Not totally photo related, not just a journal. A bit of both.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Blog, Counter Blog.

Tonight I came across this blog post written by local London photographer and blogger Kevin Van Lierop. It was a response to the rant I did here about about a month ago on people using me - or more specifically using me for my photography skills.

Kevin seemed to take great offense to what I wrote. He felt, I think, that I might have had somewhere in there a good point or two, but it was lost because I made those points quite poorly and wasn't acting professionally in the first place.

While my language was perhaps colourful, it was reflecting my thoughts at the time rather well. Re-reading that post tonight, I don't think I missed my point.

To reiterate, honest genuine people who want to learn about photography and are not just looking to cheat to get to the end by using me, are more than welcome. What I was vehemently objecting to were people who had no intention of putting in the time and just wanted a shortcut or several. It was the ''guys with cameras' - and yes they were all male - who wanted me to tell them specifically the points I mentioned in that post, who prompted me to write. None of that was fabricated. All I left out were the specific names of who asked what. And no, I wasn't referring to Kevin in that post.

I am loathe to say it, because I really don't like talking about myself, but I am perhaps one of the more helpful, selfless people out there. Not just when it comes to photography, but in anything. Ask anyone. It is my nature to be that way. I bust my ass to help people all the time and in many things. I ask nothing, nor do I expect anything in return. I think that perhaps you only have to read this blog too to get an idea about how passionately I share everything I find about photography - amongst other things. Or go on Flickr, where in the past four years I have written over 13,000 comments on people's photos and have over 2000 contacts. Pretty selfish of me I know.

In one of his central paragraphs, Kevin writes:

Whether a person likes to admit it or not it is almost impossible to develop skills without the input and influences of the people and world that surround him/her. Perhaps this is not direct contact (although I would bet that there is at least some direct contact in any learning situation) but it would be contact and influence none the less. I am willing to bet that the author of this post didn’t learn everything on his own, I’m willing to bet that he’s asked for help from a “seasoned veteran” in the past and that he has learned his fair share from others. Not giving the same type of help and mutual respect back to the community which most likely has served him well is a big issue in my book, but this is another argument all on it’s own, one which is too big for this post.
I completely agree. I have been influenced by many photographers, both living and dead. No one exists in an artistic or technical vacuum. However, with the one exception of meeting Dave Chidley, then a photographer from the London Free Press, for thirty minutes one winter four years ago (who offered to review my portfolio at the time and said I cropped too tightly), and my graphic designer friend Renée who showed me Photoshop in a couple of hours one afternoon two years ago (in exchange for me shooting some photos of her), I am self taught.

Not one class. Never did I ask another photographer, teacher, "seasoned veteran" or otherwise to show me the photographic ropes. Never belonged to a camera club. Never shadowed another photographer or acted as their assistant. No one ever told me what an f Stop was or how to use my gear. Or what gear to buy. I learned it on my own.

Fact of the matter is, I was too painfully shy to join a club or ask anyone for help growing up. I couldn't ask, so I bought books in the pre internet era. That was the way to do it. And I read a lot. And I shot photos, and I took notes on each photo in little notebooks to learn which f Stop was better for portraits and why. Now it can all be done by reviewing EXIF data. But I did it on my own.

I have been influenced by everyone from Bourke-White, Ansel Adams, Karsh, Arnold Newman, Avedon, Newton and Ritts. Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. Edward Weston, Cartier Bresson... even Rodin, Michaelangelo and DaVinci. I could go on at length about photographers and artists whose work I admire on Flickr too. But I didn't ask Ansel Adams, how to get to that foot path he trailblazed to where he exposed that last plate for his Monolith shot - just so I could do it one better and didnt have the time to look for myself. Nor did I ask Herb Ritts to introduce me to Gisele Bündchen because I didn't know how to even think about talking to a beautiful woman or contacting an agency. And no, before you think otherwise "the author" is not comparing himself in any way to, nor does he think himself to be to be in the class as, any of the cited photographers.

When I say I did it on my own through concentrated learning, experimenting, mistakes and trial and error I am not kidding. There were no shortcuts in my work whatsoever. And I don't really care if anyone believes that or not.

I am perfectly willing to be considered an eccentric artist for saying all this. And after all, I am not a professional photographer. I am an artistic photographer. I do not make the majority of my income from photography. Sadly much much less than that. So I don't mind if someone thinks I am not acting professionally or don't give back to the community - though Flickr is a huge community I give back to constantly...

And before you write him off for dumping on me - or send him hate mail, take a look at Kevin's blog speak-think: on being human. He shoots well, writes well, and the blog has a clean minimalist design to it. He is entitled to his opinion, and he also has lots of good things to say about the local London photographic community and the city as a whole.

I am in fact humbled that someone took the time to write anything at all in response to something I posted. So kudos to Kevin for that.


Mike Wood Photography


Stu said...

I saw his blog about that awhile back. Kevin is a contact on flickr and left a comment o check his blog after the Henry's embarrassment of a photo day. Personally I dismissed it since he obviously doesn't know a THING about you.

Seeing your work and shooting with Skeene's 20D were the 2 driving forces that got me into photography in the first place.

Those of us that you have helped along the way and offered suggestions to, truly do appreciate your time, what you give back to "the community" and wouldn't value what was being said in the other blog.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for posting a response to what I wrote, like you I find it somewhat humbling when someone takes the time to comment on something I wrote, for the good or bad.

For me, what you have written here far better explains your perspective and it does so in a much more professional manner. I have no issues with this post and I personally think that although the main premise is the same as your previous post this one is far more effective (regardless of if it is a response to what I wrote) in presenting your opinions and perspectives.

As someone starting out in photography (for personal reasons and nothing more) I have no intentions in taking classes, following someone around etc. I'm very much a self taught person in most things I partake in and find formal instruction to be too structured for me (even as far as "assignments" from photo clubs go).

I guess this is partially the reason I had any issues with what you previously wrote as it seems to be not too inviting to those new to the hobby/profession of photography. Although I choose to learn this on my own I would be lying if I said I did not pick up things along the way from other photographers, informally, simply through normal socialization, but never seeking out answers.

Thanks for writing this.

(to be honest I should have sent you a link in the beginning to what I wrote but honestly I don't have a reason/excuse to why I didn't)