ve been trash the whole time, and not only that, but just how trash they really are.

This is a beautiful thing.

Think of anything in life that’s a hobby, job, or skill. When you first start out you don’t know anything. And it takes awhile to improve, and suddenly when you’ve passed a certain point after years of perseverance and hard work, you understand what quality means in that field when to beginners it is not immediately apparent.

To a novice software engineer, all code kind of looks the same. It’s hard to tell if code has gaping flaws if you’ve never encountered the consequences of those flaws before. But the experienced eyes of a software engineer who has been doing development for 10-15 years can see all the nuances and complexities, the underlying system design, potential future problems, bugs, best practices, all the reasons why this code is elegant and efficient and will do well and why that code is shit or buggy or has problems and will cause a fire and make the company go up in flames.

The trick to learning is to keep persevering, and to find people who are amazing at what they do and learn from them. To learn from those people, and not your peers. To compete with the best that exist in the world, and not your peers. I’ve learned that if you don’t think you are trash yet, you probably haven’t gotten to the point where you can tell that you are. The point is to realize that you are hot garbage (and how garbage), but then keep improving until you are garbage Level III.

Now I know I am trash, and that’s a beautiful thing.

🗑 <- my new spirit animal

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