From little things, big industries collapse

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.

3 thoughts on “From little things, big industries collapse”

  1. I have seen both sides of this attitude to new comers in many different fields of my interests.

    My experience of these different attitudes is that these are a reflection of people’s security/insecurity.

    If you find a person that is comfortable in the belief that their ability comes from time and energy spent to learn the skills that they have. And that those particular skills are worth someone investing in them, then they tend to be more open to helping new comers establish a foot hold in that industry or advance there skills as a professional or an amateur.

    On the other hand if that person believes that anyone can do there job because it does not require much skill they will be very defensive of any secrets they may have learnt must be guarded closely for that is there only edge.

    I have had a bit of experience with talking to photographers being an armature myself. The few professionals that I have had the chance to sit down with and talk to reinforce my belief in this.

    One professional I sat down with had spent more than 30 years photographing for various magazines all this time and was in his words reasonable sort after. On weekends he spent time photographing weddings; this was where I meet him. When he realised that I had an interest in photograph he was more than happy to talk about what he does, how he set up the photo etc. He enjoyed that fact that he could help someone. He also new that there was no way I could threaten his work. Other photographers that I meet, in this search, where not so open to talking. In a way I could understand this as looking at there work I did not believe their skill where that much better than my own.

    So what I am trying to say is if you are looking for a mentor be patient and look for some with the experience that they actually have something that they can teach you.
    It is no good having a mentor that you can surpass in six months.

  2. Hi Xntrek, as full time photographer and a member of both of Australia’s pro photographer organisations, I must say I am surprised, and also disappointed on behalf of my peers that you have formed this opinion of pro photography. My own experience is very much the opposite. I think that the majority of photographers are open and willing to share their knowledge. The Australian Commercial and Media photographers has a group(Trampoline) specifically to address the needs of emerging photographers. Perhaps you could go along to one of their meetings, and hopefully you will find an open and supportive attitude.

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