advice

35 Magnum photographers on when they became excited about photography, and suggestions for beginning photographers: Advice to Young Photographers. Some recommend never looking at the work of others, some recommend immersing yourself in the work of others. Some embrace theory, others say just go out and do. But the common thread throughout was “follow interest, not income,” and “photography is not easy; do it cuz you have to, not because:

– Photograph because you love doing it, because you absolutely have to do it, because the chief reward is going to be the process of doing it. Other rewards — recognition, financial remuneration — come to so few and are so fleeting. And even if you are somewhat successful, there will almost inevitably be stretches of time when you will be ignored, have little income, or — often — both. Certainly there are many other easier ways to make a living in this society. Take photography on as a passion, not a career.

– First be a photographer and maybe the profession will come after. Don’t be in a rush to make pay your rent with your camera. Jimi Hendrix didn’t decide on the career of professional musician before he learned to play guitar. No, he loved music and and created something beautiful and that THEN became a profession. Make the pictures you feel compelled to make and perhaps that will lead to a career. But if you try to make the career first, you will just make shitty pictures that you don’t care about.

– Many young photographers come to me and tell me their motivation for being a photographer is to “travel the world” or to “make a name” for themselves. Wrong answers in my opinion. Those are collateral incidentals or perhaps even the disadvantages of being a photographer. Without having tangible ideas, thoughts, feelings, and something almost “literary” to contribute to “the discussion”, today’s photographer will become lost in the sea of mediocrity.

In fact, this strain of advice is so prevalent that after reading that, a reader would be convinced there is not much of a living or money in photos at all. Of course, Magnum skews toward street and documentary, for which this is probably true.

The other interesting bit of advice for me? Work hard for a long time and look beyond photography:

– Work everyday even without assignments or money, work, work, work with discipline for yourself and not for editors or awards. And also collaborate with people not necessary photographers but people you admire.

– Visit as many museums as you possibly can. The images you see (painted, drawn, etched or photographed) will stay with you for the rest of your life. They will help you to discover good pictures in real life. Suppress any silly ambitions of becoming a great artist. Being a good photographer is difficult enough.

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~ by Jin on November 18, 2008.

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