10 Rules That Every Photographer Should Live By

10 Rules That Every Photographer Should Live By

Talking about how to be creative is difficult. There are many intangibles and few absolutes. Luckily, two phenomenal teachers put together a great list of rules in 1967.

Sister Corita Kent was a well-known artist and teacher in the Los Angeles area in the 1960s and 1970s. John Cage was a pioneer of modern music, known for his exploration of the boundaries of the very thing we call "music." Together, they created one of the most helpful and profound lists of rules I've ever seen for the creative mind. An old teacher of mine kept this posted outside his office door and I don't think a week went by where I didn't read through it. I find it indispensable.

Rule 1

"Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while."

Rule 2

"General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher. Pull everything out of your fellow students."

Rule 3

"General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students."

Rule 4

"Consider everything an experiment."

Rule 5

"Be self-disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way."

Rule 6

"Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail. There's only make."

I'm particularly fond of Rule 6.

Rule 7

"The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to something."

Rule 8

"Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes."

Rule 9

"Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It's lighter than you think."

"Be happy."

Rule 10

"We're breaking all of the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for 'X' quantitites."

Helpful Hints

"Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later."

Personally, I find this list to be among the most direct and concise in terms of addressing a rather difficult topic. What creative rules do you live by? How do you motivate yourself? Start a discussion in the comments and share your thoughts!

[via Brain Pickings]

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Wouter Oud's picture

I'll add "Try doing better after finishing a project, never before." to the list.

Isn't that the idea behind rule #8?

michael buehrle's picture

11. think outside the box. do something different than your used to

Or just get rid of the box entirely :)

Jim Hofman's picture

11. Forget 1 - 10. Don't live by other people's rules.

Rule #4 has always been my approach to the arts.

"Painting is a science and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature. Why, then, may not a landscape be considered as a branch of natural philosophy, of which pictures are but experiments?" - John Constable

Robin Browne's picture

Four and six could only come from a teacher, from California in the 60's.