Susana Raab has a great response to my post on mentoring, I really enjoyed reading it and I think based on the emails I received about my Frank/Sternfeld post, most people will identify with her experiences. While I chose to write about a really positive and meaningful mentoring moment in my life, I certainly had my share of the opposite. Unfortunately, a lot of people teaching photography seem to very unsuitable for the task. There are many who seem to teach only for their ego, money, or to meet starry eyed young ladies they can try to take advantage of, I have had all of the above. She brings up another point, which is the importance of having a supportive mate, I am also lucky enough to have a partner who not only encourages and supports me, but who has an amazing eye and understanding of photography. But all of my experiences, many of them quite imperfect, have moved me forward on my photographic journey. In retrospect, I feel really grateful for all of it.
Many blogs have discussed the worthiness of assisting and how to get started in photography. My advice would be to get yourself around as many talented people as you can. You learn so much by osmosis. I think people assume that if they intern that they are entitled to “get something back” for working for free. I have done a lot of interning, and almost all of it has turned into paid employment or has given me invaluable information. I began interning at my current job, and I have to say I enjoyed every minute of archiving negatives. I learned more going through hundreds of negatives of an incredibly accomplished photographer than I could ever learn in any workshop or class. So I say to all of you who want to get somewhere, bite the bullet and get yourself in somewhere where you can be around the best. Sometimes ‘mentoring’ is not an active experience. I think you can create our own mentor by changing your expectations. Right now I have the privilege of being a part of the production of really great photographer’s show. I am getting to see what goes in to the making of a top of line gallery show from start to finish. This is an invaluable experience. You can get mentoring from your peers, your loved ones, and from anyone you can find you can offer you support, encouragement and feedback. It takes a village to make a great photographer. I get a ton of support from my rental place, without the incredible their tech knowledge, I would not be able to make my photos. Yes I was very lucky to have studied with Joel and with Penelope Umbrico, both of whom gave me incredible gifts. But at some point you are out there on your own and you have to find your way. At least that is what I keep telling myself.