Don’t just dabble

I had an interesting (and pretty intense) conversation-slash-disagreement with my wife last night about the values of inculcating a love of music and culture for our six-year-old, and our approaches differ greatly; on hindsight it might just be the fact that I do take my “art” seriously, but I believe that one does not achieve that by adopting half-measures, by dabbling—dabbling is what hacks do.

Now I’m not against dabbling per se, but there is a significant difference in the psychology behind it. If, for example, you are already a photography enthusiast mainly interested in portraiture, and for shits and giggles you went ahead and photographed some flowers or fireworks because you haven’t really done that, then sure, it’s not a bad idea. In musical terms I guess the equivalent would be a trained pianist picking up another instrument, although I’m happy to be enlightened of better examples.

What I am against, however, is the “I’ll dip my toes into something furtively and see how I get on” kind of dabbling, simply because it denotes a kind of non-committal engagement without the investment of effort. I apologise if it sounds snobbish, and I’m not saying everyone should think this way or even agree with me, it’s just how my brain is wired. If you want to do something, do it well or at least, commit to it. Invest in the right environment to push yourself as far as you can, rather than do it half-heartedly and hope you’d like it. I would even go so far as to say it’s not unlike pursuing a rewarding relationship of any kind—being half-hearted will never get you a lover, or even a friend—let alone a love for the arts which is an intrinsically rewarding life experience.

You do not pursue the arts because you just happen do it, you do it because you need to, or at least want to.

Suzzi, Singapore, 2016. © 2016 Callan Tham. All rights reserved.

Suzzi, Singapore, 2016. © 2016 Callan Tham. All rights reserved.

I’m not sure if she understood what I’m trying to say, but we agreed on one thing: that Suzzi, pictured in the photographs above, is versatile and has an uncanny ability to work the camera beautifully. The joys of working with a person who can do that, to be able to practically make love to the camera, is beyond my meagre vocabulary. Those photos aren’t even the best of the lot, and you’ll see more soon, I promise. 

In the meantime, enjoy your week ahead, and I’m off to do a (non-photography) job that I haven’t done consistently since I left my editorial position last year. This should be fun.

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