Thinking points for any photographer

I was recently catching up on my reading of photography magazines and enjoying one of my favorite magazines. I remembered what great a resource it was and how much I had learned from the recently started publication. Then I also remembered it was free, which made it all that much of a better “read.” I am assuming they make their money via advertising because they are not making it via subscriptions. I think one reason they are so successful (and get lots of advertising) is that they do a good job of staying “on message.” They focus on their one area of interest and largely ignoring the rest of the vast world of digital photography.

The issue I was reading was the December/January issue, which shows you how far behind I am in my reading. One of the most compelling pieces was at the start of the magazine, in what is typically the position of the ‘letter from the editor.’ It was highlighting the issue’s contents and in it was simply titled “In This Issue.” Jennifer Chen, the features editor, wrote briefly about each of the photographers being profiled in that issue. She ended the blurb about each profile with a catch phrase, summarizing what the reader should take away from each of the articles.

The catch phrases are, to paraphrase:


1. Thrive on change and overcome obstacles.

2. Take what others may see as a handicap and make it an asset.

3. Turn the photographic genre you work in upside down.

4. Fear of rejection is the single biggest thing that keeps people from succeeding.

5. Collaboration can be a great way to innovate.

I thought wow, what great advice for any photographer! I cannot say that I have always followed such inspired guidance, but I have occasionally followed each of her suggestions. I thought first about when, in the past, I have followed that wise advice:


Thrive on change and overcome obstacles:
The initial advent of digital struck me as one giant obstacle, which I was not happy about, frankly. Now, I have embraced digital imaging and I try to appreciate the rapid nature of change. I am enjoying learning new things regularly and I am beginning to find that half the fun of any project is simply challenging myself to see if I can do it.

Take what others may see as a handicap and make it an asset: When I was a child I had learning disabilities that I have learned to overcome through some slightly obsessive organizational strategies. I was also shy, almost withdrawn, meaning then (and now) I am not that good in social situations. I have taken those challenges and turned them on their head. So now, I am especially comfortable with the detail work that digital imaging workflow requires. I am also very good at photographing like a fly on a wall, watching things unfold in front of me, as I stay withdrawn in the background of whatever I am photographing.

Turn the photographic genre you work in upside down: I like to think that some of my more political projects have taken issues and turned them around so the viewers will consider the topic from a new point-of-view. My work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict where I looked beyond the conflict to also explore Palestinian-Israeli coexistence and even cooperation, is just one example.

Fear of rejection is the single biggest thing that keeps people from succeeding: I will be the first to admit that for years this paralyzed me. Years. I eventually came to a very clear, almost emotion-less clarity in terms of knowing my strengths and weaknesses as a photographer. I now know that I do a few things well and many things badly. If I were to try to get assignments doing fashion photography, for example, I would get rejections because I am not good at that. When I am rejected for work that I know I am capable of, I do not take it personally. That is because I know what others in the past have helped me appreciate what I am good at, when they gave me assignments, grants, etc.

Collaboration can be a great way to innovate: Despite the fact that a as freelancer, therefore a solo practitioner, I think about and practice collaboration on different levels. Some collaboration happens in situations like working with photo-editors, who have experience that I do not have. I have worked with some amazing photo-editors who brought the best out in me (and my work.) I collaborate with many others whose expertise far exceeds mine, be it in web design, book layouts, etc. The trick is to know when to surrender a bit of autonomy, (which I find is always gained back in the collaboration.) It is a cliché but it also is true that in a good collaboration, the result is more than the sum of the parts.

I would never, ever suggest anyone else follow my lead in how they act upon the questions raised in those five catch-phrases. I would suggest that every photographer ask themselves, how have they already (or soon will) act upon the important issues raised in each point.

So what magazine did this great set of insights come from? It is called After Capture and it narrowly (and wisely) focuses only on aspects of digital photography after the image is captured. My own work involves almost no work “after the image is captured” so at first blush it seems like the magazine would not be of interest to me. In fact, each issue has a number of things that always interest me. The issue I was reading had that nice list of thinking points that I explored above. Most issues also explore the career paths of successful photographers, something that all serious photographers should pay attention to. And, oh yes, they have very in-depth information on complex ways to manipulate images “after capture.” But do not let that publication’s title throw you. They are exploring photography first and process second, which is why it is such an interesting publication (to me.) Read more and sign up for free subscription by starting at: http://www.aftercapture.com/pages/subscribe.aspx

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