Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success proposed that it took at least 10,000 practice hours to reach a master level of competence in most any chosen field of endeavor ranging from professional athletes to a Virtuoso in music. However, David Epstein, of ESPN, took exception to that theory saying that there were far too many examples where no set number of hours striving for and reaching a specific level of competence could be claimed.
Whether or not a set number of hours are required, it does seem reasonable that intentionality and a very significant number of practice hours are necessary. And, if the 10,000 hours theory were to be proven true, does the formula work for realizing a vision to become a master artist in photography? Perhaps, but it may be that it is more the quality of practice, rather than the number of hours, having the more effect.
For those of us who are more or less self-taught, the issue of practice quality is very subjective. It is difficult to honestly measure the quality of self-studies and exercises employed as we strive to improve our work...let alone critically evaluating any given photograph or project. When I participated in the Santa Fe Workshops conducted by Joyce Tenneson and Diane Fitzmaurice as well as with other workshop leaders like George DeWolfe, their professional expectations provided a clear qualifying environment.
Though I feel it is difficult to name one's own sense of high-quality practice, the catch phrase 'give your attention to your intention' does provide an internal sense of resolve to make qualifying attempts possible. Clear attention insists upon eliminating the clutter and noises that surround and distract us all.
An understanding of how this fully attentive approach to our chosen practice feels like may be to simply remind ourselves of the times when we are in the field or studio completely lost in the act of photography. There is no sense of time passing and the noisiest distractions go unnoticed. It is amazing! Am I right?
When I made a wild attempt to count the number of photographs made over the years it seems to add up to a very conservative number of over 35,000! So I ask myself, is that 10,000 hours worth? Hmmm...