Learning for Life


Creating goes hand in hand with learning. The day we say we have learned enough in order to be able to perform and express our creativity, we stop developing our creativity. As for myself I read as many photo books as I can get my hands on. It may be about Photoshop, it may be about other technical issues or – and that is more often the case – it may be photo books by other photographers, because nothing teaches me as much as looking at other photographer’s work. But my learning process doesn’t stop with pure photography related issues, even reading a novel may teach me something I can use in my creative process. I look at all kinds of artistic work, I listen to music, I search the web, and, not the least; I read a lot of books about creativity in itself. I also attend workshops and I teach workshops – which is just as much a learning process for me as for the students. I keep my eye open for any possibility to learn. Sometimes I get nothing out of it and sometimes I find a treasure of knowledge I can make use of.

Those who accept that learning is a never ending process develop an ability to grow beyond their present talents. Winston Churchill, considered to be one of the greatest orators of the twentieth century, was not born with a silver tongue. He began his career with pronounced speech impediments, and he could not speak extemporaneously. In order to compensate for these difficulties, he wrote all of his speeches and practiced delivering them before a mirror. Over years of practise and work, he continually learned.

Vincent van Gogh began painting when he was twenty-nine years old. He did not have an abundance of natural ability at the start. Hand-eye coordination did not come easily for him. But he knew how to learn.

The learning process may be filled with moments of failure, disappointments, and perhaps even embarrassment. Yet each failure can lead to greater competence when it becomes a basis for learning. It is only those who don’t believe in learning who assumes that failure is not a legitimate stage of development. They do not recognize that learning often means they may be «bad» before they get «good». To those willing to learn, though, perfect performance is not an issue; final results are. And the ability to create results is tied to learning. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well, the saying goes. One may add that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly until you can do it well.

We may all have various natural talents, but we can all learn and we can all grow. That’s why I think creativity is not connected to talent, but the willingness to learn. We all have creativity in us, as long as we are willing to look for it and learn so that we can express it.

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About Otto von Münchow

Photographer based in Norway
This entry was posted in Challenging Yourself, Creativity, Photography and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Learning for Life

  1. nonoymanga says:

    Good read, a classic street photography!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

  2. A terrific and very informative blog that has really made me think about the journey of learning that e photographers are on. Have you read Edward Bono’s book on Lateral Thinking, it was standard issue in my days at Uni

  3. niasunset says:

    Great writing, I agree with you dear Otto, your words always bring me the beautiful thoughts to my humble world. Thank you, with my love, nia

  4. Loved the blog and agree…..but for me the key piece of advice is to relax and enjoy. Learning, teaching or doing, just relax. For work or as you hobby, enjoy and have fun.

  5. I very much agree with you! It’s not just like this with photography, but also with writing, with music, with painting. People sometimes just expect to find a great talent in them from the start, but to be honest a moderately talented person with a strong will to apply herself will turn out a better artist than an extremely talented person who does not try so hard. Thanks for the inspiring post!

  6. Michelle Gillies says:

    I believe learning is what keeps us alive. When we stop learning there is nothing left.
    I have always taken on students in my work. I hope they have all learned something of value from me as I have always learned something from them.

  7. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    I think it is great to learn something new, I think you really have to have a passion for whatever it is you would like to achieve.
    Love the photo. 🙂

  8. crampmystyle says:

    Great post for a Monday morning Otto! I am forwarding on to my creative friends, colleagues and family members! As always, you continue to inspire me. THANK YOU!

  9. Real keys words: it should be a continuos learning process. And practicing. Not being afraid to make mistakes, which can be the starting point for a different perspective. We can learn from many different sources. Movies can teach a lot about editing, cutting, sequencing. From music we can get ideas of rhythm. From books ideas about stories. And learning is what makes it interesting.
    robert

  10. Wonderful post. I love the statement that “creativity is not connected to talent, but the willingness to learn.” Sooo true!

  11. Alli Farkas says:

    Perhaps the hardest part of creativity is simply getting started. The blank canvas, the untouched sheet of writing paper, the musical instrument sitting in the corner. If you sit there thinking about how to be creative, it won’t happen. Just DO SOMETHING, anything, and eventually through action some result will happen even though you aren’t consciously instructing your brain to be creative. You can then evaluate the result, modify it, amplify it, or decide to go in another direction. The only prerequisite is to have some kind of result to work with. No need for it to be a perfect result, just one you can contemplate and play with.

  12. Taking risks are important to creativity as well. Thank you for reminding us about the hand-work of creativity! – Renee

  13. starlaschat says:

    I think over the years I’ve had to let go of some of my ways of being a perfectionist to be willing to learn some things from the ground up. To be willing to do somthing and to not be very good at it, but to be willing to learn. I now enjoy the learning proccess and to learn along the way.Thank You great thoughts on creativity.

  14. Excellent post and I couldn’t agree more. I am continously devouring boks as a way to further learn the craft.

  15. mcolmo says:

    Agree 100% Learning is an on-going process. There are always new things to learn and read about out there.

  16. David Hall says:

    Another fine post Otto. I think that learning how to see, also is an important part of the process and we can learn a lot from other peoples photos.

  17. This is a wonderful post. Right now I’m wrestling with my feelings over having failed an attempt, and your reminder that this is part of learning has lightened my heart today. Thank you.

  18. Sunshine says:

    .
    Learning to be the best we can be is the way we should live our entire life.
    Thank you for the reminder. 🙂
    Have a happy week!! 🙂

  19. photographybyjoylene says:

    So true! I try to learn something new each day, no matter how small. A nice read that some might enjoy is “25 Lessons I’ve Learned about Photography…Life” by Lorenzo. I downloaded it onto Kindle Fire from Amazon for free. It’s a nice read, not too long, but uplifting and inspiring. As always, I enjoy your words of wisdom Munchow!

  20. What a wonderful post to read first thing my Monday morning, Otto! I completely agree! My life would be a lot smaller and much less a rich experience if I didn’t 100% consider myself a lifelong learner. I feed my curiosity and that may actually be one of my best attributes. Sometimes I can’t even find another person to share a good dialogue about something of interest, but I can fuel my own imagination and stay vital in older (can’t say “old” quite yet) age through reading and taking a class now and then just for the joy of the experience. I think that blogging has become my discussion group of sorts! And to find that expression at this stage of my life when I sometimes need to stay closer to home to care for my parents is truly a marvel! I learn from you, too. So thank you. Debra

  21. janechese says:

    Thank you Munchow. i had a wonderful teacher in Design class that called this business of learning from various sources “the trickle effect” – a blending of information that would enhance all the individual areas of study.

  22. 1cruzdelsur says:

    Thank you Otto for explaining with simplicity, I understand and it is very useful to read your post…

  23. souldipper says:

    If humility is the willingness to remain teachable, may I ever be humble! 😀

  24. Wonderful post Otto! You are so inspiring to write these words. I read a quote recently by Nadia Comaneci that will definitely help in my search for creativity: don’t run away from a challenge. Instead run towards it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet. Maybe this quote will help others too if there is fear of disappointment, failure, embarrassment. Thank you!

  25. artblablablablog says:

    Beautiful photo, full of joy. Great post Otto! I am always struck by the number of people who graduate college and never pick up another book for the rest of their lives. Sad. Life is a learning process.

  26. artblablablablog says:

    As an aside Otto, I am haunted by the woman in the middle of your heading. Fantastic photo! And she terrifies me. 😉

  27. As always, I enjoy the obvious thought you put into each and every post, Otto 🙂 Lovely read.

  28. A.Barlow says:

    Some very well thought out points. To an extent I think creative people are just creative and anything that drives that – or doesn’t – will eventually push that creativity along.

  29. Cafe says:

    “I think creativity is not connected to talent, but the willingness to learn” <– I love this so much. I'm sure a lot of people don't believe in their ability to be creative b/c they think they are just not "born with it." This is a great message 🙂

  30. likeitiz says:

    Yes, we should never stomp out our natural curiosity to discover and learn new things. It makes life so much more exciting. Thank you, Otto.

  31. Nice example with Vincent Van Gogh and great smiles on the photo.

  32. An excellent lesson! I concur, we never stop learning until we stop living! But choosing to think about our lessons and learn from them is what sets creative & successful people apart. Love the candid happy shot!

  33. Patti Kuche says:

    “. . . worth doing poorly until you can do it well” is such a wonderful maxim reminding me of the endless failed attempts when cooking for myself and others. It was starve or learn. A never-ending process for body and soul and thank you Otto for the nourishment!

  34. Phillip says:

    Great post Otto! We all should be seeking to learn something new. Wonderful shot.

  35. starlight says:

    wonderful post.. i agree, it is always our willingness to learn that we cultivate the creativity in our inner self..

  36. Geoff says:

    I recall a conversation I had with a man of middle-age who declared that science had taught us all there was to know and was essentially finished … that all new developments were simple extensions of what was already known.

    Where do you go in a conversation like that? I realised I had more chance convincing the paint to peel from the wall and I felt deeply sad for his certainty.

  37. dearrosie says:

    We too can be orators like Winston Churchill. We just need to believe in ourselves enough to know that perfection will come with practice. Nice!

    Love the photo! The more I look at it the more layers I see. I’d love to know what just happened. Why is the girl on the left giggling like that while looking at the girl next to her…?

  38. A beautiful image, Otto, and a great approach to take in photography and life, in general,

  39. Fergiemoto says:

    Those are powerful words, “creativity is not connected to talent, but the willingness to learn.” I agree!!

  40. “if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly until you can do it well.” – i really appreciate this, sir Munchow. gee… ^^

    and the excellent conclusion, “creativity is not connected to talent, but the willingness to learn.” yes, creativity requires a lot of work and the openness to learn each time. from every encounter, don’t you think? 😉 cheers!

  41. The Hook says:

    More words of wisdom and remarkable pics… Nicely done.again.

  42. Learning motivates us to pursue life with passion. Beautiful post my friend…Thanks.

  43. Fantastic post, I actually love all your posts – so much inspiration and so many beautiful images.

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