above pictures from Owen Harvey's Mod UK
Today on the blog, just-graduated photographer Owen Harvey is giving his dos and don'ts of being a photographer seeking his way in the world.
You can see Owen's work on exhibition at Mother Advertising agency in London ( supported by Magnum Photos and IdeasTap).
As a recent graduate this year and a relatively young photographer, I’m going to mainly aim the following at those of you who are soon to be in that horrible situation of finishing Uni yourselves. So, you will probably be skint, jobless and thinking about what on earth to do with yourself. I’ve realised in my short time out of Uni, that there are a lot of things you should do and definitely a few you most probably shouldn’t…
If you want to be a photographer, then be a photographer. Shoot, shoot, shoot. In fact there’s a lot more to it than that. If you aren’t out shooting pictures, you should be planning projects. If you aren’t planning projects, go to exhibitions and events. If you aren’t at exhibitions or events, then you should most probably be out shooting again. It sounds simple, but if you want it to be a job, treat it like one, a fun one.
On the other hand…
Don’t burn yourself out. If you have a little bit of an obsessive personality like I do, then it’s important to remember you can’t work 24 hours a day. If you overwork yourself all the time, you’ll end up like a zombie and have to go to photographic rehab. Don’t be afraid to work hard and play hard. No one wants to talk purely about photography constantly. You’ll end up boring everyone to death; sometimes it’s good to just talk rubbish over a pint. Also, as tempting as it is, don’t go the other way and drink 24 hours a day either I should add.
Do be proud of your work! All artists go through a lot of sacrifices for good projects and nothing comes easy. If your work is being well received then great! Don’t get complacent though. Remember your next project has to be on par or probably even better than your last.
Don’t rush getting your work out in every corner of the world. Sometimes it’s good to sit on a project for a while. If you can’t wait for people to see your project because you honestly think you need it out there that much, then at least hold back some images. I’ve got a lot of images from projects that I really like, but I haven’t done anything with. The reason is that if you want to make a book etc. you are going to want fresh images in it. If everyone’s seen the whole project in print already or online, then who is going to want to buy the book or go to the exhibition with nothing fresh in it?
This is probably the most important point and the most obvious. Make work you are passionate about! (This also translates to being in honest in what you do). Before you go out shooting, ask yourself ‘Do I really care about this?’ If you don’t, then take your shoes off and don’t waste your time. If you don’t care about the work, no one else will and if you do care, it will show.
One of the most important points I was passed down by any photographer was always do carry a snickers (this translates to Mars Bar, Twix, and Kit-Kat etc.). If you are shooting people all night, or trekking through fields looking for the perfect landscape shot, or whatever you are choosing to do, sometimes you need a snack. Don’t get caught out, out of energy, in a food mood and nothing to solve the problem. Take a snack on a shoot. Also make sure you do a checklist before you leave. I once turned up to a shoot and forgot a singular piece of kit that meant I couldn’t shoot all night. A mistake you don’t make twice.
I think this one is pretty much common sense as well, but basically don’t be an arsehole. Help people out, be supportive of other people’s projects, and don’t see everyone and everything as competition. Remember the circles in photography are small and what goes around comes around in life. I’ve heard many of stories of photographers doing dumb things to try and climb the ladder of success and where has it got them? A bad name at best. Be honest with people, be yourself and most importantly have fun. Photography should be fun, it’s the reason we all do it because we enjoy it. Don’t lose sight of that.