Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tokyo Lecture - The Rules

As a preface to my talk at Tokyo Photo (see below) I articulated four rules that I thought were essential for any young photographer trying to survive.

Here are the rules:

1. Have talent. (Talent is not when your friends tell you they love your work, but when people who don't like you have to admit it's good.)

2. Understand how the world works. (Not just globally, but on a macro level. Understand what people need and don't need. Understand when to approach people and when not to. Develop social skills.)

3. Choose good friends. (There's nothing like an effective network.)

4. Be modern. (Don't do anything that looks like it's someone else's work. Stay on top of technology. Engage on multiple platforms.)


Anonymous said...

These are each very good, important points. But, by the time a young photographer achieves an understanding of how the world truly works, they're no longer young.

Anonymous said...

Amazing and true.

Erik Voake

Anonymous said...

All those things are harder than they sound. Way harder.

Justin Morrison said...

The first piece of advice to anyone wanting to become a photographer should be:
"It's harder than it sounds. Way harder".

Really these are great rules no matter what your field of endeavor.

Rodney Bedsole said...

Very good advice, but also very general and vague.

Koz said...

5. Learn how to run a business.

Todd Walker said...

I'd replace "Have talent" with "Work hard". Not everyone has talent, but everyone can work hard. Neither guarantee anything, 'course.

Plus, the world is full of talented people who didn't work hard and fell by the wayside. Conversely, less talented hard workers find success eventually.

Angela C. said...

I agree with Rodney.

Brendan O'Shea said...

Rule number 2 is the only rule. For everything.

Roland said...

Disagree with the followup of rule 4. By specifically emulating others whose work you admire (as a study), you soon begin to understand their point of view, the way that they work and the limitations of their techniques. You can decide what you do and do not like about the internal workings of what they are doing. You can learn an enormous amount about any art form by diligently attempting to recreate the masters. Do it long enough and with insight, and you develop your own style.

Judson said...

'but when people who don't like you'

How many could that be?

BDR said...

...I'd replace "Have talent" with "Work hard". Not everyone has talent, but everyone can work hard. Neither guarantee anything, 'course...

Why does the concept of working hard to achieve success have to be a stated rule now?

"Work" is "hard". It has always been. Who achieves great success in any industry (other than reality television) without working hard?

If it needs to be explicity stated, we could also add:
Remember to regularly breathe in oxygen.
Eat food, at least every forty days and drink water more frequently than that.

Joe Holmes said...

James --

My alternate takes on your rules:

Have talent: I like the commenter who said, Work hard. Work hard, all the time, for years. You should expect to work hard at photography for 10 years before you really know if you have talent.

Understand how the world works: Don't get involved with what you're shooting, shoot what you're involved with.

Choose good friends: It's better to be the worst photographer in shows than the best. You'll rise to the excellence around you.

Be modern: Can't improve on that one.

I'd add one: Trust your quirky photographic obsessions, but know when to move on.

T. Burd said...

In addition, a rule I'd add is: 'Listen to the people you're photographing.'

The best photos tend to be those where the subject is really connecting with the photographer.

That rarely happens unless you let yourself think past your camera to hear what your subject is saying about what they want and who they are.

Anonymous said...

I prefer to look at these less as rules and more like responsibilities?

1. Creative (Be modern...)
2. Technical (Learn the basic principles, know your equipment...)
3. Relationships (Attract a mentor, build networks, be nice...)
4. Admin (Get business savvy, be organised...)

Now work your butt off for 10 years... and if you stop enjoying it, maybe its not for you?

henry said...

I do wish you'd stop using the word modern in the way you do.