Photography has been one of the constants in my life since I fell in love with the medium back in high school. In the nearly forty years since then, I have been continually experimenting with different ways to both photograph just the way I want while making a living at it. Along the way, I have worked selling cameras, done portraiture, weddings, studio work, fine-art photography, university teaching, etc. Of course, I have also done a lot of the editorial photography that has sustained me for the last decade. During the last couple years I have finally come to appreciate the upside of what once looked like an helter-skelter, ever-changing career path.
What once looked like a wildly inconsistent series of jobs in photography have turned out to be a series of excellent mini-educations, in a wide range of specialty areas of my favorite medium. And now, I have arrived at a moment in my life as a photographer where everything has come together in the form of my latest (and I like to think my greatest) project.
This revelation was born largely out of the blogging I have been doing for this site. The Wells Point was born out of all the teaching I have been doing in the last decade. That teaching came out of my desire to step back from a stressful life as a full-time magazine photographer who was constantly traveling. My work as a magazine photographer was born out of my desire to go into greater depth with my photo-essays than I was allowed to do when I was working as a newspaper photographer. I could go on but you get the idea……
At each stop along the way in my career, I noted how the most important thing I took away from every job, mentor or portfolio review, was the feedback I was given. In each case, we certainly discussed cameras, employers and exhibition venues, but in the end, what helped me grow the most, as a photographer, was critical, unvarnished analysis of my photography.
As a teacher, I have come to appreciate the importance of this kind of feedback. While much of my teaching focuses on technique, craft and digital technology, the best part of my workshops is the critique of the student’s work. (I know this from the post-workshop evaluations that I get from my students and from the recurring interest shown by those same students who want to continue the critical dialogue after the workshop.)
This interest in the all-important “feedback” is what spurred me to start Photo Synesi, http://photosynesi.com/ with some friends. This is a new website that helps photographers (like you) improve your skills through personalized feedback from photographers, who are both wonderful teachers as well as experts in their fields.
Photo Synesi is a premium service that lets you select a photographer with expertise in the area that is of interest to you, submit your images, and specify your goals (i.e. what you’re trying to achieve). In return for a very reasonable fee, you’ll get specific, in-depth feedback on your pictures and advice on how to make your photographs better. Unlike other sources of feedback, the reviewers do not give you assignments, which they then critique. Instead they review the specific work that you ask them to look at. For a quick summary of what the service includes, check out: http://photosynesi.com/about/?learn
We have a growing list of twenty three reviewers covering a diversity of photographic specialties. You can see them at: http://www.photosynesi.com/reviewers/
When it comes to reviewing, like those thirty reviewers, when I review work, I try to keep in mind:
• The context of the critique really shapes the way that any reviewer looks at a given set of photographs. For any photographer to get better they need to honestly assess where they are (technically and aesthetically) as well as be able to articulate where they want their work to go (both technically and aesthetically.)
• The final goal for the work needs to be clear to the reviewer. Most photographers produce work to have it published, exhibited, sold, or all of the above. The various outlets directly influence how a photographer reviewing a set of photographs thinks about and then critiques those same images.
• The best review of all is one given by an expert photographer who works within the context that the photographer being reviewed aspires to work within. Similarly successful creative growth can be found when the reviewer has had success at achieving some of the goals that interest the photographer having their work reviewed.
• Feedback needs to be both critical but nurturing. The photographers who reviewed my work along my career path had plenty of opportunities to decimate my ego and destroy me as a budding photographer, but few of them did. They almost always were honest and insightful in terms of my failures as well as nurturing and optimistic in terms of my successes. I try very hard to balance my feedback between the constructive and the critical.
This kind of feedback service is doubly important amidst the onslaught of new technologies that dominate digital imaging today. Over and over, I hear from photographers how hard it is to get honest feedback about your photography.
Until now, there were few if any serious tools to get the all-important feedback on your existing photographs. Photo Synesi, the culmination of decades of learning and innovating, is the tool to improve your photography and that is why we are so thrilled about the fact that the site went live in mid-October.
In case you were curious, Synesi is the Greek word for wisdom, which is what this system is all about — sharing wisdom between the aspiring and established practitioners of photography, through personalized feedback from photographers who are wonderful teachers as well as experts in their fields.
At this point in my career as a photographer, I am getting better at separating out the technology from the artistry. As I have blogged more than a few times, I encourage you to do the same. Like most every photographer says “…it is the photographer not the camera that make a great photograph” and my career has shown that to be true.
What is so exciting about Photo Synesi, http://photosynesi.com/ is that it is a tool that will actually make you a better photographer, if you use it right. After decades of trying to find the magic bullet to do just that, I finally “get it” and I have built something to enable others to do the same.