Never look back


“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” – Henry David Thoreau

I learned a couple of important lessons about planning today.

Firstly, I marvelled – yet again – at the beauty and art within the design and layout of the city of Canberra. As we drove out of the city (at stupid o’clock, courtesy of my son waking us all up at 4:2oam…) I reflected on how the entire city was designed and planned by Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin via an international design competition. I wholeheartedly believe the spaciousness, flow, and cultural beauty of the city is absolutely the result of the visionary planning process.

I discussed this with Belinda, and reflected further on London and Sydney – two cities that mirror each other in their apparent lack of forward-planning. Areas of both cities simply evolved organically, and as a result are incoherent, cluttered, and somewhat haphazard. This isn’t without its own charms, but in Sydney’s case, especially, the poor forward-planning process has left a legacy of bad infrastructure, weak design, and eyesores like the Cahill Expressway denying the embrace of Sydney Harbour into the CBD.

The parallel is pretty easy to draw between this planned / unplanned dichotomy, and my life and my business. I don’t for a second advocate that everything needs meticulous planning and a stifling amount of control. I do, however acknowledge the fact that the times in my life when I have been working to a plan, have been times that I accomplished an extraordinary amount, and made significantly better progress compared with similar times operating without a plan.

The second example of the value of planning comes from my mixed successes at the Australian Professional Photography Awards today. I entered four images into the Family category, and received two Silver Awards (yay!) and two of my images were not deemed “of award standard” (not so yay!).

I always set extremely high standards for myself, and I have a tendency to focus on where I fail, more than where I succeed. Today’s news of my two successes was marred by this fact, along with my severe lack of sleep (thanks to that 4:20am start I mentioned) – so I took the results quite badly, and felt pretty shell-shocked and grumpy for some time afterwards.

After a solid nap, a bit of perspective, and a reassessment, I realised that I:
a) did better than the last time I entered the Australian awards two years ago;
b) came away with 2 Silver Awards! That’s a good result!
c) did really well given I only put about 2-3 days of selection, editing and printing into these images;
d) learned during the process that what I love, and what I shoot best are energetic, loving, connected families, with a dash of chaos;

Short version: I didn’t plan ahead, and as such I reaped what I sowed. I did, however, learn LOTS. (It’s taken me 10 years to figure out my USP. Go figure.)

By contrast to my efforts, there are photographers who plan ahead by a full twelve months for their awards images, including sketching concepts, fleshing them out, shooting specifically for them, and continuously pushing themselves to be the absolute best they can on every shoot. They take the time to master their craft, and are rewarded well for it. They deserve to be the winners of the big gongs, because they work hard over a long period of time for these accolades.

Today I have learned what I stand for as a family portrait photographer, and I have learned my lessons from the results of un-planning.

The beauty and vision of Canberra, along with this year’s Australian Professional Photography Awards, have both taught me to plan.

As for today’s quote, that guy Thoreau had it worked out in so many ways: Think ahead. Look ahead. Work towards a great future. Don’t live in the past.


I plan to do that. (See what I did there?)

What do you plan to do? Tell me! Go on. Reply. Comment. Something. Hit me with your Big Hairy Audacious Goals, or BHAGs. I wanna know :)

With love, planning, and curiosity,
Israel. xo