It’s interesting when moving from one industry to another the little things that you take for granted in one industry that are now percieved as severe drawbacks within another.
My primary industry for the last 15 years of my life has been in IT. Previous to that, I was a massuese and alternative health practitioner. Recently, I have started venturing into the photographic industry with great vigor.
What amazed me was the simple things that I took for granted in the previous two industries that were practically non-existant in the latter. It wasn’t simply the fact that these things were lacking – but the attitude that accompanied them that practically ensures that they will either never appear or do so with great resistance.
So what am I talking about? Primarily the concept of mentoring.
In my previous industries, the competition for market share and for survival are no less ferocious or cut throat than is found in photography. Yet, there still remained a sense of community and dignity among the members of the indstry which allowed for networking, assistance, and mentoring the next generation of entrants into the industry.
It seems to me, at least, that members of the photographic industry are overcome with a feeling of survival of the fittest. In my limited encounters with peers of the industry, I have noticed an overtly high percantage of bitter, protective, critical and downright aggressively rude members who would rather die than share “their secrets”.
In no other industry that I have been involved in have I had this experience. No other industry have I seen members specifically go out of their way to alienate, attack, distance or remove other members let alone downright refuse to assist up and comers into the industry.
It’s a concept that to me is both foreign, and frankly, disgusting.
In speaking to “industry leaders”, I have been shocked to find that they are just as guilty of perpetrating these attitudes. I was most surprised when an industry body president even scoffed me for asking about mentoring ans support programmes for emerging photographers. Even trying to justify the scoff by stating that in their 30 years of experience this has not been available and “why would I give something away for free when I can charge someone $1500 a day for it?”
Now, obviously this is just my opinion, but I percieve that it is this type of thinking that is corroding the industry. Sure, photographers all like to blame the 20¢ stock photo sites, or the 16 year old kid doing weddings for $200 or even the GWC doing modeling tear sheets and comp cards for free … But the reality is that these situations occur because there isn’t a system in place to guide individuals to the process of the industry. The industry has never unified to create a code of conduct, let alone pricing schedule guidelines – and with the aforementioned attitudes, it never will.
I am a member of two professional bodies in the industry … The first I joined because it was touted as “the” body for professional photographers. Unfortunatly it was this same body in which I received the aforementioned coversation.
Yesterday, I discovered the other body I have now joined. A glimmer of light that I embraced hoping that this will be part of the catalyst of change towards a supporting, unified industry.
The ACMP swept me off my feet with their mentoring programmes, support groups, political campaigning and the fact they were willing to listen to new ideas and see how they could be made possible.
I only hope that i’m not raising my expectations to only have them dashed … But I look forward to great things from a body that seems to be making the right noises towards supporting their members and being a force of change.
Perhaps, it’s not too late for the industry yet.