WWAD? (What Would Ansel Do?)

Once upon a time a wonderful writer named Mark Twain put these words on paper…..

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”


In the photography industry there has been an influx of pages that say they are there to educate, or to inform consumers, but it seems that their real purpose, their real reason for even existing is to bash people, to make them feel inferior, and possibly to get them to quit. I am an admin in a group and I have received so many messages from people in the group who are completely sickened by the behavior of the people who create, like, and post on those pages.

How is this behavior in adults any different than teenagers who get on the internet and send mean messages to young girls to keep them from trying out for cheerleading? Or to get them to not talk to their crush? Simply put, it’s not.

The behavior of the people behind those sites are no different than those of the “mean girls” in junior high school, except that they should know better. They should know how to model empathy and compassion. If they feel so strongly about the photographers who they feel are doing inferior work, why not privately message those photographers and offer help or advice? Why not create a positive blog dedicated to answering questions and providing online tutorials?

It is much easier to tear people down and hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen than it is to step up and do something positive. It is much easier to rip people apart so that somehow, some way you feel better about yourself, especially if you have doubts about your work anyway.

Unfortunately, I know one of the people who is running one of those sites. Although she has no idea that I have figured out that she is doing it. When I realized it, I was horrified. Can I reach out to her and say something? No. Will I? No. She doesn’t want my help. She doesn’t want my advice.
If she did she would have said something.  But instead she took the cowards way out and started lashing out at others. If her work was as good as she said it is and her business was as booming as she claims, then she would not have the time for that or even the slightest stirring in her soul to do it.

A bully is a bully. No matter their age or their gender. If they seek to push people around and belittle them, they are a bully. Schools have a zero tolerance policy for that behavior and the photography industry should too. I am by no means a perfect person, but I would never, ever put someone else’s work or their name or their client out in such a public way. I believe that this shows what a crisis our industry is facing. You can say all day that it’s about education, but if you have done no educating where is the justification in it? If a fashion designer stands you up and rips apart every fashion choice you have made that day, is he helping you or is belittling you and being a bully? 

We have to want a better industry. We have to want for our clients and our potential clients to see us as professionals. We have to want better. If we spend our lives tearing others down then we have wasted time that we could be building our own and others up. We will have destroyed lives, careers, self confidence and self-esteem. That is not what artists do. That is what bullies and abusers do. Artists should seek to lift up the world. We want to create beauty. We expose the raw nerves, but we don’t do it by unprovoked attacks on innocent people. Artists have always had to stick together. Artists have always had to have an unspoken solidarity and that is being ripped away to its very core. It will destroy the craft, the community, and the spirits of the artists from the inside out at this point. Ansel Adams had a Gaelic mantra he loved.

“Let our souls be mountains, Let our spirits be stars, Let our hearts be worlds.”


He knew what he was talking about. Do you think he spent his time ripping apart other artists? If he did, he would not have had time to do all the incredible things he did. (Maybe the invention of digital cameras was not a good thing. It would have at least kept people in their darkrooms creating art instead of working to tear down people and the industry.) And if nothing else has convinced you, maybe you could listen to the Master of the Camera himself….Ansel Adams said:

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” 

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