“You’re going to meet many people with domineering personalities: the loud, the obnoxious, those that noisily stake their claims in your territory and everywhere else they set foot on. This is the blueprint of a predator. Predators prey on gentleness, peace, calmness, sweetness and any positivity that they sniff out as weakness. Anything that is happy and at peace they mistake for weakness. It’s not your job to change these people, but it’s your job to show them that your peace and gentleness do not equate to weakness. I have always appeared to be fragile and delicate but the thing is, I am not fragile and I am not delicate. I am very gentle but I can show you that the gentle also possess a poison. I compare myself to silk. People mistake silk to be weak but a silk handkerchief can protect the wearer from a gunshot. There are many people who will want to befriend you if you fit the description of what they think is weak; predators want to have friends that they can dominate over because that makes them feel strong and important. The truth is that predators have no strength and no courage. It is you who are strong, and it is you who has courage. I have lost many a friend over the fact that when they attempt to rip me, they can’t. They accuse me of being deceiving; I am not deceiving, I am just made of silk. It is they who are stupid and wrongly take gentleness and fairness for weakness. There are many more predators in this world, so I want you to be made of silk. You are silk.”
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.”
Sometimes I get so excited about the oddest things. I love quirky stuff. I love things that are out of the “traditional” realm of what people like. I like odd, plain and simple. I find beauty in things that some people find creepy or weird. I find beauty in things that others even consider ugly. I like to think that everything has beauty to it if you only open your eyes to it.
Recently, I came upon these Hopi Kachina dolls.I couldn’t stop looking at them and studying them. The detail and the art that went into making them fascinated me. Kachina dolls are the masked spirits of the Hopi Indian tribe.The dolls are meant to be treasured and studied, not children’s toys or idols of worship. They are essentially visual representations of the spiritual realm and are associated with rain, crops, and the healing of the sick.
Do you ever have one of those days where you think of a million things that would be super awesome to do and then turn around and have a few days of nothing…zilch…no inspiration? I had one of those days this week and I just wanted to go home, curl up in my bed, and sleep the world away.
But I didn’t get that chance.
I looked through my inspiration notebook and found some ideas that had been running around in my head during one of my (many) sleepless nights and decided to get to work on those. It has kept me busy and kept me occupied and hasn’t allowed my brain to wander and the best part is, I felt productive! I just love it when I get things done! When I get creative I work…a lot. I also decided to knock a few things off my to-do list. (Yes, I was feeling quite ambitious!)
I had also been asked by a photographer to look through her work and give her a few critiques. I am pleased to say that there were so many wonderful things I was able to say. She has stayed away from all the “trendy” things like selective color, overusing props, etc. Her images were what I would call “timeless”. It made me start thinking about the trends in photography and what people will think of them in 10 year or 25 years even.
Being able to check some things off my to-do list allowed me some time to look through my images and think about where I want them to be and what I want them to look like.
I don’t want my images to be overdone or out-of-date (eventually I know they will, but I hope that is a long time down the road!). I see photographers get swept up in their “I know how to put text on photos” mindset and every photo has a name, a quote, or a (weak) attempt at graffiti. (Sorry, that is an art and you have to know what you are doing to get that to look natural!).
In 15 years do you think that client would want an image that says her name and Senior 2012 (or an inspirational quote) on it or do you think she would rather have a beautiful black and white portrait? They both would be considered art, but I think the b&w would be the one she would prefer to display. It has that “timeless” feature that images need to be a lasting work of art.
It’s easy to get swept up in the here and now and to try to copy every photographer and every prop just to keep up, but realistically, you may be doing your own art and photography a disservice by doing that. You don’t want to be known for using every prop every made, you want to be known for your images!
Start keeping a photographer’s journal of ideas, even if you have to keep it on your bedside table. Write down the things that inspire you. Create a bookmark on your computer labeled “Inspiration and Creativity” and bookmark the things that speak to you and make you want to create. Join Pinterest if you haven’t already and you will be guaranteed to find all sorts of things that will spark your creativity. (If you need an invitation to Pinterest, let me know and I will send you one! If you are already on there…head over and follow me HERE.)
Don’t follow the crowd, break away from the crowd. Shoot images in a way that reflects you, your vision, and the values you have for your business. Don’t be swayed by trying to keep up with what other photographers are doing. If someone says “I have this awesome idea, we want our image of our baby black and white except the diaper.” you have the opportunity to say “Well, selective color might be cute, but why don’t we try **insert great idea** to get some amazing images that you will love even more…” and then rock those shots. In that way, you didn’t tell your client “NO! I don’t do that!”, but you led them to an image that in several years they will still love. You want them to keep coming back to your for your great work that they are proud to hang in their home, not because you follow every fad or trend that is out there!
(And just my two cents, images of babies should showcase the baby, not your prop collection. Think soft and sweet. No glass. Nothing breakable….)
Your clients tastes will change, trends will come and go, but at the end of the day, it’s your business name that will go on the image. Your reputation and your future name in the industry are based on what you create and put out there. Don’t do shots you aren’t comfortable doing, don’t shoot on active railroad tracks (it’s a Federal offense, FYI!) and don’t put babies in glass jars or anything breakable.
Be proud of what you create and let your creativity and inspiration soar. Breaking away from the trends and the fads will be something that will actually free you and let you be able to create some amazing images. Timeless images. When you let your imagination and creativity take center stage, they will take you and your business to places you never thought possible!