Do failed photographers turn to teaching ?
Being creative for a living is tantamount to being paid for being a bit ‘off center’ or different shall we say. ‘We’ are creative… we are paid to think outside the box, we are allowed and required to think unlike other people think. People have a stereotype and place us in genres of different descriptions, however, being a ‘creative’ is going though a shift in the hierarchy of social ladder. Nerdism and Geekism combined with the creative spark is pretty much near the social equivalent of having blue blood these days. It is funny how times change. This new ‘power’ geek owes much of the rise due to companies like Apple and Google. The reason I mention this is that there seems to be a new shift of photographer too. Long gone are the days of getting it right, it is now a race of how fast you can deliver your content not, how good the content is. The problem is that the new ‘power geeks’ are able to do both leaving some photographers still worrying about the quality of digital. Come’th the day where we are using app based editing in your X-pro camera and streaming content to a website. Instagram app built into your X-pro anyone? 35mm sensor in your iPhone? FUCK YES! Sign me up for that. The clock is ticking and the camera companies are very well aware of the direction we want to go. Remember they only make what they think we want.
So, where do we need to look to be ahead of the game. Well, recently I have been thinking about this and I ask you, what would you do if you could make your own camera? Do try and forget that today’s cameras are built on an ageing idea of what a camera is. Lets embrace the future and shape it how we want it.
So, I would have a camera that could give me an analog based shutter dial and an sliding continuous f-stop with a continuous ISO value. Give me a shutter speed of 1/120 not 1/125 , give me an f-stop of f2.9 not force me to have f2.8 and an ISO of 325. I want to have more choice and let me take control. I just still do not know why we have to limit the way we use cameras in the old style of film based cameras. Give me a wireless connection and a proper OS that we can have third party apps for. Give me a set of cameras I can sync wireless for proper remote shooting. Also, while we are at it, let start to have the focus systems that really work. The next generation of cameras should be about useability not mega pixels.
What about the idea of inbuilt grad filters or color filters ?? Lets have some cameras that have inbuilt filters that can click down and really let the creative power of the photographer rock and roll. I am sure additions like these over touch screen gimmicks is a far better use of R&D money. But we have to show the camera companies that we don’t want gimmicks.
I have this book by Paul Arden and it is my little book of wonder, I want to share a favourite paragraph (book is called ‘Whatever you think, Think the opposite’)
When I was creative director at Saatchi’s I gave a young man a grilling for producing am under whelming piece of work.
Later in the day somebody told me he was in his office crying.
I went to console him.
I said `Don’t worry, I was useless at your age too.`
Just priceless advice in my eyes. It reminds me of the idea of don’t be kind, be constructively honest. In the same book there is a little tale how he used to commission work, it goes as follows:
I used to commission a lot of photography. Consequently, people were keen to show me their work 99% of the portfolios I saw were of a very high standard. But 98 percent of them contained pictures I had seen before. Obviously not the same subject or compositions, but I had the general impression that I was not seeing anything new. They didn’t have a point of view. If they did, it was that the viewer of their pictures ( me) should like their work.
Very occasionally , I saw the work of someone who did have a point of view, whose work was like no one else’s.
These were often difficult people, almost unemployable because you couldn’t tell them what to do.
Sometimes it went wrong.
Sometimes it didn’t.
When it didn’t go wrong, it more that made up for the times it did.
I love this little book of pick ups and inspirational wisdom. The idea that we don’t peak at the same age and it’s OK to not be where we need to be. We all have our own path and don’t freak out that you are not doing the same as the person next to you. It’s OK to fail. Just don’t make a life long habit. My idea is this. Fail young, fail often but make sure you learn why you did. Be new, try things when you have the time and space to. Document your failure it is what makes you different. We should not be worried about being adventurous or bold. If you ever need to see why I have this idea just Google Abraham Lincoln’s past. The man was an utter failure, until he was in office that is.
Another way to look at this is… Who inspires you and what really inspires you about them. When asked about this I tend to say the same thing again and again. I quote people like Sir Cecil Beaton and Tim Burton. Helmut Newton and Tim Walker. But, why, I don’t know these people and I have never met them. I am only inspired the things they have been successful at or the things that other people have told me. Mostly I am inspired because other people tell me that is what I should be, and that way I am cool via proxy. Personally, I think this is a much harder question than most people think and when tasked with having to answer the question do so in the easiest way they can whilst avoiding follow up questions. We all love to sound educated about the arts and come up with these names to look as such, but, really… Could you really answer the question and not try and sound like a failed art student? The truth is this. Beaton doesn’t inspire me half as much or if he does he really does not shape my actions as much I think. But there are people who do. My brother does. My Mum and Dad do. People who actively, day to day challenge and contribute to me as a person. People who shape my world. People who pick me up when I need to be helped, and encourage and push me when I need to be pushed, and trust me that is often. It is easy to be cool to pull superstar names down and use them to empower ones self but Tim Burton has done nothing more than show me what he can do when empowered by the people around him. Maybe we should not be so dismissive about the people who do the same for us. Using rock stars idols as a source of inspiration can be very damaging indeed. If you combine this idea of inspiration and what Paul Arden was saying when talking about looking at people’s portfolios there is a very interesting idea that comes into view. If everyone is looking in the same way for inspiration everyone work, no matter how good, is going to be the same. Maybe we should look closer to home and in a more individual basis. So next time someone asks who inspire you, try and answer in an honest way, even if it makes you look like a dork.
Not that is this a rant in any way, but, I would like like to ask why photographers do not seem to play nice with each other, stupid question I know. But why, we only hold each other back with silly comments. So the teaching thing was brought up the other day. Anyway, one of the problem seems to be price. How much should these courses cost and are they really worth it? Well no matter if you are paying top dollar for a bespoke one to one workshop or a meet up and shoot day, you will only get out what you put in and this means really looking at why you are spending any money at and and who are you are spending it with. Just blindly chucking money are great photographers and thinking that will bring you success in your own line just will not work. Investing your time and being super aware of what you need to learn and chucking money will. Some people can afford to do both and some can not. I was never in the place to afford to pay someone to teach me, so I have had to work and graft while staying aware and putting in the hours on my own. I guess back then I was time rich and cash poor. There are people who just need a guiding hand to ensure that the investments in camera gear and time are not being wasted. These people just need a nice safe and comforting environment from time to time and have will to spend thousands on the long windy road of being a professional photographer. Educational methods on creative subjects is always going to be a contentions issue. I for one think have many problems with many people who do teach. Not the teachers them self, but the things they are asked to teach and the way they have to grade students. I feel you can not teach the arts, but only help craft them. People in this area should only ever act to enable not to lead. This is one of the core ideas behind the Book Project. Each person that take on the project is choosing to actively push there own ideas and fuelling there own path. There are not rights or wrongs, its a method to promote self learning. Which is the ONLY way any creative art can be taught. Give a man a fish and he can eat but teach him to fish and he will be selling fish fingers in no time at all.
If you do decide that paying someone to help you on your journey to help relight that fire inside, pick someone who will let you be you only enable you to channel that you already have inside. Pick some one that will make sure to understand your goals and keep that in mind. Try and be clear about what you want and do not be worried about voicing this. Above all, if you aspire to be a professional photographer, you probably don’t need to be on any creative courses at all. It is all business and can be a nasty one at that. Avoiding getting lost in the creative side and be a talent in its self, I for one know that I spend more time worrying about my portfolio and that I am not good enough than I should. Trying to focus more on bringing business in is the hard work and seems to be put to the back of the mind while we focus on the fun side of the job. Shooting Stunning models is always going to be beat working on tax and marketing. Much of this is all personal choice and who you turn to for advice and help can really make such a difference. I guess the best way is to be open about things when you can and spread your net far and wide when looking for information and keep in mind that at the end of the day, anything you do is totally your choice. There is nothing wrong with being different, but on the same note, there can be better ways to get to the same places. One key skill I like to work on with people his helping them be able to ask the right questions in order so that they can get in right information when they need it. But I could be totally wrong and we should be chucking more people into University and the Professional photographer should stick to taking photos. I shall leave you with this thought, do failed photographers turn to teaching to provide an income?