The Art of Failure (And Being Willing to Try Anyway)

by Photography Master Teacher Scott Nidermaier

How many times have you ever found yourself looking down the greasy barrel of failure? Utter and complete shame, that uneasy sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach, sweaty palms, head spinning, combined with thoughts of, “How did I ever end up here?” and, “Why did I even bother?” and, “Will I be able to show my face in society ever again??”

Well, maybe not even so extreme. Failure comes in all shapes and sizes and in many moments throughout our day. Forgetting your homework, a quiz you didn’t know about, or even knocking over a glass of milk!

In photo class, we live and work with failure all the time. 83% of what you try inevitably won’t work. However, this is the greatest part of taking risks. We learn through the process. We grow, become stronger and more confident in the work. Then when that moment of success happens there is no greater thing. All your energy is shinning in that instant.

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This past summer we had lots of moments of failure in photo. We messed up film, experienced tons of trial and error in the darkroom, and missed shots. I reminded all of us that the more times you fail, the more chances you have to make an impact.

One instance toward the end of week two, I was encouraging a few of the girls to print large photographs. Our conversations about it went something like this:

S: “Come on! This is an amazing picture! Just imagine it in 16×20!”

A: “But what if I mess it up?”

S: “But what if you don’t. You’ll never know unless you try. Trust me, I am an expert and messing up, and just look at how awesome my photos are.”

In the end, we had 21 sheets of torched paper and 4 incredible prints.

So it’s true, if you never try you’ll never fail. But you’ll never succeed either. Might as well give it a go and have some fun along the way!

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