I'm currently reading an interesting book by Daniel Pink, called Drive. The book talks about what actually motivates people. And it turns out people aren't really most motivated by money, awards or recognition. What really gets people energized is an intrinsic motivation - the inner desire to simply be doing something for its own sake.
When an individual becomes immersed in that kind of activity, to the extent that they are thoroughly engaged, perhaps even lose track of time, Pink refers to it as being in the "flow".
Those of us who have a passion for photography understand that concept perfectly. We've all had the experience of being so thoroughly wrapped up in a shooting experience that the time literally flies. Or so fully immersed in processing that we are completely undistracted for hours at a time. That is the greatest joy of photography - to have the ability to pursue that aspect of photography which captivates us to the greatest extent. It is why we cheerfully arise at ungodly hours to catch the perfect light for that sunrise or nature shot. The rewards are so utterly satisfying.
Alas, not all photography experiences meet this wonderful standard. Professional photographers who make their living at this craft must sometimes make allowances. In photography there is the art, there is the passion, there are the opportunities that absolutely put you into the flow. And sometimes there is simply the work that must be done.
I recently participated in a fun and enlightening workshop at San Francisco's Four Seasons Hotel. Along with a small group, I photographed food, hotel rooms and meeting rooms at this exceptional facility. I learned some interesting things about photography for the hospitality industry. And I learned some things about myself.
While I came away with a nice selection of images - click here for the gallery - I did feel a bit of frustration. There is much about the hotel that is beautiful and interesting. But our assignment was to create some images that the hotel might actually want to use in its marketing campaign. They needed to show certain rooms in a certain way. And I found that interesting as a practical exercise, but unexciting as a photographer. I wanted off the leash to capture some of the wonderful images I felt I was missing.
That was not to happen. But the experience was enlightening. I am interested in many types of photography, and in ensuring that I have the skills to carry off the requirement of the moment. That is the practicality of life. But at the same time, I am learning more and more about what really excites me and involves me as a photographer, and how to create those kinds of photographic opportunities.
Is it possible to bring the passion and the practicality together completely? Maybe. Or not. But as long as the vision is there and the pursuit is understood . . . a photographic life can be very good.
The pictures I liked best from my day at Four Seasons are not likely to be used in a hotel marketing campaign. But the pleasure I got in capturing them was its own reward. I was in the flow, and there is nothing better.