What’s Failure Got To Do With It?

Hey there Wonderful Listeners…

This semester was quite the crazy one indeed. So much went on that I could barely keep up with it all, y’know? But, thankfully, I made it through; although, not without some lingering thoughts about failure.

Failure is definitely one of those interesting things that I’ve encountered many times in life. But for some reason, I was struck enough by the events of this past semester that I need to write about them. So that’s what I’m going to do now.

Firstly, I need to preface this by saying that I received an A in all of my classes, which guaranteed me a spot on the Dean’s List for that semester. That should be reason enough to be content with my studies and work right? Actually no… that’s not enough reason. See, I already shoot for a high standard so getting an A in a class doesn’t mean much to me. It’s not that I’m ungrateful but it’s that it is the norm for me (and I don’t settle for less.)

Since I’m often not thinking about my grade (because it just falls into place), all I am thinking about is my work and how refined it is. That’s what matters most to me. For the sake of this post, I’m only going to focus on the work that I turned in for my final projects. I’ll break this down for each of the three classes I’m focused on particularly.

Readings in Photography

So, as you might all know from having read my recap post, I highly enjoyed taking this class. It was beyond valuable. I wish I could take another course quite like it. But what I turned in for my final for that class was, alright.

Honestly, my concept was pretty simple and straightforward: I wanted to bring attention to the conscious collective of the single perspective. I was arguing that due to the advancement in technology and because of the camera, we see much of the world in a singular viewpoint perspective. We don’t take in multiple perspectives to put together an entire picture, as if our sight and what we see in one moment is all that exists.

Well, my images did a good job of showing that. However, because it was a critique, I was given some constructive feedback. Of course, no one likes to be told that they could’ve done better but alas, that’s reality. Thankfully, I’m welcoming to criticism.

I was informed that my presentation of my project was heavy-handed and also slightly empty. The thing was that they informed me that I could’ve included many more pictures just to illustrate my point, and I agree with that. My amount of images, retrospectively, was quite limited and would’ve driven home the point better had there been more.

Secondly, they informed me that because of how I structured the actual presentation of the images, that I was far too direct with what I wanted the viewer to grasp (i.e. I spelled it out for them.) I do agree after discussing it but at the same time, because my images didn’t seem connected, they were varied, and their formatting was also varied, that they might not figure it out. So I thought that in order to combat it that I should spell it about a little bit for them.

Turns out that I underestimated my audience and they discovered the meaning within a fair amount of time. So, although my concept was quite nice, my presentation was lacking. I failed on that end. Though my professor gave me a low A grade, I suppose I was disappointed that she wasn’t harder on me for failing at that part.

Thinking about it, I know I should’ve considered those options more and for that, I should’ve been knocked down to a B grade instead. I suppose I was just frustrated because her grading didn’t reflect her critique. I mean, I should’ve been happy that she let me slide, but I don’t like it when that happens.

If I mess up then I mess up. I need to do better next time and that grade will remind me to do better and consider my concept from more angles and to get more feedback on the work. *sigh* But, what was important was that I understood that I could do better, and will do better in the future.

Advanced Digital Photography

This project was a bit difficult for me because it took me so long to secure it in place. I was having a hard time finding a concept, and then I settled on something about destruction and the deterioration of an image regardless of technological advancement.

It was a good concept and admittedly, my presentation was quite wonderful. I was proud of my presentation to say the least. I had it set up so that my two chosen images for the concept would be projected onto the wall and would begin to glitch and distort as time passed (it was a looping video.) Then, underneath the project on a table, the same images were printed on paper and destroyed in a number of different ways.

I had fun with that part. I got to burn them, put different chemicals on them and watch them fade, warp, etc. I ripped them, shredded them, wrinkled them, you name it! I tried it. And the results of those experiments were laid out on the table for everyone to see.

What I was informed of during critique was that my presentation was completely flawless. For the concept idea, it was straightforward and to the point without compromising the image. However, what made me falter was my image choices. After seeing the project come together, I realized that my images could’ve been chosen much better. This was said during critique as well, so I didn’t feel so bad for that because I could see the writing on the wall.

I received a low A grade on that project and for that one, I’m much more forgiving because a simple switch could’ve given me that high A grade, and increased the success of my project even more. I had failed on the concept unity but I recognized this mistake, although perhaps a little late.

Photo Thesis I

This project was fitting for what I received (a B average) but my feelings about it all lingered after the fact. So my thesis was about anxiety and its representation and I did a great job for what I had. I came far in a short amount of time, although I knew my project wasn’t even close to being finished when critique came. At least, I planned on continuing it to make it better anyway.

So during critique, I was informed that my project was successful although the format could’ve been better. I realized after putting everything up on a wall that it would’ve been better as a book. Alas, I realized this so when it was announced, I wasn’t surprised. I was commended on my efforts of tackling something so big and getting close to the heart of what mattered to the project.

It was the fact that there were other ideas I hadn’t thought about that came up during critique that made me stop and consider my whole project. They were wonderful comments that got me excited to continue on. But after the whole of it all, I couldn’t help but think about how I had failed in a small sense.

My presentation was lacking, and my concept could’ve been driven further with different material or additional concepts. I accepted these criticism for I believed them to be true. But it made me realize that though I had worked hard, I had also succeeded and failed.

My project wasn’t “finished” and it needed some reformatting. I had failed there. But I had succeeded in getting where the idea wanted to go. So overall, I had to fail in order to succeed, otherwise, I would not have been able to see the potential for this project. And I am hurt… but I am also thankful. And I am also glad that my grade reflected my work this time.

***

So as you can see, failure was something I had to face head-on. And thinking about all of it now, I suppose that failure took on a number of different meanings. For I had failed indeed in some aspects, but succeeded in others.

What does that mean to me? It means that I still need to grow and I must continue on. I am not done and failure means I have room to improve and make myself and my work better. It’s a good thing. I suppose I was just frustrated with the fact that I had wanted to succeed so bad that failing hurt so much.

But failure is not a bad thing as long as you don’t let it be your end. And I think that the failure this semester hurt a bit because I was harder on myself than everyone else was. I am lucky enough to be able to look at most of my work and say outright that it’s not at its full potential or that it needs to improve. But when those around me can’t do the same, it can be frustrating because I try to give my full criticism to others, in order to make everyone better in the end.

*sigh* Failure is a fickle thing in some instances. I suppose it really does on what failure means to you. To me, it means that I must continue to improve on what was already successful. Failure doesn’t care how hard you worked, it only tells you to keep working harder. It’s the only way to really succeed.

Hmm… Well, those are my conclusive thoughts about failure from this semester. I do hope my thoughts on failure have helped you learn something or made you think at least. I will see you all again soon. Cheers!


How do you define failure? When was the last time you failed and what did you learn? Leave all your thoughts below!

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