Definition: A multidisciplinary approach involves drawing appropriately from multiple disciplines to redefine problems outside of normal boundaries and reach solutions based on a new understanding of complex situations.
In responding to a member about my recent blog post challenging street photographer's to not take the easy shot, I used an example from advice I give to others about playing poker. The member was asking me about what is the difference in taking a "hard" shot or an "easy" shot since photography can be so subjective. Well, I'm also asked by those I play poker with, what is the correct way to play 'X' hand. I give the same answer to both questions, "it depends." The exchange also brought about a discussion on the amount of luck involved in getting that decisive moment we crave in street photography. Again, I answer with my poker advice when I hear players complain that poker is nothing but luck, "if you increase your skill, you increase your luck."
That exchange reminded me of another concept I tell people about frequently when playing poker. I started playing since when I was 10 years old. Gatherings of family and friends, holidays, BBQ's, even funerals in my family always meant a big poker game. I grew up playing many forms of draw poker, stud variants, Omaha, split pot games, and low ball; and yes the flavor of the decade that everyone knows even if they don't play No Limit Texas Hold'em (NLHE).
I loathe the fact that NLHE has become synonymous with the word poker. Its a form of poker, not THE poker. However, if you ask anyone on the street nowadays if they want to play poker NLHE is pretty much the only game they've seen. The popularity of TV tournaments and online sites have spawned an industry of books, shows, movies, apps, etc... I've run into people that honestly had no idea there are other ways to play poker other than hold'em.
Members familiar with me also know that I'm a teacher. In teaching, we attempt to go with a multidisciplinary approach with students. Meaning, we try to incorporate a variety of features and traits such as hands on projects, writing, audio/visual aids, etc... to teach students to their learning strengths and help them to understand their are many ways to learn and approach problems. It also serves to keep their minds engaged, eyes fresh, and creativity flowing.
I advocate heavily to my poker playing friends and those that ask me advice to learn how to play Omaha, 7 Card stud, Razz, 2-7 Triple draw and other various forms of poker if they want to improve their NLHE game. Why? Because each variant of poker engages your brain in a different way and strengthens specific disciplines. NLHE is a more psychological than other forms over poker. However unlike edited TV tournaments teach you, brute force "all-ins" all the time don't always win. Limit betting structure games force you to be more patient and disciplined about calculating the the math and the expected value of a given choice. In stud variants, a good memory and keeping track of the cards dealt out and folded is a very useful skill.
The same theory goes for photography. My passion is street photography and likely always will be. However, I also have been learning about portraiture lately. Specific lens lengths, lighting setups indoors and outdoors, posing, understanding natural light and interacting with the subject are all key elements to get a great portrait. Knowing more about each of those factors will absolutely help my street photography. I don't think anyone can argue understanding more about light is useless in photography. The word itself means to paint with light. Working with a subject to get them to pose natural builds on your interpersonal skills out on the street. Not to mention more quickly recognize a great gesture and pose the moment you see it on the street. I've also dabbled with long exposures and light painting with flashlights (my students love it) and both of those have probably helped me to learn more about how to quickly set my manual settings than anything.
When it comes to processing I've lately been working on my Photo shop skills processing portraits to look like glamor shots, tilt shifts, and taking ordinary photos and heavily working them into stylized dramatic works. It was a slow learning process at first, I was very intimidated of Photo shop and didn't know a single shortcut. Although I still need a lot more practice to work like a pro, I'm very comfortable with layers, masks, and even the dreaded pen tool to make difficult selections. I know how to select color ranges to easily change very difficult portions of a photo, several techniques to effectively dodge and burn, and how to better sharpen (and what not to sharpen) a photo.
If you're new to photography like me, and have found a passion for street, I highly encourage you to take a multidisciplinary approach to quickly master your vision and make better photos. You're learning curve will shorten dramatically if you take some time with other forms of photography other than street.