One of the joys of youth, in hindsight, is innocence born of ignorance. It’s something you only really think about as the calendar pages flip, and you begin to enjoy naps. You realize that when you’re young, you can’t help but be yourself. I find I have been less myself in recent years, and since becoming part of SLR Lounge, it’s become more clear as to why. As such, I believe I have something to say, or more precisely, something to say I believe in.
So, in the vein of my Grandfather’s favorite joke [What did the Leaning Tower Of Pisa say to Big Ben?], if you’ve got the time, I’ve got the inclination.
The source of my concern is value in communication and networking in our business. We may shoot products, or landscapes, but this is a people business above all.
My time in this vocation has afforded me the privilege of having a reach as vast as it is diverse. It’s reached you. I’ve also spent time speaking with, and met people highly regarded in our artisan field, and those who aim to be – which is most of us, I’d wager. The sheer breadth of interest in my, and everyone’s work, is nothing short of astonishing, but sometimes the interest is a guise. There’s a heavy smog of selfish insincerity that sits in the air of the aware.
We’re all hustling to make it, and every one of us is looking for validation somehow. The field is more saturated than ever it was, and we’re all developing with learning curves that look like rocket trajectories. Growth in photography requires a certain level of resilience, fortitude, and boundary breaking, and it usually can’t be done on your own and we all know that. Whether someone name drops you to the right magazine, or gives you a job, or highlights your work, or connects you to a client, the path to success is hardly ever a solitary one.
Networking then, is essential, and being good isn’t enough. You’ve got to have heart, and you’ve gotta have help too. I wish for us that in this time of trolls and anonymous haters, we approach the help with more heart.
In our capitalistic, celebritized society, there are pressures to be the cream that rises, and the demands to rise aren’t meager. Photography certainly isn’t exempt. So in the quest for the top, we realize quickly that networking is one of, if not the best aid in getting there. But more often than not, I’m finding, it’s become selfish. Not mean or malicious, but insincere, without a real desire to better someone else’s situation, or to give something back, for a greater good.
The major issue is that this culture of using all energy to look out for ourselves and produce, does little for real sincere communication; We chat, trade opinions, promises, and services. Faux smiles and cheap flattery are the currency. This is something I see all the time, and really hits me at events. What I see are ‘contacts’ being made, to be lost. To the observant and perceptive, the conversations were thin veneers of sincerity, masking the desire to use. But you’re never gonna get anywhere in our business like that, especially now.
I want real connections with people and I bet you do too. We cross paths with others all day, and we spend time on them often in order to get things – that contact at Canon, the reporter, the gear rep, etcetera. But how many of us actually cherish that connection, and forge lasting relationships out of it? Not many. But wouldn’t it be great if when you used those contacts, the person on the other end felt good about it too because you both had an interest in each other – a caring for?
I care tremendously about the fact that I have learned to care less.
We are so busy trying to get ahead of our kin and focus solely on if we could, and don’t stop to think if we should. We seem to believe we should not be interrupted by anything that might tamper with the unremitting quest of “moving forward” – of making it. Maybe we need to redefine what “making it” should mean.
I’ve been the fortunate recipient of much time from many of you. I look at you and others around me, and their sacrifices for me. The sacrifice is time, and that’s personal. When you give someone your time, that’s time away from your family, friends, kids, that you’ll never get back – it doesn’t get more personal than that. So through their, and your countenances, lay my responsibilities.
One of which, is to tell you that if you want to build a network in this business, get the right kind of apprenticeship, or get advice, or some other type of assistance to grow with opportunity, sincerity is necessary, and so is patience. Believe me, those who get approached a lot, can spot insincerity a mile away. I’m not particularly special and I get approached a lot, and I can tell in a blink when someone wants something more than the effort they’re willing to put in and reciprocate.
There’s a bit of truth applicable here, that those who don’t look hungry, get fed. Offer something. Share what you know. Showing humility never hurt. Come from a place of ‘take,’ and you’ll get nothing. Approach instead from a place of ‘give.’
I would also suggest (and this is the hard one), to have fewer contacts. Really. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s imperative. Learn to say no, and to know where your loyalties lay. This allows you cull or pass the relationships that are worth-less, and more time to nurture the ones you’ve got, and build them into something worthwhile. You can’t do that if you’re always spreading your time thinly. It’s probably what I find the most important.
And if you’d like to add something – tell me. I’ll be open to talk about it with you, because it’s something worth talking about.
We may be in a digital age now with little use for film, but there’s still room to develop.