Lesson from the Scene: Can it get any more competitive? by Stanley Leary


by Stanley Leary

Figure 1
"Look to your left, look to your right--when you graduate, only one of you will be there" was what incoming freshmen used to hear at Georgia Tech. The numbers showed that was true. 
If everyone who was to be a photographer was required to have a college degree the speaker on that first day might say in this incoming freshman class of 100 only 10 of you will graduate.
As I look around at other photographers work, I am blown away at their talent. What is really scary is seeing new faces with so little experience, but are talented as well.
Figure 2
“déjà vu all over again!” -- Yogi Berra
This weekend I will be on the sidelines of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games. On the sidelines of these games will be close to a hundred photographers. You can hear the clicks of many of those around you shooting as if they are all in sync with one another.
While you might say I am having a midlife crisis at the age of fifty, actually I have lived with this fear most of my career. After tonight's game many of these photographers will pick up newspapers, magazines and surf the web for not just their photos, but to look at their competition.
We will all grade our work along the side of the other photographers. At a certain point in your career you start to see that most everyone has the "big play" of the game. This is when you realize it was certain amount of luck that some people were in the right place at the right time.
The funny thing is that some of my friends are always lucky. Over time I realized they were not lucky they just understood the game better than I did and knew how to position themselves to get the best angle on the play of the game.
You can easily get very depressed in this profession. It is very difficult to rise above the competition. The day you arrive at the top is followed by the next day of another photographer finding something new and better to help make their photo stand out from the rest.
We desire something truly revolutionary, but that really never happens. "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 1:9
This bible verse is what helped inspire Ernest Hemingway to write the Sun Also Rises in 1926.  Life can be boring if we let it be. With almost unlimited TV stations and radio stations many of us still will flip through the channels and say there is nothing on we want to hear or see.
If we are not careful we can be doomed to a life of dullness.  
Can you ever get enough? We want more. In the American culture materialism consumes many of us. 
Whatever seems to be new “has been already in the ages before us.” So how do we handle this?
Figure 3
I have two suggestions:
Shoot for yourself
Years ago my photographer friend Ken Touchton was talking about a story he was wanting to do. Another friend looked at him and said that has been done before, to which Ken said, but I haven't done it.
One of the best reasons to push forward is for yourself. You need to have these experiences and live life to its fullest.  Tonight I will enjoy myself because I am trying to get the photos and do my very best.
After the game the world will most likely benefit from all the photographers on those sidelines. They will benefit also by the different sports writers, because each of them have a slightly different perspective and this is what the audience looks for.
Turn to God 
"Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind."
Ecclesiastes 12:13
For me it is my faith that helps me to endure this world. Ever since man was kicked out of the Garden of Eden, life has been weary and boring. However by living in relationship with God then all this life can have new meaning.