» Peer Pressure Can Make You Sharp or Dull
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Peer Pressure Can Make You Sharp or Dull

Mastering-Composition-Peer-Pressure--Rubens-Bacchus

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens.

#397

Growing up as a child, I’ve always thought that peer pressure had a negative connotation. Yet, during a great conversation with a very wise woman (my mom), I realized that peer pressure can also be a positive thing. This type of positive peer pressure can actually sharpen you and make you become a better person.

As a kid I was peer pressured into all kinds of bad things. Drugs, stealing video games, egging houses, sneaking out of the house, drinking alcohol, skipping school, cheating on homework, the list goes on, and on. This seems to be normal activity for any adolescent trying to fit into the world of Junior High and High School. And I admit, I was guilty of all of these…except doing drugs. That’s not to say I didn’t have a close call!

Nowadays, smoking weed seems almost comparable to puffing on a Swisher Sweets Cigar or eating a pickle. People can do as they wish, and that’s great. But, back when I was a kid, if someone was smoking weed they were considered scum. Like, junkie scum…the type that would do tongue-in-cheek sex acts for a hit. At least that’s what my small-town mentality was at the time. No way did I want to be put in that category.

Despite the negativity surrounding drugs, the peer pressure of doing them was thick when I was a young buck (around 1990). There was a time in my youth when I was upstairs in a  random house, in a random room, full of random friends. The type of random friends that come and go when you’re a kid. Except this one girl, Jenny. Man, did I have a crush on her! Crushing seemed to happen a lot at the age of 13, and I’d do anything to get her to notice/accept me. Even though, as you can see below, that I was as dorky as could be. What was I going to do, give her a lift on my scooter? Nope, she was probably 11 at the time, but she was already into the bad boys, the drugs, and sex (a terrifying thought for any parent!). I couldn’t compete with that.

Mastering-Composition-Old-Photo-of-Tavis-Leaf-Glover

Me in 8th Grade, looking like I am 7 yrs old. The perfect subject for negative peer pressure.

So, there we are, in the room; this big group of young kids, passing around a joint. I’m about 6 kids away from it being passed to me. Jenny already puffed on it, so did the other “bad boy” trying to “hold her hand during recess” (a.k.a. “Get with her”) When it finally came to me I had to try it, right? I didn’t want her to think I wasn’t cool enough for her. Being accepted is a big deal when you’re at that age. It’s a big deal when you’re older too.

The joint reaches me and I raise it to my mouth. All eyes were on me, then suddenly someone was yelling outside the window. Another “friend” wanting to know what we were all doing. The pressure was off, the attention moved towards the window, and I quickly passed the joint to someone else and got up. Whew, that was a close call!

Mastering-Composition-Peer-Pressure--Rubens-Adam-and-Eve

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens.

I Wish I had Positive Peer Pressure

How many times have I let negative peer pressure push me into things that I have no interest in doing? How many times have I been more concerned with what others think of me, than what I think of myself? I bring this up, because that was the last time I let anyone peer pressure me into doing something I didn’t want to do (haven’t smoked weed to date because of this incident…weird for an artist right?).

I just wish I had a different kind of peer pressure growing up. A positive one. Someone to peer pressure me into becoming a better artist. My mother did everything she could for us, and she was completely amazing, but there’s only so much a single mother of four can do. She was full of encouragement, love, and support, and embedded countless virtues and work ethic into us kids. Bellies needed to be filled, and bills needed to be paid, so she had to work her butt off for us to survive. And survive we did, thanks to her sacrifices.

I couldn’t ask for a better mother, but what I also needed was a great school teacher…someone with a respectful, yet firm backhand. Something the school system failed to provide. I needed a teacher to say to me, “Stop being a loser! Why do you hang out with those idiots? What do you want to be when you grow up? Well, then start working towards that goal! If you want to learn photography, painting or drawing, do it! Stop sitting there playing video games and hanging out with your loser friends. If you start drawing now, then you’ll be amazing by the time you graduate High School. You might even be able to make a living off of it. FOCUS! If you want to learn photography, get a job and start saving money for a camera. Take lessons, learn a skill, keep feeding your brain full of knowledge. You can be someone if you want to be, but you have to put forth an effort. It’s not going to just happen. Apply yourself to something greater.” This is what I wish the school system provided me when I was younger. A great teacher to mentor me. Guide me with tough love and encourage me to do something more with my available skills and interests. Unfortunately, this kind of guidance isn’t even offered in College classes either.

Some of Us Will Rise Above the Rest

At some point, as we age, most of us will snap out of our unproductive habits and realize that we can learn to do whatever we set our mind to. We’ll learn how to focus our efforts. Some of us will remain stagnant, marinating in the same sewage-filled rut that we were in during Junior High and High School. That’s ok, we can’t all be somebody. We can’t all be remarkable.

Take a look at the people and things you surround yourself with. Are they pressuring you into staying dull, or are they pressuring you to become sharp? If you need to, have the will power to delete the negative peer pressure from your life. Follow your dreams, become what you want to become, and don’t let anyone else lead you astray from the happy path that will excel your livelihood. If they try to pull you in the wrong direction, get mad. They are messing with your life. If they aren’t supporting you, they are against you and you don’t need that in your life. Have the strength to say “NO” and work towards the goals you set forth. This is where true happiness awaits.

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