The Street Less Traveled

“Life is difficult”, is the first sentence in the 1978 classic The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. He states that this is a very important truth that we need to deal with because once we know and understand that life is difficult, and most importantly, once we truly accept that life is difficult,  then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

But instead of accepting that truth, he says, most of us just complain how difficult our life is, as if life was supposed to be easy and without any problems and somehow there is a conspiracy that is making our life, and not any one else’s’, really difficult.

The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness. ” – M. Scott Peck

© Juan Jose Reyes

Life is a series of problems, but is not the problems that make life difficult. It is the fact that we avoid confronting the problems, because doing so is a painful process that we don’t want to go through. We procrastinate. We don’t want to delay gratification; we want gratification now and delay the problem for later. Maybe it will even go away. But they rarely do.

“It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually.” – M Scott Peck

© Juan Jose Reyes

So what does all this have to do with street photography? Well, I think there is a lot of what is in the book that can be applied to my street photography, because street photography is difficult. In fact, i think it is very difficult. I think this is an essential truth that we have to accept. Doing street photography very often entails a long series of bad photographs but is not the bad photographs that make it difficult. It is the fact that we avoid confronting those bad shots.

“If we know exactly where we’re going, exactly how to get there, and exactly what we’ll see along the way, we won’t learn anything. ” – M. Scott Peck

© Juan Jose Reyes

© Juan Jose Reyes

Street photography is about discipline and delaying gratification because first we have to learn to wait. Wait for the right moment, the right subject and the right light. Wait for the right combination. And if after all that, after we waited patiently for all the elements, the picture we took is still not great then we have to learn to wait for the next one and discard this one. But discarding the bad ones is a painful process that most of us prefer not to go through. It is much easier to justify whatever we’ve got and complain about it just like Mr. Peck says we do with the problems in our life.

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”- M.Scott Peck

© Juan Jose Reyes

I think is important to accept  the fact that street photography is difficult because  only then we will be mentally ready to move on to becoming a stronger critic of the pictures we take. Good street photography is a painful process and that’s why is the street less traveled. But is this process of confronting those bad shots and learning from them that will ultimately lead to meaningful photographs. It’s only through accepting that street photography is difficult that we open the door for it to become less difficult.



All images on this post are © Juan Jose Reyes. All Rights Reserved.

8 thoughts on “The Street Less Traveled

  1. Absolutely excellent and such a precious insight. That book is a classic of course and you relating its message to street photography is a great insight. The first Noble Truth that Buddha taught is that Life is suffering. When I read the Peck book, I thought the message very Buddhist. And of course SP is about being fully present with the problems, the joys, the patience…the being in the moment. Very Zen too. Well done my friend and thank you. So much rubbish about SP around that it’s a true pleasure to read something of this high order and insight.

  2. According to Fred Ritchin, “Zen in the Art of Archery,” a short book written by Eugen Herrigel, was one of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s favorites because of its similarity to the art of street photography. The book is also credited with introducing zen to Europe in the 50’s. I’ve read it and the comparison makes sense. The message is similar to what Reyes puts forth here in this post. It’s an easy read so I recommend it to anyone, plus it’s pretty cheap.

  3. Valuable point of view, Juan José.
    Viewing things from this perspective makes a lot of sense.
    “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change”

  4. You beautifully related “perspective that one take for everything” and your positive view at street photography by all these messages. Passion for photography solves the difficulties that a photographer face during photo shoot and you have proven it.

  5. Great insight here Juan. As usual, your blog defies us to think and to conceptualize our methods and patterns. I agree with what the first poster said, regarding so much rubbish about SP.

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