Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 64, Learning 64: Get Your Game Face

This past weekend I was reminded of an experience that motivated me into becoming a professional.  The difference this time around is that I was on the other end of the dynamic.  Dear friends had asked me to "bring my camera" for a special event they were having.  It was, truly, as special event so I didn't mind the request.  Before things got rolling another friend of theirs showed up with a nice-looking camera, and I suspect he had brought it of his own accord.  He recognized the importance of the event and thought he should make sure it was documented.  When I pulled out my camera and started shooting, he put his away. 

I immediately flashed back to an experience from three years ago.  I was traveling in India with Chuck Fryberger, and exceptional videographer and photographer.  We were at a Theyyam-- an ancient and private ritual that exists in only one small part of India and the world.  It's a day-long ceremony, and as evening fell I found myself standing behind an older Indian man.  He was shirtless, and his arms were crossed so that his hand rested on his shoulder.  It was the most fascinating hand I had ever seen, gnarled and slightly disfigured by life.  Framed against the background of a glowing fire and throng of people it was a beautiful shot; but I thought it was too personal. The hand spoke volumes about him-- but also about me... my cultural and economic difference.  While I gazed at it like an imbecile, Chuck wedged himself between us and took the shot.  I could see the LCD on the back of his camera and it was just as beautiful as I imaged (and he took it beautifully, with elegance and assurance).

It was right then that I realized the difference between Chuck and I.  He was a photographer, a professional.  He was committed to the image; his sense of self, his pride was all that.  I didn't see myself as a professional three years ago.  I took beautiful photographs.  But there's a difference.  A game face.

Last weekend I saw the same situation mirrored in reverse.  The other photographer, who may have been as skilled or more than I, didn't see himself as a photographer.  We chatted for a while about the event and photography, and after a little while he pulled out his camera and started shooting as well.

My advice to people starting out today is that when you pick up the camera, commit yourself as a professional.  This doesn't mean you're insensitive to personal privacy, pushy, or arrogant.  It means that no matter how badly things are going with a shoot or who else is there, you are committed and driven.

What does that mean in actionable terms?
1. Come prepared.
2. Use your natural "authority" as a photographer but don't push boundaries.
3. When you miss a shot, ask to do it over if you can.  Talk to your subjects/clients.
4. No matter how prepared you are, problems arise. They chose a professional to deal with those problems.  Work the scene.

No comments:

Post a Comment