Few of us would admit to being without a clear sense of direction. The imperative to know where you’re heading professionally begins early on. When I was an intern – which was so long ago the term ‘intern’ was yet to be coined – a kindly and long-in-the-tooth creative director took me aside and asked me about my five-year plan. Five-year plan? I could see just about as far as the weekend, and even that was kind of hazy. Embarrassed, I hesitated, mumbled something incoherent, and asked if he’d like another cup of coffee.
Once all those lunch runs and late nights working for a pittance paid off and I landed a job as a creative, the pressure to plan became even more intense. Every shoot required a shot list, a storyboard, and a pre-production meeting. I was taught to anticipate, to mitigate the unexpected, to drill accident out of the creative process.
This desire to know where you’re heading is understandable, especially when there are risk-averse clients around, but does it come at a creative cost? The photographer Dorothea Lange, renowned for her work in the dust bowl of America during the 1930s, especially her photograph Migrant Mother, once said: “To know ahead of time what you are looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting and often false.”