I recently spent the weekend at a photography seminar / workshop put on as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. Yes I do have something of a life outside of the Respiratory Laboratory. I was seeking a rekindling of the creative spark that has been struggling to gain a foothold of late with work threatening to quench all creativity it espies.
The weekend featured largely professional photographers sharing their philosophies and technical expertise with an audience that ranged from rabid enthusiasts to part-time amateurs like yours truly. Whilst I gained a vast amount of knowledge over the weekend, there were a number of aspects of the weekend that got me thinking well beyond the focus of photography.
The first was that the professionals involved had, without exception, come from backgrounds other than arts and photography. There was an ex-engineer, an ex-businessman, an ex-teacher and an ex-geologist among them. This diversity generated a wide variety of approaches to seeing, taking and printing images. All, however, shared a similar philosophy. This diversity was one of the strengths of the weekend. It reminded me very much of the criticism I have heard levelled at us in the past that "You all fell off the back of different trucks". I think we do need to be mindful of the strength in diversity as we move ever more resolutely to standardising our education and prerequisites to working in the field. Whilst standardisation is important, it is also important to foster different perspectives and if we are too rigorous we will be the losers.
Another thing that struck me was the preparedness of all presenters to share their knowledge, to share their experiences, to share what worked and more importantly what didn't work. It seemed, furthermore, the more they were prepared to share, the more impressive was their work. This appeared to be related to their philosophy of sharing, both their work and their experience. This same desire to share is what drives me to keep this site ticking over. It also leads to the frustration I feel when there is a perceived reluctance of members to share their experience for the greater good of the Society.
The third thing that impressed me was a session by a photographer who presented work done with a point and shoot digital camera, albeit a good one, that stacked up extremely well against the much more highly spec'd cameras used by the professionals. It underscored the point that it is not the equipment you have that dictates the outcomes but having an understanding of your equipment and extracting all it is capable of delivering. This photographer's images were memorable, not because he had the greatest gear, but because he understood his camera and had an eye for composition. I think the same goes for us. The quality of our work is not dictated by the gear we use but by our attention to it and our ability to extract the best possible clinical information when using it.
Lastly the common denominator among all contributors was the passion they held for their vocation as a professional photographer. This passion infused their images; it infused their presentations; it infused their desire to share their combined experience. There was no sense of competition, but rather an impressive camaraderie even though they came from the East, Coast, from the Kimberley and from the South Coast.
As we draw ever closer to the Melbourne ASM, many will be sweating over their presentations, whether they be oral or poster. Those new to the game will be worried their data is not up to the job, or their study design was flawed or they won't be able to explain things properly. I believe this is a scenario faced by all who present, whether experienced or not. In fact, there is probably more pressure to perform placed on the more experienced presenters than there is on the neophytes. Just as that point and shoot photographer believed in his equipment and allowed his passion to infuse his images, so you need to believe in your own data and let your passion for your subject shine through. Sure, someone may pick issues with you, but unless you believe in your data, your study and yourself, you will have a very hard job to defend it. All of us have one thing in common, we can ALWAYS do better. If we can't, then we are no longer capable of learning and that would be a pretty sad state of affairs.
Good luck to all who are presenting at Melbourne. Believe in yourselves. Your only obligation is to do your best for yourself. I only regret I will not be there to share in your achievements.