I talk to a lot of young aspiring photographers these days and invariably I am asked, “What advice would you give someone who is just starting their career in photography? – Is there a future? – Can I make a living?”
I don’t have a crystal ball but I do have 35 years of experience behind me but yet the enthusiasm and outlook of a 25 year old. I remind myself of what I learned from my mentors when I was just starting out. One mentor, who shaped my career, was art director Adrian Taylor of Travel & Leisure Magazine. Adrian taught me a lot – about magazines, about the story, about style and taste and most importantly he gave me the confidence to believe in myself. Adrian gave two young, naïve photographers, my partner and myself a chance and in return – we always gave it our all every time we set out to shoot a story.
With that said, I would not be where I am today if it had not been for mentors like Adrian Taylor and my greatest joy at this point in my life is to pay that forward to photographers just starting their careers.
- Learn video – Video is no longer a “specialty niche” or in fact a separate genre at all. In the very near future – which is already upon us – a photographer will need to know how to shoot both stills and motion – or partner with someone who does.
- Stay true to what your inner voice is telling you. For example, if your passion is to be a photojournalist, don’t listen to people who are telling you that photojournalism is dead and that newspapers are a thing of the past. While “printed” newspapers may be dying out – journalism and photojournalism is not. Don’t let others’ dogma determine what your path should be.
- Collaborate with your peers. When I was first starting out, photographers kept their clients, their techniques and their ideas to themselves. But I have found that whenever I have collaborated with others – we all push the bar to the next level – each bringing their own strong suits to the project. As a subject of my film Opening Our Eyes told me “We’ve got to shine each other up.”
- You don’t need the validation of others to proceed with your idea and make it into a tangible plan and product. As far as publishing and/or distribution is concerned – the gates to the kingdom are open and the kingdom is the entire world. We are living in a time of empowerment for the individual and for a content creator that is profound. If you are willing to do the work – the rewards are bountiful.
- Act on the ideas that don’t go away. It’s easy to let resistance sabotage you. Resistance comes from many places – your loved ones, friends, your peers – but mostly yourself. Stop talking yourself out of ideas and start acting on the ones that just won’t quit you.
I have made my work my pleasure in my life. I have always found it difficult to separate the two. When you feel that – you’ll know you are on the right path.