- They talk themselves out of things. – Telling themselves that it wouldn’t matter if they learned new skills or shot new images or whatever they didn’t want to make the effort to do.
- They try to “educate” their clients (sometimes a bit too much) instead of collaborating and possibly learning from them. A lot of “older” photographers are like this when they are working with younger art buyers or directors. I think the energy needs to work both ways.
- They give themselves an A for effort for starting something but too many times their starts lead to nowhere if they don’t have an end goal in mind.
- They don’t open themselves up to networking with others by attending industry meetings or events.
- They treat their clients like their enemies where one needs to win instead working toward a positive outcome for both.
- They make the mistake of creating for an audience, instead of creating for them selves. (Thanks to Seth Godin for that thought)
- They take workshops or pay for a service and then don’t utilize them. I’ve been guilty of this too many times.
- They don’t shoot for the pleasure of it.
- They rely too much on commissioned work instead of taking advantage of new opportunities and ways in which to market and sell their own projects.
- They don’t stay true to themselves.
Posts Tagged ‘sharing’
I am winding down after a couple of intense months, traveling the film festival circuit with my documentary Opening Our Eyes. I have enjoyed every bit of it, but it wore me out – in a good way.
I find that when I am “out there”, I get richly rewarded in many ways. I think what I enjoyed the most about the film festivals, and what was the most beneficial to me, was the opportunity to dialog with other filmmakers. I learned a lot in the process. But what stood out to me was how different these conversations were from conversations that I have with my still photographer colleagues.
Many times the conversations I was having with other filmmakers were centered on a story. That should come as no surprise because that’s what filmmakers do – they tell stories. But filmmakers tell stories “cinematically”, so when they are talking about the story that they are currently working, or a story idea they want to pursue, they speak in great visual detail so I see a very clear picture in my head.
My conversations with my still photographer peers, in terms of craft, are more apt to be about how they created an image. Photographers generally talk more about the role they played in making the photo, like how they lit it or the gear they used. Sometimes, photographers will tell me a story about what they went through to make a photograph and those stories can be very interesting and entertaining, but again the conversation is more about the execution of the image – than the story of the image.
Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how and where I fit into the mix. The truth is, I remain in the middle – a true hybrid. I realize that ever since I can remember, I have always seen stories playing out cinematically in my head, so I guess I have always had a filmmaker’s mind even though it lay dormant for most of my professional career. On the other hand, as a still photographer and one who has been an observer of life through my camera I see things like light and composition.
So, I am a true hybrid and I can see my still photographic “eye” in the motion work I create. Others who have seen my film have remarked about the composition and lighting, because it does look different and stands out from other documentaries. Sometimes that has been a good thing and sometimes not. Regardless, it is what it is – a creation from a still photographer’s eye applied to motion.
Embrace the differences – see what happens.
I’m sitting in the Continental (United) airport lounge at EWR, waiting to board a flight for Beijing. I’m headed to China for 4 weeks to teach Chinese journalists, video journalism. My mind is spinning with ideas, questions and the usual array of “what ifs” as I take on another adventure.
About two years ago, I started saying “yes” to opportunities that presented themselves to me – or at the very least, I began to consider opportunities, rather than to talk myself out of things, right off the bat. Because, of that mind set, I’ve been going where life seems to take me and it has presented quite a few interesting adventures. It’s not that I’m foolhardy and doing things on a whim – it’s that I have been listening to myself – my inner voice – and it has been my guiding force.
I’m told that the Chinese are hungry for “western” knowledge. But what I have to teach them is something universal, and that is – how to tell a story – using the medium of video. Seems so basic and simple – how to tell a story – and I suppose it is, but like anything else, it’s simple if you understand it. The key to understanding something is to have the desire to learn. Some people say they want to learn – but that’s different than really having the desire to learn.
Some folks feel threatened by this seemingly insatiable desire of the Chinese to learn all things western. I’m also finding that when people feel threatened by something – they try to “stop” whatever it is they are feeling threatened by. It’s one of those stupid human tricks that folks have played since the beginning of mankind. I process this behavior pattern as unproductive and unsustainable. It rarely works as far as eliminating a perceived threat. You simply can’t totally eliminate desire.
Rather than stop others from growth – a better way is to better yourself. I’d rather put my energies into where I want to go in my life – than in trying to squash other people’s hopes and dreams. I’ve also found that what goes around – comes around. When you “give” and “help” others – you ultimately create a better world – or “space” for everyone.
So, as my mind races this morning with my hopes, my expectations and enthusiasm – I try to keep the nagging doubts and fear at bay. I tell myself that it’s natural to have concerns. But I also tell myself that I can either let my concerns consume me and turn into fear or I can welcome the “unknown” and embrace the opportunity at hand. I’ll let my inner voice guide me because it seems to be doing a good job.
That was one of the questions posed to me during an interview this past weekend. A young woman had asked to interview me for a college paper she was writing. The call and the questions started out somewhat clinical, most likely another task or paper that she needed to check off her list. She proceeded through the usual list of questions: “Did you go to photography school?” “What type of photography are you interested in?” So on and so forth.
I could hear her typing my answers and I paused to let her catch up. But then she asked a question that really struck me on many levels. “Did you get into photography because it was cheaper?” I asked her what she meant by that – did she mean the tools of the trade were cheaper? When she responded “yes”, I told her that was somewhat of a misnomer and that the first cameras I bought (mechanical ones) I had used for 10 years. I added that now, because of the exponential impact of technology on my profession, my cameras and the software I need on the post end, have to be upgraded at least every two or three years, and that was only part of the investment required in the “tools of the trade.”
As she typed my response, I felt myself getting a bit anxious and I started speaking rapidly. I told her that even if that were true – meaning that I got into the photographic profession because it was cheaper – that would have been the absolute worst reason for me or anyone else, to choose photography as a profession. I went on to say that you need to be passionate about some aspect of photography that makes you want to do it more than anything, if you want to have a chance of sustaining yourself financially in this profession. Pursue photography because it brings you joy and that if you are getting into it because the entry level costs were “cheaper” you’ll simply be competing with thousands or tens of thousands of button pushers.
I went on to tell her that I became a photographer as a means to an end. I had been studying architecture in college and after two years left school to travel. I traveled the world for a year and came back knowing that I wanted to pursue a lifestyle that would incorporate travel but more importantly fill my endless curiosity of people and cultures and exploration. I wanted to become a storyteller, and became a photographer as a means to that end.
As the interview progressed I noticed the typing started to diminish as I told her that I have never separated my business from my pleasure and that they have always been tied together throughout my life. Simply put – my business is my pleasure. I talked about my frustrations starting out as one of a handful of women in a man’s world and for the most part a man’s profession – at least in the early days. I talked about the endless stream of rejections and the “wins” that seemed to pop into my life when I needed them most, rescuing me in the knick of time, just when I was thinking of quitting and moving into another career. I told her that unless she really wanted to do photography, she wouldn’t survive in this profession. I talked about my mentors when I was her age and how grateful I am that I had those people in my life. I relayed a couple of anecdotes about things my mentors had said to me and how those words had been pivotal moments in my life and that when things got tough, I drew upon those words of wisdom to get me through the day.
Then there was a very loud audible sigh, followed by a long period of silence and my mind raced through the various things that I had said to her. Was I too harsh? Did I paint too bleak of picture? Or worse yet – did I make it sound too easy and that all she had to do was “just do it”. I felt this overwhelming sense of responsibility that maybe I said something that was going to dictate the rest of her life and I kind of panicked in that moment of silence. And then she said “thank you so much for talking to me today, I started out just wanting to write my paper, and I’m going to have a great paper, but you have no idea how much talking to you has helped me.” She went on to tell me that she had been struggling with a decision that she was trying to make between going to law school and going to film school. I told her that she needed to make that decision all by herself and that it wasn’t a decision that anyone else could make for her – not I – not her parents – not anyone else. I told her to dig down deep into herself for the answer, beyond the influence of others, the dogma of the day and all the noise. And most importantly to remember that it was her life and that she got to choose how to live it and that she had every right to change her mind along the way.
Quite honestly, it has been one of those “onion” months for me, with layers of setbacks and second-guessing myself. I got off the phone feeling good about paying forward what I have learned along my way and in that moment, I realized that this might be my “purpose” at this point in my life. The day had turned into one of those sweet “strawberry days”. She didn’t know it, but she had helped me as much as she said I had helped her. It’s those conversations and those little moments that keep me going, and come to my rescue, just in the knick of time.
I would love to hear from you all – why did you want to become a photographer? Something you say or write just may help someone and paying it forward is the best feeling in the world.
It’s been a very full year for me. I mean that in every sense of the word full – full of new experiences, full of hope, full of achievements – but also full of my share of rejections and disappointments. I’ve shared a lot of these experiences through this blog.
There have been times I haven’t written in a while because I didn’t feel like I’ve had anything worthwhile to say. And there have been times when I did write but I probably shouldn’t have because it wasn’t worth reading. I always told myself that when I didn’t feel like writing in my blog, that I just wouldn’t do it. So if there are long periods of time when I haven’t posted a new entry – it’s because for whatever reason, the desire may not be there. I have always appreciated the comments and feedback.
Here are the top 5 posts as far as number of hits:
As you can see, the blogs about DSLR (for video) gear is where the interest was. But I’d have to say that out of those 5 posts, “Standing on a 10 Foot Frozen Wave” was my favorite. For me, it’s all about the story. And as Orson Welles once said “If you want a happy ending, it depends on where you stop the story”.
Happy New Year everyone.
I’ve learned a lot about the “entertainment” industry in the process of creating our documentary Opening Our Eyes. But I was a bit surprised to learn how one show derives its content. I won’t mention specifics, because I don’t believe that this particular way of doing business is unique to this one show.
A couple of days ago, I received an email from one of the subjects in our film asking for my counsel about a high profile program that is syndicated on various cable channels. The show essentially does short segments on organizations and/or companies that have stories of educational value.
I looked through the electronic info kit that they had sent and it sounded great, because they guaranteed placement for the 5-6 minute piece within the program, which would run on a couple of large cable networks. They also guaranteed a 1- minute spot on CNN and Fox News. Plus the production company would deliver a file ready for web so that an organization could upload it to their site and/or deliver DVD’s to potential funders or clients.
I continued to read the attached PDF’s which listed the production requirements and workflow that would take place if “they” were selected to be profiled. But what stood out and surprised me was the line that stated that a payment of almost $30,000 would be required, if they were chosen to participate. Quite honestly, I was a bit shocked. Here was a production company that was creating a syndicated program and expecting the subjects to finance it.
I’m almost certain that this company also makes a hefty sum from the cable networks who in turn get money from their advertisers. That doesn’t surprise me a bit. But I didn’t know that it had become part of the game to make revenue off the subjects of the stories!
Perhaps that might not sound all that bad because it’s just business in a free economy, but quite honestly it has really changed my thinking about networks that run stories about people, organizations or institutions that have educational value. Now when I watch a show like this, I will question the credibility of the causes and organizations that are being profiled, because I know that this “door to distribution” is only open for those who can pay. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that the stories they run are about the most deserving subjects or even the most compelling stories. It simply means that the people behind these stories had the funds to “pay to play”.
I think back on all the extraordinary people that we met last summer while making our documentary. Most of them would be hard put to find this kind of money and if they did they would probably put it right back into their causes and the people they are trying to help – not a production company that is making money off both ends. I went in the “red” doing this documentary with the hopes that it will cause a shift in the way we think and that it will move people to action to make a difference in the world. I figured that’s the least I could do – use my skills as a storyteller to create a film that would raise awareness and help all our subjects and their programs.
Would I like to make money on this film? I’d be happy if I broke even. I’d be even happier if this film was seen by hundreds of thousands of people. But I wouldn’t dream of charging my subjects money.
Ronni Kahn of Oz Harvest told me “Just go out and do something – not for the money not for the recognition but for the sake of doing”. I suppose that’s exactly what Erin and I did. And that in itself has been the biggest reward of all.
It’s Photo Plus Expo week in New York City, when photographers from around the world gather at Javits to look at new gear, take part in seminars and network. I don’t think I have missed an Expo since they began over 30 years ago. A lot has changed in the photography business over the past 30 years, but one thing is for certain and that is – it’s a very small world as far as the people who are part of this business.
Last night, I went to a couple of parties where I ran into quite a few people that I’ve met over the span of my career. Some I had done commissioned assignments for, some I had met through seminars that I had given and some were just old friends that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. But a couple of folks who approached me last night, and struck up a conversation, were people who had totally blown me off in years past – people who had simply ignored me. In every instance, these had been people who had recently experienced a shift in their own lives and now had a sudden interest in me and in what I was doing – to further their own gain.
I know that I have burned a few bridges in my lifetime and I’m sure there are some I’m not even aware of. (Anyone who tells you that they haven’t burned bridge is just simply not aware.) Some of those bridges, I have tried to rebuild and have succeeded. and some were beyond repair. What I have learned – and wish I had learned 20 years ago – is that everything comes around in your life, no matter how much you have grown or changed – the past is always present. And it seems easier sometimes to change the past – but of course that’s not possible.
What I’m finding now is that due to profound changes in the photography business as well as the lingering lousy economy, that the same people, who had ignored me or dismissed me a few years ago, were now acting like my “best friend”. I’m sure they didn’t remember how dismissive they had been to me – in fact I doubt that I was even on their radar at the time. But circumstances had changed in their lives and now they were taking notice of me and even asking for my help. I suppose I could say that they had burned a bridge with me but then again in most of these situations there had never been a bridge to burn to begin with.
The point is, you never know how your past will affect your future. You may think that you are in a position where you have no need for certain people in your life and be dismissive. But nothing lasts forever and if there is anything that I’ve learned by getting older – it’s just that. Our lives are made up of circles, each one connecting our past with our future. Consider that when dealing with people who come in and out of your life – because nothing ever stays the same. Many times you’ll find out that those people that you thought you had no use for in your past – may be key in your future. Hindsight is the best sight and you always get the best light from a burning bridge.