Oh, to be young again

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I recently read an article written by a photographer that got me all boiled up inside. So much so, that I found it impossible to do any work for a while. The author of this article has to be a new photographer and it was posted on a website belonging to what must be a new wedding planner. I say that she must be new because if you are experienced in the business, you must know that you should do a little research before letting anyone represent your brand.

The article was one of those ones that contains an argument that should just be left to rest. Like the Nikon versus Canon argument, the film versus digital is a silly one. You shoot film? Cool. You shoot digital? Cool. Get on out there and create some great images. It doesn’t matter your medium, just do that. Create images that you are proud of for clients that respect you. That’s it. There is no need for an argument over which is better because they are both great. (Sidenote: I am of the opinion that anyone who says that film is the “best thing ever” was not actually around at a time when film was the only option out there. Film is great but I for one am pretty darn happy that I don’t have to spend all of my time inhaling chemicals like I had to back then.)

Life Awesome Blog My problem with articles like this is the false statements that are in them. You can write a piece with your opinion and explain that opinion through your own experiences. You cannot state that X is better than Y and then follow it up with saying things that are simply false. With the magic of the internet, these false statements can quickly be shown to be, well, false. No, there are not magical crystals on film and after the shutter clicks, the film magically mutates. Nope. That’s not how film works. Google it. No, you do not get a “crazy” depth of field by shooting film and digital compared to that looks flat. Nope. You get different variations of depth of field depending on your lens and camera choice. It has nothing to do with the medium of how that image is captured. And the author’s definition of depth of field (“‘Depth of field’ is when the background is out of focus, and the subject is in focus”) is 100% inaccurate. Depth of field means just that – the amount of distance between what is nearest and farthest objects in focus in the image. Google is your friend here. If you do not know these things but feel the need to blog about it and therefore stating that you are an expert on these things, please at least spread accurate truths.

The problem is, when people do these things, they are doing a disservice to other photographers both old and new. The old guys (Hey! That’s me included!) shake our heads, put our cameras on a shelf to collect dust and walk away. The new guys think “Cool! I learned something!” and then start their photography business without the real knowledge to. It’s frustrating. Especially for someone who, like me, has dedicated their entire adult life to the world of photography. I work hard in it and for some new photographer to come along and to say “this is how things are” is, well quite honestly, heart wrenching.

The thing with being young is that it’s a lot of fun. Everything is new. The world is your oyster and you’re living on top of your own kingdom. You have these rose-coloured glasses when you look out. You have lived a little and you think you know it all. It’s pretty cool. What you don’t have are those life experiences that really get us going. Those experiences that give us guts and real understanding of the world. I can tell you countless times where I defiantly stated something to someone older than me that I respected and how I was knocked down for it. I walked around with this fat ego-filled head and then times like that would make it shrink a little and I would think “Yeah, I get that. When I am in my mid-twenties, late-twenties, when I am thirty, I will be there, I will get it.” Well here I am, nearly in my mid-thirties* and let me tell you, I am still learning. Everyday I experience things that put my ego (and heart) in check. I know not to blurt things out that I am maybe not 100% knowledgable in. I know when to listen – whether it be to someone younger or older than me – because I know that there is always something to learn because we have all have been on different paths to take us to where we are today.

The problem with articles like this is: the internet lives forever. What you post will be there forever for someone to see. As a result, you need to be more conscience of what you put out there. If you want to share your voice, make sure it’s an accurate one. You can write about your opinion and experiences to the moon and back but as soon as you start stating supposed facts, they had best be correct (especially when what you are writing is for a website that is not your own). For myself, I compose these blog posts and then I sit on them for a couple of days before making them go live. Why? I want to make sure that I stand behind every word that I share.

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My advice to young photographers is to never stop learning. I know that, even after studying for four years for that BFA in Photography and then running my photography business for the past twelve  years, I still have a lot to learn. Read, and I don’t mean just things on the Internet, I mean real books written by reputable people.** Go to the library and look at real photo books.*** Hold them in your hand. Visit a gallery and study actual photographs.**** Learn what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to creating images. Hone your craft. Become an expert in it and be eager to continually get better. Because the thing with you getting better, is that I then get better and we all get better and then this industry of photography elevates. It’s beneficial to all of us.


* The other day I was at a museum and there was a woman from Nashville there who wanted to know where she should go eat lunch. She started the conversation with “Are you a student?” to which I replied with a chuckle, “I am not.” She looked confused and then said “So you’re an adult?” As I approach thirty-five, I cherish moments like those. 🙂

**On Photography by Susan Sontag is a great places to start.

***The Americans by Robert Frank is one of my favourites.

****Anything that the ICP in New York is awesome. Check your local galleries. Visit Toronto in May for the CONTACT Festival. Look at real printed photographs hung on a wall.

3 Replies to “Oh, to be young again”

  1. Thanks for sharing this Jess…I think I might dust off ‘On Photography’. ;o)

    1. There is a documentary about Susan Sontag on HBO right now. We watched it last night and it was really great!

  2. You’re an adult? Since when?

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