There’s something about photography that can cause it to become deeply intertwined with our lives. Of course some folks are professional photographers and their image-creating skills, as well as their ability to market those skills, are fundamental contributors to their economic well-being. For many other people who’s livelihood does not depend on earning a living from their images, photography is still an integral part of their lives. The simple fact is that life is far more interesting with BAGS, and photography often plays a key role with them.
What are BAGS? Big, audacious goals. These are the insights, experiences and accomplishments that we pursue in life that give our lives context, meaning, and dare I say – purpose.
For many of us our Big Audacious Goals are directly linked to photography. We yearn to journey to a far off land and participate in a photographic adventure. Perhaps it is a photo safari in Africa. A visit to the Galapagos Islands. Hiking in the Andes Mountains to view Machu Picchu. Or capturing architectural wonders in Europe, Egypt or Angkor Wat.
Others have photographic passions that lead them into natural settings to experience and document birds, flowers and other living things.
Being totally immersed in human-kind in large urban environments and capturing those experiences with street photography is the life-blood of many.
Not all of our BAGS are photography related, but our images do serve as keepsakes of them. I think the ‘selfie’ phenomenon that rages around us has some foundation in our need to document our experiences through the magic of photography.
I have fond memories of conducting personal effectiveness seminars and encouraging participants to create BAGS for themselves. Reminding them that it doesn’t take any more time or effort to create a Big Audacious Goal than it does to write down a small, timid one. The goals we choose, create the life we live. If any of us need proof of that, one only has to investigate the adventures of John Goddard and his ‘life list’. Something he created as an inspired 15-year-old boy with 127 items on it.
None of us need worry about comparing our goals to those of John Goddard, or anyone else for that matter. Our goals are only relevant to us, and their level of personal audacity is defined by where each of us find ourselves today.
Life is not about wasting precious time with competition and meaningless comparisons to others. Self-discovery is the path of personal growth. Comparisons to others only serves to undermine our ability to reach our personal potential.
Everything in life comes with a price. And, every goal comes with a simple, personal question, “Am I prepared to pay the price to achieve my goal?” That price may be investing hours of your time to learn and experiment with a certain genre of photography. It may be making fundamental shifts in our personal spending habits so we can save enough money for that photo safari to Africa. Or embarking on a rigorous program to improve our physical fitness so we can make the trek to Machu Picchu.
Nature teaches us that once the process of growth stops, the process of death and decay begins. If our BAGS are ever evolving – each of us will keep growing. We need not concern ourselves in the slightest with the results that we generate. The value is in the doing. In the effort, and in the act of creation. Whether anyone else likes an image we create, or whether anyone is willing to purchase a copy of that image from us, are moot points. Opinions and results are external to us. These transient, external things do not aid in our self-discovery and personal growth.
As we achieve our goals, it is important to take some time to celebrate each one. Then, we need to let each of them go like a leaf falling from an autumn tree, and pay them no more heed. Holding on to them enslaves us to the past. It is time to move on – to keep growing.
All photographs were captured hand-held using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO OpticsPro/PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
Article is Copyright 2018 Thomas Stirr. Images are Copyright 2014-2018 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or reproduction of any kind is allowed without written permission. Photography Life is the only approved user of this article. If you see it reproduced anywhere else it is an illegal and unauthorized use.
Hello Tom, I’m glad I found your Blog. I have owned a Nikon 1 J3 for a few years now and was thinking of going to Sony but I have 3 lenses for the Nikon and of course the Sony a5100 would cost $600 to $700 and with one lense only. So after reading your Nikon 1 page I decided to buy a J5 body and found one on Ebay new at a cost of about $370 shipping included. I’ll be using your blog to learn how to get the most out of the J5.
Since you already have experience with a Nikon 1 J3 you should enjoy the J5. The 20.8MP BSI sensor is noticeably better in terms of dynamic range and colour depth, and the J5 is better ergonomically as well. I still try to write one or two articles a month here at Photography Life as my schedule allows.
Tomas I wish to do say to you before I speak another word,,,,,,,,,,,,, Thank You. After reading your story on life lessons in relationship with photography, I quickly bookmarked this page. I had to bookmark your message of hope in the lonely world that make us human. I need to rewind your beautiful message when my shadows become to dark to see. For to many years I have stumbled around the never ending circle of confusion that clouded my mind and tainted my soul. So if you please, I will be going back to the one place that I will see the light though the thick density of the darkest Forrest. We as a society have dreamed since the beginning of time, from the time our brain developed into thoughts of BAGS. Unfortunately , most of us fall into the same deep hole that suck our beautiful minds into the afterworld that we cannot reach. This is where the story ends for most of us, no we are not dead but rather we are a walking testament of our former selves. We become old when we are not, we get hard and stale as we pretend to be ok. But we need not have you to tell me so, for I can see myself in the mirror. What have I become. Thomas your words can do no harm to the hurt. Thank you for giving back the inspiration that not only myself, but all who has a dream.
Thank you for sharing your perspectives and experiences. May we all dare to dream big dreams.
Thanks for adding to the discussion!
My BAGS are mostly related to my graduate work but photography has always been an important part of my life. It helps me be more aware of my surroundings and form memories of the present moment through the fast pace of my life. Nice read!
You might as well add “philosopher” to your self introduction at the bottom of the blog.
Your blog made absolute sense to me even without the pictures loaded.
Thanks for this article.
You’re welcome Sai!
My mantra for many decades has been “take reasonable risks”. I’ve often been pleasantly surprised and gratified at the outcomes of “risk” scenarios; the ratio of positive to negative is more than 9 to 1.
A corollary has to do with decision making: If you have 100 units of “decision-making energy”, put 5 into making the decision and 95 into making the decision work, and you will rarely make a bad decision.
And while we’re at it, how do we handle “obsessive worry”? I believe that at birth, we are allotted 5 units of “obsessive worry”. Once they are used up, no more are available. So in any potential “obsessive worry” situation, you must ask yourself whether or not it would be worthy of one of your allotted five units.
Thanks for adding to the discussion William – units of ‘obsessive worry’ and units ‘decision-making energy’ strike me as very useful concepts!
I read Spencer’s earlier post on “What makes a good photograph” before heading here,
finding it interesting that you raised what seems a good counterpoint to a third point
he raised – of making photographs that harmonize with the audience’s vision.
You wrote “If our BAGS are ever evolving – each of us will keep growing.
We need not concern ourselves in the slightest with the results that we generate.
The value is in the doing. In the effort, and in the act of creation. Whether anyone else
likes an image we create, or whether anyone is willing to purchase a copy of that image from us,
are moot points. Opinions and results are external to us. These transient, external things
do not aid in our self-discovery and personal growth.”
Spencer is making another point entirely, of course, but I somehow make a connection,
a link, between what he and you wrote separately. A journey of self-discovery and
a journey to making a good photograph — are they mutually exclusive to each other
or can we find a common ground or point of intersection for both? Certainly makes
for interesting thinking and pondering, don’t you think?
When it comes to client paid assignments I take great pains to “harmonize with the audience’s vision” to ensure that I produce the best possible work for my clients. My comments in the article were concerning images that I create outside of client-paid work.
I know your perspective Tom, and my query is concerning personal fulfillment. It goes without saying paid assignments have a well-defined market/audience along with their expectations, et al.
I think personal fulfillment is something that is different for everyone and is based on their experiences, where they find themselves in life, and their self-definition. Each of us goes through stages in life where certain aspects are more important to us than others. For example, achieving some initial material and career successes, then looking for more important things in life as we grow older.
I suppose part of your question goes back to the process of creating photographs and whether I consciously consider whether people will like what I create, and if worrying about what others may think of what I create impacts my creative process. I guess the short answer to that is no.
The joy for me is in the creation. I do whatever my spirit directs me to do. Whether other people like it or buy it really doesn’t enter into the creative process.
As you know I’ve been writing a number of eBooks for the past while, with four now finished and published, and a fifth one soon to be completed. As I’ve finished each of them I have briefly celebrated their completion, released them to the Universe so they can do whatever they will do, then moved on to my next goal.