Fellowship in Photography
Earlier this year, I was giving a lecture and conducting a live cover photo shoot at Samy’s Camera here in Los Angeles for photographers of all levels. I began the lecture with a statement that was so simple, so earnest, you would expect to hear it from your own mother. I asked each attendee to look at those sitting to each side of them, to see them not as their competitors but rather as their comrades. If they could see that, they would succeed. How do I know this? Because it’s how I have treated other photographers since I began my photographic journey over 20 years ago. And it was because of those comrades that I met at a cafe in Milan I began shooting for Italian Vogue and other Conde Nast publications. This simple lesson has remained with me over the years and it appears the lesson resonates still. My friend and former assistant Jason Christopher was in the audience and I later found out that my message resonated with him as he passed it on as well in his blog.
As comrades you help each other and experience far more success than you will failure because you are brothers and sisters in arms. To support and help or guide one another is how we not only survive, but thrive in these difficult times! It is beyond me how many photographers today can’t get along with other photographers for reasons so trivial that I wonder when our mothers are going to shout at us “Play Nice!”
The photographic industry is as competitive as ever with many trying to break in while others are simply trying to survive. I’ll say it again, change your path and perspective and not only will you survive but you shall thrive. With the tug of war and popularity contest going on nobody will make any progress.
Over 20 years ago when I was breaking into this industry, I had access to and was able to soak in information and experience first hand the work ethic of many established photographers, none more so than the legendary Patrick Demarchelier. From my years with him I learned everything from loading cameras with film, to how to handle my business, and above all, how to treat my clients and my peers. I once owned a book titled, “Seven in New York.” It was about seven French photographers (of which one was Demarchelier) who went to New York and helped one another establish themselves in the photographic community. The book had a huge impact on my life and I wish I had it while I was working for Patrick. Not only could I have had him sign it, but can you imagine what it would be like to read a book about someone who was in the same situation you are currently going through and that person also happens to be your boss? Think of the water cooler conversation possibilities on that one!
The time spent, and lessons learned from those days with Patrick, to this very day affect who I am as a photographer and a person. If you ask me how to do something, I will not only tell you but I’ll draw you a map! Your body of work is not just the images you create over the years, but the images you help to create even if you are not the one pushing the shutter. Another photographer is not your enemy, another photographer is your brother/sister in arms. Just as you can help them grow they can help you. As Mom says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”