Comfort. Friend or Foe?

I think comfort has a dual purpose. It serves to increase confidence in our abilities to accomplish something. It allows us to sharpen what we know how to do very well. It can also make us complacent. A double edge sword.

Frozen Reflection

It’s human nature to seek comfort. It’s what we pursue in life in pretty much every aspect of it. It may be bliss but it also plonks us into a state of limbo. In my opinion, a dangerous way to live. Comfort and convenience are not always positive. We need to remember there is much more than what we are comfortable knowing or doing. This applies to everything but I am focusing here on photography specifically.

The genre of photography we gravitate to is part of who we are. This is a marvelous aspect of the craft. When we first start holding a camera, we don’t actively think about what we are pointing the camera at. We are focusing on the task of understanding how to use the camera and properly capture the light. Over time we become proficient with the camera and discover what we like, pretty much by chance and by elimination. We focus on the scene, subject, and moment. The more we photograph, the more the preferences emerge. It’s more or less an evolution or rather the peeling away of a blanket. A very heavy blanket.

As our technical knowledge of photography increases the more we understand our visual desires. I call this the sharpening of vision. It is an ever-evolving cycle. First, we start by photographing family or flowers or buildings or whatever strikes our fancy. We get better at it and it becomes second nature to previsualize and execute the shot. Comfort sets in. Yeah, we are GOOD.

We see other photographers’ work. We are enchanted. We are blown away. Two things happen here. We want to learn how to do it too or we think “wow I can never achieve an image like that”. It’s the latter that is the dangerous comfort we subconsciously wallow in.

So, what’s my point?

We should force ourselves out of this cocoon. Discomfort makes us sharper. It makes us pay attention and forces us to move forward. As the discomfort fades, enjoyment and proficiency increase. Another skill is now in our pocket. Satisfying comfort sets in again. This cycle is what enriches our life.

This quote from a favorite movie of mine summarizes this perspective.

“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Auntie Mame 1958

Those of you that have attended my workshops or presentations may recognize this sentence. I refer to it a lot. I try my best to keep it in mind for when I subconsciously decide I can’t accomplish something. It cracks me out of my comfort shell.

Embrace the discomfort. Enjoy the banquet.

© Silvana Della Camera

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