How Photography Can Contribute to Your Personal Growth!

Note: This article is authored by Hanane Anoua, originally published on the Flevy Blog. You can read all of Hanane’s articles here.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place….I have found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” — Elliott Erwitt

I took a class of photography few months ago, and I realized how close this field to personal growth. Photography is not only about durable images but it’s a complete ART that can considerably contribute to our personal development.

It can also reshape the way we perceive things and enhance our way of thinking.

The first exercise we were asked to accomplish in class was to take an image with two given elements from the instructor: a spoon and a fork. You may be already wondering if we were in a photography class or in a restaurant. Obviously, the exercise had an implicit message that many did not perceive in the beginning. Some of them found the experience out of context, and tried to adhere because they had to. Others understood the hidden message, and attempted to add new elements to the already given inputs (a spoon and a folk) to create powerful images. I was also very involved searching for a deeper sense to my picture than a simple image reflecting a spoon and a fork. The most important thing was that each one of us tried his and her best to provide a unique and creative picture. At the end of the exercise, we were all impressed to explore a variety of images with different degrees of creativity.

No image was better than the other, because after all it reflected the inner thoughts of each one of us. This experience reconfirmed to me that we can create value around us from very basic data and inputs.

You may be questioning about the relationship between photography and personal development? How does it contribute to enhance our way of perceiving things?

4 Main Learnings I got from this class that I would like to share:

1. Your inputs create your own reality.

This experience is a very good example that whatever inputs you give to your mind, is what create your reality. The image is nothing except a mirror of our thoughts; and the meaning we wanted to give to the image. We all live in the same world; we all have somehow the same needs and the same inspirations, obviously with different levels of determinations. But, the elements you hold in your mind regarding different situations and people are what determine your thoughts and affect your results.

If you integrate positive elements to the situation, you get positive outcomes and a rewarding life experience. When we create bad inputs, we start feeling bad about ourselves, and then we start searching for external solutions while the solution is internal. The solution has never been coaches, doctors, lawyers, or mentors…but it’s within you! It’s always a personal choice; whatever you hold in your mind and heart will definitely affect your life and even your surroundings.

There is no one unique reality, we create our own reality based on the understanding and interpretation we give to different situations. Reshape your vision, enhance your way of thinking and make a sense to your reality that is nothing except your own way of perceiving things!

2. We all have different Perceptions.

My experience in photography was just another example of the different perceptions we may have regarding the same situation. Similarly, during my class of organizational behavior many years ago, one of the assignments we had to handle individually was to analyze a specific painting in a museum. The painting was pre-defined by the professor to ensure we all go through the same experience and match it later with our interpretations.

The result was very inspiring; we all ended up not only with different perceptions and interpretation regarding this painting, but these interpretations did not necessarily translate the main message the painter wanted to communicate about.

Getting conscious of one’s own perception is one thing, and respecting other perceptions is another debate.

3. Avoid judgment.

When looking at other images during my class, I focused more on the message behind those images and the efforts that were involved. Judgment is the easiest way you can do nowadaysIn certain situations, all what you need to see is the apparent side of the iceberg without going further. We are not supposed to judge people on their beliefs, values, and perceptions. The more you judge, the more chances you get judged.

Can you image if the Sun starts to judge us based on our acts? How many of us will be in a complete darkness?

One day I approached a waitress in a restaurant to ask for help. This person was not really a waitress, and could not respond to me as she was deaf. I felt bad for her, but she was very nice and insisted using gestures to understand my need. I realized that she could have ignored my request to avoid embarrassment, but she did not. What would be your reaction if this person decided not to respond? What judgment would you hold in your mind about her?

Whatever judgment you pick up in your way regarding a person or a situation, it would never reflect the reality. It concerns only you and your way of thinking!

Avoiding judgment is not only a positive way to go beyond certain situations, but it can also save your positive energy and make you more focused on the good side of people you encounter, and the challenges you go through.

From a professional perspective, many coaches, and leaders use today the Johari Window as a psychological tool to improve understanding between individuals instead of relying on judgment or misunderstanding. This communication model is used to raise self-awareness, enhance interpersonal relationships, and group dynamics. It’s a great model to use because of its simplicity and excellent outcomes.

4. Never compare yourself with people.

The different images we got from the first exercise were not for a purpose to celebrate the best one as each one reflected the iner thoughts of the person.

Our life journey requires from us the same way of thinking. Many people keep comparing their achievements and results with others, and the outcome is just amazing. We cannot compare ourselves to others simply because we don’t have the same backgrounds, the same values and beliefs, and the same vision. We cannot compare our experiences because some of us will add music to them, but others will get stuck within a limited vision unable to go beyond them and see the invisible.

It is for this reason I am not a great fun of raw data and statistics, because they allow us to define the variables for excellent means of comparisons. The ratios and equations we generate can make logical and rational interpretations, but will always have a great deficit in terms of human considerations. Have you ever solved your problems with logic? Have you ever stepped forward comparing yourself to others?

Photography or any other experiences in life has something to teach us. Open up your mind and go beyond the limited physical reality; explore the hidden messages and leanings around you. Don’t search for logic in anything but use your heart and wisdom! Life is not about material things to accumulate, but it’s our emotions that count. This way you can change your vibrations, and then your reality!

Readers Are Also Interested in These Resources

Self-transformation before Strategy of Startup (81-slide PowerPoint presentation)

Personal Brand Statement Template (Excel workbook)

Personal Goal Setting Guide (61-page PDF document)

Self Leadership (64-slide PowerPoint presentation)

Personal Development Action Plan (2-page Word document)

Solutions for Improving Interpersonal Interactions (12-page PDF document)

I blog about various management frameworks, from Strategic Planning to Digital Transformation to Change Management.