I got a haircut today. The woman who cuts my hair is well connected in Moab, as hairstylists always seem to be. I shared the news of my gallery opening with her a couple days ago and she’s been kindly spreading the word to many of her clients. One of those clients, upon hearing the news, responded by asking, “Is he as good as Tom Till?” My stylist told her to check out my website and decide for herself – a balanced answer and a keen way to avoid possibly offending someone.
Still, the words have been sitting heavy with me all day. Am I as good as Tom Till? I can’t answer that. I have concluded that it doesn’t matter. Not one bit. Do I need to be as good as Tom Till or any other photographer with a more famous name than I? What is important is that my work – your work – stands on its own merits. We all strive to create the very best photography we can, right? Not once have I rolled out of my comfortable bed and headed out to photograph sunrise with the goal of making terrible photographs. I do my best with what I’ve got and I’m proud of my work.
I mentioned this to a friend at lunch that same day. She had an interesting perspective to share. Locals and other nature photographers may know who Tom Till is, but most of the tourists who visit Moab don’t know Tom Till from Bret Edge. They see a pretty photograph that they’d like to hang on their wall, possibly as a reminder of the great time they had in Moab. They couldn’t care less who signed the print. Hmm – something to think about.
I guess the bottom line is this: I (and you) don’t need to be as good a photographer as anyone else. We’re a society that likes to make comparisons and that can some times be a difficult hurdle to get over. In the end, we all create images that we like. If the public likes them, and they’re willing to hand over their hard earned cash for them, so be it. That, in and of itself, is some measure of success.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. It’s a bit of a strange topic but it’s really got me thinking and I’m sure some of you have an opinion or two to share. Let’s hear ‘em! And, if you’re not familiar with Tom’s work, I encourage you to visit his website.