9 insightful advice from top professional photographers, artists, and educators ...

BY DOMINIQUE JAMES

From the series of exclusive Q&A interviews for this blog, this is a compilation of insightful advice shared by some of the most inspiring and inspired visual and imaging professionals, artists, and educators who are at the very top of their game today.

•••

DAVID GEORGE BROMMER: I’m working on a book called Finding and Developing Photographic Style and my focus is education right now. So where do I begin? In short, I suggest working on self-assigned projects that have a beginning, middle and end, that you set up when planning the project. (Read the entire Q&A with David George Brommer, and see some of his photos, here.)

Photo by David George Brommer. © 2015 All rights reserved.

ELLEN ANON: Always wonder “what if” and then find out. Don’t not take a picture because someone else has a litany of reasons for why it won’t work or won’t sell. If you’re thinking about it, try it. You never know, you might be on to something good! (Read the entire Q&A with Ellen Anon, and see some of her pictures, here.)

Photo by Ellen Anon. © 2015 All rights reserved.

HAROLD DAVIS: Creating and sharing photos is an act of communication, and often involves strong emotions. Be open to what you feel because your photos are an expression of who you really are. The best (and maybe only) way to promote yourself as a photographer is to make images that powerfully speak to people. (Read the entire Q&A with Harold Davis, and see some of his photos, here.)

Photo by Harold Davis. © 2015 All rights reserved.

JENNIFER CHILDS: I was recently out on the streets of Boston, no photographic agenda in mind but shooting nonetheless. It was midday, the sun high in the sky and this guy stopped and commented on how it was a horrible time of day to shoot. My snarky, unfiltered mouth said, "Well I guess it depends on what you want to shoot now doesn't it?" He replied that he'd read from different sources that this particular light wasn't ‘nice,’  To which I cheekily replied, 'Nice for what? All of the hours can't be golden ya know. Work with the light you've got.' I may have then proceeded to tell him to throw out these books and manuals (figuratively of course… I love my manuals, I read them cover to cover), but my advice to him was simple... just go shoot. Get out from behind your computer, put down the books, pick up your camera and throw caution to the wind. Go out at different times of day, in different weather conditions (yes, even when it's raining or (snowing)<---Boston shout out) and learn how your camera works. Learn what it is you do and do not like to shoot and don't worry about making images you think other people want to see; by the time you follow a trend, it's gone. (Read the entire Q&A with Jennifer Childs, and see some of her photos, here.)

Photo by Jennifer Childs. © 2015 All rights reserved.

KATRIN EISMANN: Find a project that you love and work on it every day. Making and creating images is a positive thing to do with your life—go out, explore, frame and create. I admire anyone who values photography and understands that it requires constant practice, experimentation and some failure. Keep asking questions and life will always be interesting. (Read the entire Q&A with Katrin Eismann, and see some of her photos, here.)

Photo by Katrin Eismann. © 2015 All rights reserved. 

LESTER LEDESMA: Make photography part of your lifestyle. Be a photographer even if nobody's paying to do a job. That way your eyes are always peeled, and your photography senses are always sharp. And you get into a state of constant improvement. (Read the entire Q&A with Lester Ledesma, and see some of his photos, here.)

Photo by Lester Ledesma. © 2015 All rights reserved.

LINDSAY ADLER: Rejection isn’t failure. As artists, our work is a reflection of ourselves. We put pieces or all of ourselves into our work. That is why rejection feels so debilitating to many of us artists. When we hear critique, criticism or rejection all we often feel like failures. At least that is how many of us feel, particularly as we start our journey as artists. I know I used to feel this way, and at times that tinge of rejection is still painful to bear. Early on in my career I heard some brutal criticism of my work. I regularly would send my shoots to 200 magazines and not get a single acceptance of my images. In fact, I had worked professionally as a photographer for years when one editor told me that every image in my portfolio should be scrapped as garbage. Rejection felt like failure. Even more than a dozen years into my career I still get brutal critiques and have my work turned down by major companies. This rejection used to feel crippling. One thing I have learned in my years of photography is that rejection is not failure, and the way to hurt your career the most is to let rejection hold you back from sharing your work or prevent you from producing with all your heart and soul. I found there are many reasons I have been rejected. Perhaps my work didn't fit with that particular client. Or maybe it just wasn't the ‘right time’ and the company wasn't looking to work with a new photographer. Or maybe, my work actually was weak but I have a great deal of room for improvement. Negative feedback shouldn't destroy us or tear us down, but instead help us find ways to build up and be stronger. Pay attention to where the criticism or rejection is coming from. Sometimes it is by the cruel of heart, knowing it will hurt you. Others are from experts simply trying to help you grow. Learn that rejection is just part of being an artist and a professional, and don't let it cloud your mind. Even the most successful artists in history have been rejected, often. Their resilience is why we know them today. The more you put your work out there, the more opportunities you will be creating for yourself. Even if your work is exquisite, opportunities don't come knocking at the door. People don't beg to hire you.  You have to create the demand, you have to get your work in front of more eyes to create more opportunities. The more you share your work, the more you will come across rejection, but at the same time you are creating more opportunities. You create your ‘lucky break’ by pushing past the pain of rejection until you find those prize opportunities that change your career. Rejection isn't failure, so don't allow rejection to force you to fail. (Read the entire Q&A with Lindsay Adler, and see some of her photos, here.)

Photo by Lindsay Adler. © 2015 All rights reserved.

ROBERT ENGLEBRIGHT: My best advice would be to study the craft of photography and pursue what you love within the medium. I agree with Philip-Lorca DiCorcia's statement that, “Photography is a foreign language everyone thinks he speaks.” Photography is a language that uses metaphor, iconography, symbolism, etc., to tell a story. If you want to speak the language of photography well you need to understand that. And I think you have to treat photography as a craft like any other art form. Know your craft. A person is not a photographer just because they have a camera. Elevate yourself above the din of competing voices by honing the craft and developing your own aesthetic sensibilities. (Read the entire Q&A with Robert Englebright, and see some of his photos, here.)

Photo by Robert Englebright. © 2015 All rights reserved.

TIM GREY: Follow your passion and know your gear! You should photograph whatever you are passionate about, because that will lead to better photographs. And it is critical to have a familiarity with your photography equipment so you can actually translate your artistic vision into a photographic image. (Read the entire Q&A with Tim Grey, and see some of his photos, here.)

Photo by Tim Grey. © 2015 All rights reserved.

•••

Notes: All photographs on this page by the respective photographers are used with permission. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. For the complete set of interviews and photographs of all the amazing featured photographers on this blog’s exclusive Q&A, click here.