An open letter to “Joe”

Last week I was scrolling through my blog comments and found one that caught me a bit off guard. I’ve been thinkng a lot lately about the state of the photography industry as whole, all the newcomers with big dreams and high goals. I’ve been thinking about the incredible photographers who have gone out of thier way to help some of these “new guys” (A couple of my favorites are Justin & Mary Marantz, and Katelyn James), and then some other photographers who….have done the opposite. They’ve gone out of their way to drag out their soapbox and stand on the street corners proclaiming the impending doom of our industry due to the infiltration of Mom’s with cameras, and “fauxtographers”. And I’ve been thinking a lot about my role in is, and where I stand. This blog comment was the first of it’s kind that I’ve ever received and although I have had quite a few friends get trashed publicly, I thought I have been laying low enough to avoid most of that drama. Because, let’s be honest, ain’t nobody got time fo’ that! But, I decided to respond to this comment. It was left by a “Joe Easton”, whose name I wasn’t going to publish, but since I wrote him back and the email got returned to me by Mailer Daemon, I figured I’d use his full name here. So this blog post is for all the Joe Easton’s out there…and well as every photographer who has ever been torn down by “pros” that obviously have way too much time on their hands.

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Hey Joe!

I recently saw the comment you left on my blog and thought I’d write you back. The comment read

Some good shots. A lot of the same stuff…like you just learned depth of field or something. Most look unnatural, guys looks pretty nervous and uptight. Should have had a beer first and I can’t believe she made him wear a JC Penny suit. Colors are also off, do you use lightroom to edit?

First of all, I appreciate your openness and willing to post your name alongside it. I’ve seen comment of this tone left on others blogs and it is almost always written by “Anonymous”. So thank you for putting your name by your comment. 🙂 If you noticed the date on the post it was from a few years back. I’d like to think that I’ve grown a lot more since then and have discovered a style that really is “me” and the values my business represents. My clients must agree because our booking rate has very steadily increased and our business has been growing at a rate that even I doubted would ever be possible.

Ironically, just hours before you made the comment on that particular post, I was talking to my associate who is about to do an engagement session at that same location. I told her she can search for that post on my blog just to get an idea of what the grounds look like. I then went onto my blog and look up that post myself. I smiled as I remembered how nervous I was on that shoot, one of my first “official” ones. I was also quite proud of myself for not using crazy actions to edit them. Clearly I needed to work on my posing skills, which I believe I have made tremendous strides in since then, but overall I was actually quite proud both at what the images looked like then but also how much I’ve grown as an artist since then. I thought it to be entertaining that I was looking at that post myself not long before you made the comment.

I will say, however, that while I appreciate your frankness, I was a bit disturbed and put off by the tone in your comment. I felt as though you were rather judgmental. I doubt you can debate this when one of the sentences read “And to say that you can’t believe she made him wear a JC Penney suit?” C’mon, Joe, that’s just low.

Your tone didn’t offend me, personally. I am established enough in my business and confident enough in who I am both as a person and an artist to not be offended. However, I was disturbed by the fact that you would make a comment as such on the blog of someone you don’t know at all. I have many friends who give me regular feedback on both my work and how I run my business. Sometimes it’s the hard, honest truth. But because they are friends of mine, I know their heart behind it. You, on the other hand, live up to the stereotype of “some random Joe”, no pun intended.

I have met many new photographers who have always dreamed of doing this full time but the main thing that holds them back is fear. And most often that fear is of what people will say. I assume that since you had such a strong critique and opinion that you, yourself, are a seasoned photographer. You, like me, had to start somewhere. And you, like me, I’m sure had people that knocked you down a bit in the beginning. Maybe it was a parent who couldn’t believe that you could make a living “just taking pictures”. Maybe it was another photographer who told you that your work sucked. Maybe it was a client who was miserable to work with and made you question why you ever got into this business in the first place. Regardless, I am sure that you, like me, had those people in your life at some point along the road. The reason I am writing to you now is to beg you to not be one of those people. Had I been a new photographer that was still discovering my style, still learning how to use Lightroom (or…God forbid…iPhoto), and still trying to figure out if I had the guts to pursue this dream of mine, your comment would have left me feeling like a tremendous failure. It would have caused me to completely doubt my worth as an artist and likely would have given me one more push to give up. Because in those early days? The idea of giving up seems to be around every corner. So Joe, whoever you are and wherever you are from, I would implore you to be kind to your colleagues. By bringing one another down we are not raising the quality of the industry but, instead tearing it down even further than many “seasoned professionals” think it already is. It has been said that great leaders don’t create followers, they create other leaders. I believe this is true of artists as well. Nothing good could ever come of tearing one another down. If you have a good friend whose work has been slacking lately, then by all means call them out on it. But a random stranger? It’s just not nice. My mother used to often tell me “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

I would ask you, Joe, instead of making rude comments on random photography blogs, why not write to the photographer you think needs help and ask them if there is an area of their business in which they feel like they could use some wisdom from a seasoned professional as yourself. You may be flabbergasted at my very suggestion of doing this, but what good is it doing to our industry as a whole to tear one another down? What if all the great professors of Yale were completely annoyed by the bright eyed 18 year olds that came in each fall, eager to learn, but having no experience, and just rolled their eyes thinking “They will never reach the level of knowledge and wisdom I have?”. We would have a generation of failing doctors and lawyers. To be the best you have to learn from the best….or struggle for a LONG TIME trying to figure it out on your own. So I would beg you to consider the idea of making our industry stronger by taking time to invest in a new photographer or two. And, dare I say, without the premium of $500/hour. There is no greater feeling than seeing someone you’ve mentored succeed in business. And, believe me, it is certainly a better feeling than sitting in your office chair and growing bitter by the fact that the industry is being taken over by “newbies” and “MWC’s”.

Make a decision to help, not hurt. You will be glad you did.

Sincerely,
Alicia Candelora

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And to every new photographer out there struggling in the early years to make this dream of yours a reality….never, never, never give up. Ever. Every one of us had to go through the struggle of the early years, but the struggle is what refines and sharpens you. It’s in those struggling years that you learn how to fight for your future and cling to your dreams. And when you come out on the other side, you’ll appreciate the ideal clients, the published shoots, the money, and the success so much more.

  1. Joni

    February 22nd, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Very brave and honest! I love you Alicia!

  2. Chris Burke

    February 22nd, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Fantastic! Love it!! I can’t stand all those pompous “pros” who, quite frankly are afraid of the newbies coming up.. Sure they are losing business, I can’t tell you how many weddings I’ve lost because of “MWC’s” but you know what, ppl who are going to hire a mwc were never going to hire a $2500 photographer.. So I never got why so many pros are hateful to people trying to get in the industry.. We all had to start somewhere.. They didn’t come out of the womb shooting beautiful photos, we all had to shoot terrible photos before we learned how to shoot them right.. I’ll be retweeting this article for sure!

  3. Maria

    February 22nd, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    GREAT response! Thank you for standing up for your art, your work and for the chance for others to follow.

  4. Rebecca Block

    February 22nd, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    YES!! More photographers like “Joe” need to be called out on what they are doing. And more photographers like you need to pull up their britches and be brave enough to call them out on it!

    My favorite line: “By bringing one another down we are not raising the quality of the industry but, instead tearing it down even further than many “seasoned professionals” think it already is.”

  5. Ashley

    February 24th, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Awesome, Alicia! You are SO right!! What good does it do to tear others down? It is sad that there are so many people in this world and this industry that build themselves up by making others feel small. It must be a sad life. I can only really feel sorry for those people who obviously have confidence issues themselves if they have to stoop to that level and intentionally hurt someone else.

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