How to grow, pain and all.
Don’t be afraid of critique. (Photo by David DuChemin)
I was having Teh Tarek with Grungeman a day back and he said something that opened up a long conversation. He was bemoaning the fact that here in Malaysia there are no photographers that take interns on. I started to think about that and wondered why. But the more I keep thinking about it I realize that there are not a lot of photographers I know that take on interns. I know I don’t. Why? Not enough work load. I mean lets be real, if I had the workload that some of these guys I know with interns, I would not be blogging everyday! So the question remains, how do the inexperience get the experience? How did I? I never interned, well, not really. I worked photographic jobs at my University. I shot for the school paper and the Yearbook. Then after college my career path went a different way. Though I did work in retail for a while at a camera shop. Later I got back into photography and found the passion…again.
When I look back, the main way I got the skills I have today (ok, don’t argue my skills!) was the advent of the Flat World (see the post: A Response to Selling Out ) and a digital camera. What do I mean? I started shooting, and shooting and, well, you get the picture. As my dear old daddy used to say, “Matthew, (he’d often call me Matthew) You cain’t catch a fish with yer bait in the boat!” Yes, my dad was from Kentucky, but he put the accent on thick when he gave out pearls of Kentucky wisdom. But he, as he always did, made a great point. You have to get out and shoot. Practice. One of the best ways to learn is from our mistakes. Make a lot of them and learn a lot. And the beauty of digital imaging is it is all free after you buy the camera.
Here is the other part of the Flat World that made me into a better photographer. The Internet and it’s ability to reach out to the world. Use it, and post your images for critique on a forum. The place I found that helped me a lot and a place where I found others who shared my passion was the Travel Photographers Network. TPN is a great place to post and get your images torn apart, in a positive way. The folks that reside there are nice and gentle, in fact maybe too gentle at times. Sometimes they need to just come out and say it, “That image sucks! Didn’t I show you where the ‘un-suck filter’ was?” But honestly, over all, this a great place to gather others with similar vision and share and image and listen and learn. There are other forums out there that do the same thing. If you know a good one then post it here and share it with our readers. But the point is to go out and seek some critique. While in university, I minored in journalism (I know you would never know it by reading this blog!) and you may recall if you have been reading this blog for many years, that I am highly dyslexic and can’t spell at all. So what was someone like me doing in Journalism? Bleeding! My papers looked like someone spilled a bottle of red ink on them. But I learned to take the criticism and grow from it. It made me better. Growth is painful at time, but well worth the effort of sticking it out and learning what honest and talented people have to say about your work. By the way, I also met some good friends while at TPN. I met David DuChemin and others that over the years have remained honest critics and encouragers. Join a forum like TPN and seek it out. Ask for them to be rough, brutal. Learn from others and from your mistakes and grow in your craft.