The Hidden Side of Success


Gary Monroe Lecture at FIU


“Failure is just one more iteration toward success.”

We hear this type of talk all the time, well at least I do. But the question is why is this so? Why are people so eager to embrace failure in all of its forms? Well because failure is embedded into their system of  thinking about success .

Last week I attended a lecture by photographer Gary Monroe where he discussed  his body of work on Miami Beach and Haiti during the late 70’s through the 80’s. During his talk he explained that he had shot, and actually still shoots, in black and white film. Most of the shots he takes don’t really come out right for what ever reason, he uses up a lot of film to just get in a few good shots. He gave out some percentages of what he thought was his ratio of good to bad shots something like 20% are shots he can use, the others not. Lets think about this, he fails 80% of the time, wow 80%.

Same thing happens in software development. Many times a brute force algorithms is used to solve some problems. Brute force meaning, just try as many possible combinations and see which one gets close to an acceptable answer. This is the way many early calculators would solve math problems, basically guess until you get close. As you can see failure is built into the solution, you must fail many times to succeed. Failure is hidden in the success.

However, the calculator does not show you how many guesses it took to get an approximation to the correct answer, it just shows you the correct answer, and every one is happy. The guessing is done behind the scenes at lighting speed by the processor, almost instantaneously, as far as we are concerned. Just like you don’t see 80% of the bad shots that Gary takes, we only see a fraction, the 20% , the good ones.

Because failure happens behind the scene we don’t get a real appreciation for what it takes to succeed.  We may think that its easier than it actually is, and when we are hit with our first roadblocks or first failure we think something is wrong, that we are not good enough or that our idea is not good enough. Real life is a bit messy and we don’t iterate at lightning speed, our feelings and emotions sometimes get the better of us. We all are afraid to feel the sting of failure, but we must be courageous  enough to move forward despite our fears. But the lesson is real, we must try many times, basically the brute force algorithm, at solving a problem to get it right. Think of Edison’s battery experiments, it involved over 10,000 experiments with different chemicals and materials to develop his alkaline storage battery.  When asked he said; “I found 10,000 ways that the battery did not work”.

So in short, lets keep on trying, moving forward through the adversity, the failures, we will succeed if we do not give up, as failure is the hidden side of success.


Gary Monroe, is professor of fine arts and photography. The author of numerous books, including The Highwaymen. Also featured along with Andy Sweet in the documentary “The last Resort”



Cubist Photography

David Hokney most likely known as a painter but he did photography as well. His photography tries to capture multiple perspectives kind of like a cubist painters.

I  have become very interested in this concept, as I think that truth and reality are both relative and can be experienced from infinite points of view. that being said here is the link  to interview with Hokney where he discusses his thoughts on his photos.




Capturing time

Photos allow one to share a moment in time regardless of  physical locations, to share the human experience.

To share a moment in time, how long of a moment and how does this actually occur? To do this a photo always captures the temporal dimension  in the form of shutter speed, in other words how much time is the light allowed to shine on the film or these days sensor. This time is usually in short spurts from fractions of a second for most pictures to sometimes minutes for those very long exposures.

I always been fascinated about the freezing of this temporal moment on the frame, or in other words how much time you actually captured on a single frame of film or in a digital file. But how about capturing even more time on a single frame say hours or days and compressing it to comfortably fit. This is what artist and photographer Stephen Wilkes is doing with his most recent project “Day to Night”.

See him talk about it in this recent Ted Talk.

Thoughts on Fine Art Photography

It seems that everyone has a thought on what fine art photography should be and the problem is that each one is a bit different.

My own thoughts:

Fine art photographs are an expression  of the artist vision in the photo medium, as a canvas to a painter or a piece of clay or stone to a sculptor.  This expression could be carried out anywhere in the workflow of the medium, from the actual composition and subject, to the processing technique used, as long as it is meant to express the artist vision for that particular piece.

Here are a few of my favorites fine art photographers, even though some of them may not consider themselves as such:

My philosophy on photography

The success of an image does not solely depends on its artistic or technical merits but how many thoughts it provokes, how it makes us feel, how it stirs our emotions, how it ignites our imagination and passion, how it may change us is some way.

Photos allow one to see the world through someones  lens, it is a reflection of their mindset, their interpretation of reality. They allow one to travel to far away places and share that experience and be inspired. Photos allow one to share a moment in time regardless of  physical locations, to share the human experience.