What is more important, the means or the end?
I’ve been wondering what matters most: The end result of what we’re working towards or the means by which we get there.
In terms of photography, this question often drifts into my mind as I’m processing images. I often question how much processing is too much. Is there a point where as a photographer, I can become too reliant on raw, Lightroom and Photoshop to produce the end result. It’s often an endless debate with myself that has no conclusion. I came across this quote from Abraham Lincoln which sparked my thinking but it also brought a line of truth that really struck a chord with me;
‘If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.’
Thinking about means and ends brought me to honesty some reason, at a deeper level they seem interconnected. Honesty meaning; displaying integrity and being truthful. I’ve found that being honest with myself is the best technique and method I can use to achieve the desired balance between means and ends. Only we know what we believe and whether or not we’re honouring it and how truthful we are being to ourselves. Thomas Jefferson once put it as honesty being the first chapter in the book of wisdom. When I’m out shooting a scene the first thing I look for is how I want the end result to look and the second is how I achieve that.
The speed and pace that we seem to live in these days is just getting faster and faster. Decisions need to be made quickly and they all appear to be important in some way, shape or form. While I was out looking a for composition recently it dawned on me that I was searching for something, rather than taking in what was in front of me. Honesty, wisdom, means and ends all seemed to be forgotten in the desire to get a task done. What I need to be able to do was switch my brain off, to slow it down, completely change my mind-set or adjust my state of mind.
A mind-set is a powerful thing. It can encourage us, influence us, persuade us and even stop us from doing things. It can have a big impact on the decisions we make and how we make them. So the question is, what is the best way to achieve a change in mind-set (or slow brain time) so I don’t miss those exciting compositions that a photographer can wait days to capture.
While wandering up a creek at Bathunes Gully, I managed to change my mind-set and switch to slow brain thinking. All of a sudden a more meaningful composition formed in-front of me. It became more about seeing creative beauty than following structured rules of composition. I can honestly say the resulting photography was created from a focus of means rather than ends.