I took a street photography course last month with Sam Javanrouh, the photographer behind the excellent photoblog Daily Dose of Imagery. Javanrouh posted a picture every day for ten years from July 2003 until July of this year, attracting 1.3 million yearly images. He still posts occasionally on his Tumblr blog.
What Javanrouh taught us that day applies to photography, and a whole lot more.
- Learn on the street. Don’t teach street photography in a classroom. Get out there on the street and actually do it. We all brought our equipment, and learned by doing with someone who could guide us in real-world conditions.
- Learn in community. The size of the group, less than a dozen, was genius. There were enough of us that Javanrouh could teach the group, but we were small enough that he could also give us individual attention. It was the right balance of community and individual focus.
- Look around you. Javanrouh taught us not to ignore a scene just because we had photographed it before. Conditions are always changing, and you may see something completely different in a building or streetscape you’ve seen hundreds of times before. See with fresh eyes. There is always something new.
- Know your stuff. It’s not complicated, but you can go a lot further in photography if you know your equipment and some basics such as good framing techniques, aperture mode, RAW format, and post-processing. The basic skills can take you a long way.
- Take the time. It was a luxury to spend three hours walking and taking pictures. The course gave us all permission to do what we love doing in the first place, but never take the time to do because we are too busy.
- Model what you teach. I can never look at Javanrouh’s work without being inspired. Seeing someone who is farther along is very motivating, especially if that person remembers being a novice and is willing to teach you what he knows.
- Learn as a teacher. It was evident that Javanrouh himself was being taught by other great photographers as well. To be a good teacher, you have to be a good learner.
I learned a lot from that photography course, and I’m thinking about how some of the principles apply in life and ministry as well.