I’ve had the privilege of watching my now 20-year old son embrace photography as a passionate hobby. His method of learning to take creative pictures has been significantly different from my own. I am fascinated by the way he learns, and in this case, he has taught me a thing or two.

I spent years reading How-To books and camera manuals. I took a few classes through our local community college, the camera shop, and online. I worked hard to master the camera. I think I believed that if I could just get a handle on the technical aspects, making beautiful photographs would be easy. But all of this need to prepare and practice and get it right kind of got me stuck in some infinite loop, round and round, waiting and desperately wanting to make something that mattered. At the heart of creativity is the unbridled need to make and to show and to share; and these needs went largely unmet while I tried to master the camera.

My son, who has grown up in the smartphone generation, approached photography “backwards.” On more than one occasion I offered to teach him to use my dSLR but he always declined. I’ve set about explaining aperture and shutter speed, but all he wanted to do was take pictures, and he did just that, fearlessly. He started with the fun stuff – just jumped right in – and learned the technical stuff along the way as needed.  

Photography is art and we each have our own journey.

My path was slow and methodical for a long while, and now I am more carefree. I am just on the cusp of my best work, and I can feel this truth pulsing through my entire being. I have finally arrived at the fun stuff.  

I don’t know if photography will be lifelong hobby for my son, a part of his career or professional path, or simply a passing phase, but I am certain that taking pictures has shaped the way he sees, what he feels, and how he interacts with the world.

Thanks, Jacob, for teaching me life lessons about the order of things, where pictures and stories come first, long before rules and settings and modes.