Knowledge can be a strange thing. I’ve noticed that sometimes, the things we learn take on a life of their own over the years. What we thought we learned changes and evolves, and if we ever find ourselves going back to the original source material, then there’s a good chance that we’ll discover that we’ve been remembering what we learned differently.
As a thought experiment, consider something simple that you might have learned years ago, like a recipe. Perhaps it was something your parents taught to you as a child, and you’ve been making it just as they taught you—or so you think—for all of these years. If you still have the original recipe, go back and look at it. Are you still making it the exact same way it was written? Still using the same ingredients in the same amounts?
Or, are you adding a little more of this and a little less of that? Oftentimes, you will find much to your surprise that over time, your memories have changed. You went from adding one tablespoon of sugar to two tablespoons of sugar. Sometimes these changes are conscious decisions, but sometimes they’re just us misremembering what we’d originally learned.
Memory is a funny thing like that. Our minds are not granite tablets in which information is engraved for all time. There is a changeable nature to the things we pick up over the years—and that is why refresher courses are so important. Not always because we forget what we learned, but sometimes because the things that we’ve learned have changed.
It’s a phenomenon that happens everywhere, too. At work, in the kitchen, in photography. Everything you learn is subject to change with time. We think we’re doing the right thing because we’ve been doing it for years and years, but through the distortion of time, we’ve actually started doing things differently without even noticing.
What can we do about this? Well, maybe nothing at all, or maybe something! I think it’s important to go back to the basics every few years. Pick up a book about composition, about basic photography techniques, about art history, or about any of the things we need to learn as photographers. Start by giving it a quick look. Is everything the same as you remembered, or have little details become skewed with time?
If you discover some details are misremembered, now you have a choice to make. This really depends on each individual. Do you want to relearn what you knew the way it was originally taught to you, or are you happier using the methods that have evolved with time?
That’s the thing. Sometimes, even if it happens unconsciously, our methods evolve out of necessity. We add more and more sugar to the recipe with time because it improves the recipe. If you find the new ways are an improvement, then, by all means, keep using them! Nothing says that everything has to be done by the book. But sometimes you’ll find that the new ways aren’t the best ways—and that’s when it’s time to dig into the subject material and give yourself a good refresher. By refreshing ourselves every so often, we can make sure that our knowledge stays true rather than allowing it to distort without even realizing it.
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.