Earlier this year, I was giving a lecture and conducting a livecover photo shoot at Samy’s Camera here in Los Angeles forphotographers of all levels. I began the lecture with a statement thatwas so simple, so earnest, you would expect to hear it from your ownmother. I asked each attendee to look at those sitting to each side ofthem, to see them not as their competitors but rather as theircomrades. If they could see that, they would succeed. How do I knowthis? Because it’s how I have treated other photographers since I beganmy photographic journey over 20 years ago. And it was because of thosecomrades that I met at a cafe in Milan I began shooting for ItalianVogue and other Conde Nast publications. This simple lesson hasremained with me over the years and it appears the lesson resonatesstill. My friend and former assistant Jason Christopher was in theaudience and I later found out that my message resonated with him as hepassed it on as well in his blog.
As comrades you help each other and experience far more success thanyou will failure because you are brothers and sisters in arms. Tosupport and help or guide one another is how we not only survive, butthrive in these difficult times! It is beyond me how many photographerstoday can’t get along with other photographers for reasons so trivialthat I wonder when our mothers are going to shout at us “Play Nice!”
The photographic industry is as competitive as ever with many tryingto break in while others are simply trying to survive. I’ll say itagain, change your path and perspective and not only will you survivebut you shall thrive. With the tug of war and popularity contest goingon nobody will make any progress.
Explaining the Light
Over 20 years ago when I was breaking into this industry, I hadaccess to and was able to soak in information and experience first handthe work ethic of many established photographers, none more so than thelegendary Patrick Demarchelier. From my years with him I learnedeverything from loading cameras with film, to how to handle mybusiness, and above all, how to treat my clients and my peers. I onceowned a book titled, “Seven in New York.” It was about seven Frenchphotographers (of which one was Demarchelier) who went to New York andhelped one another establish themselves in the photographic community.The book had a huge impact on my life and I wish I had it while I wasworking for Patrick. Not only could I have had him sign it, but canyou imagine what it would be like to read a book about someone who wasin the same situation you are currently going through and that personalso happens to be your boss? Think of the water cooler conversationpossibilities on that one!
The time spent, and lessons learned from those days with Patrick, tothis very day affect who I am as a photographer and a person. If youask me how to do something, I will not only tell you but I’ll draw youa map! Your body of work is not just the images you create over theyears, but the images you help to create even if you are not the onepushing the shutter. Another photographer is not your enemy, anotherphotographer is your brother/sister in arms. Just as you can help themgrow they can help you. As Mom says, “Do unto others as you would havethem do unto you.”
© Jerry Avenaim