Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Photographers, Are We Delusional?

Here I am, taking myself as an example, what I personally have gone through as a lesson, looking strictly deep into my own heart with a microscope, and doing my best not to hide a single bit of the struggles I went through as a photographer and as a human being.  

I am in no position here to judge others. For the previously offended, if you still think I am referring to you in my blog (some people are just over-sensitive), what I can say is I am referring to myself and what I experienced. It's entirely personal. All that offense was totally unnecessary in your own imagination.

I use "we" in many of my following paragraphs, not necessarily meaning that I did some of those things, but I prefer to look at the current wedding industry from the inside as a wedding photographer and not from the outside as a spectator. In no way am I claiming to represent the wedding industry in Malaysia but I am speaking as a "once-active wedding photographer".

1. Photography as a Passion.
To some, photography is but a part time hobby, a 2-hour relaxation on a Sunday, but to me, it's my daily expressive tool. I shoot when I am happy and unhappy. Thinking that since this is but one of the very few things I do persist in doing, I turned it into a career in year 2000, thinking that I can live out the dream of doing what I love. After 10 years, I found this to be NOT totally true or achievable.

2. Passion-killing.
As years go down the road, I realized that I am but shooting repeated weddings, repeated poses, repeated ceremonies, repeated hotels, repeated wedding favors, candles, etc.
Money seemed to be "the passion" instead of real photography. No doubt, I never failed to deliver, my standards in photography has all along been consistent (though clients are not all that consistent). You get that 1 in a 100 "never-be-able-to-please" client sometimes. At one point, I even got slandered on the internet with a false story saying I didn't turn up for a wedding by 3 fictitious names. (click HERE)
Yes, I have to admit that I can be quite assertive with my clients at times when it comes to last minute cancellations but expecting full refunds back. So, there I suffered for my assertiveness.

3. Photography Getting Real Easy!
As competition gets keen in the industry, thanks to all the camera manufacturers for making professional cameras so affordable and professional results so achievable, MONEY began to rule the industry and many photographers' greedy minds. Almost everyone who picked up a DSLR wants to be a wedding photographer!

4. The "High-Price" Delusion.
We all start to equate our level of skills with how high we can charge our clients. Since when that is even remotely related?
An artist can paint a priceless painting and refuse to sell it at any price. But here we are, allowing money to measure our skills. We boast of our price lists to fellow competitors in order to show off our superiority. But when we come to negotiating with actual clients, our prices can "secretly" go dirt cheap, just so we can get the job from another photographer. Don't forget, some clients do feedback of what they experienced.

5. Fame Chase.
We do all sorts of publicity stunts no matter what it takes to make ourselves famous, thinking that we can charge higher if we grow in fame. All that fame from day one is NEVER EARNED but ONLY BOUGHT with money $$$.

We (I almost but never did) joined meaningless mercenary international photography associations. These associations claimed to share knowledge and bring up international standards of photography but in actual fact are nothing more than just money-making agencies. They accept any tom, dick and harry in less than 24 hours after they received your application, requesting for online payment, even though the website claimed that they will take up to 90 days to review your portfolio.

The OBVIOUS issue in these associations is that you get the "one-day-old photographers" all mixed up with the 10-year-old ones. Congrats!

It gets even more complex when the new photographers start winning awards together with the veterans. In digital photography, you can easily shoot thousands on motordrive and pick a few lucky shots to win. With the latest Photoshop and other editing softwares, editing images are just a few clicks away. The public has come to a point in which they already can't differentiate WHO are the real reliable photographers with proven track records and consistent delivery in such confusion! 

What a way to bring international standards of photography into the local industry! (which they claimed) It's more like messing everything up.

Then came the "wind of wedding destination photography" sweeping across the nation with hundreds of wannabes volunteering to shoot for free as long as they get to travel.
All these are done with the already existing examples set by some "pioneers" who started that ball rolling not too long ago. Words get around that here's the only way to gain some overseas portfolio - shoot for free but keep quiet! (yet, words still spread, cause the couples aren't keeping quiet).

Everyone seems to become some sort of a destination wedding photographer over night until someone gets caught recently at the Australian Immigration Checkpoint and gets penalized for breaching their commercial trade law. Calls swarmed in within 24 hours from fellow photographers in the industry NOT to ask about the well being of that photographer BUT to ask about the "future" of destination wedding photography in Australia. This is how caring we have become! We have lost humanity.

Have we all gone crazy seeking Fame and Fortune?

In the midst of seeking Fame and Fortune, some even steal portfolios from others using "innovative methods" like partnering for shoots with more senior photographers then secretly steal the ropes instead of honestly learning the hard way. It's common that they group the shots from the senior photographer/s with their own works and present them together as a disguise to the general public! Individual credits are often NOT given. 

If you are proud of your own works, you will be adamant about crediting individual photographer accordingly, and NOT give the chance for others to assume "certain" good works are done by you when it's NOT.

Some even daringly steal from facebook where the photographers all group together in the name of sharing knowledge. (the chance to copy and steal ideas more like it).

Well, I received my fair share back in year 2003 when facebook weren't even existent, from the now co-founder of the AWP (Association of the Wedding Professionals Malaysia), owner of Nupts and Such, Eileen Lui, who used all my then pre-wedding images of one couple all over her starting website and even appeared centre-spread full page in national newspapers: The Star. AWP actually has remarkable code of ethics written in their website they swear by, how ironic? Is she apologetic? Not at all, till today.

5.Take Pride in our Own Works!
Are we confident about our own works, our own worth and our own existence in the society? Do we all need to get so hard up for such recognition, such fame in the shortest time?

6. Individuality, we've lost it!
Have we all lost our individual vision which we once were so sure we got it, that we now have to constantly look up to others, especially to those who charged an exorbitant sum for shooting weddings? Do they really have the vision we don't? Learning photography techniques is one thing but learning photographic vision and understanding your own personal vision in your life is another. Photography is NOT just about new gimmicks.
7. True Honesty.
Have we for once been truly honest to ourselves about what we truly want, what we truly are capable of and what we truly aren't capable of? There are some things in life we need to admit that we just don't have the talent for, that our talent actually lies somewhere else, that we will be wasting time struggling in it if we still refuse to admit it.

8. Listen to Your Inner Self.
There is such a sanctity between you and God, between you and your inner self (for those who don't believe in God) which no man and nothing on earth can absolutely come in-between. For the Christians, it's not just the earth, but heaven and hell as well. Close your doors, be by yourself and start listening to your own heartbeat. I can barely teach you how. I am saying, "Be honest to yourself, at least for once, and stop lying."

9. The Stubborn Delusionals.
Still, some of you might already be so delusional that no amount of words can help, that having uttered so many lies to yourself for so long that all just seems to become real... ... then what I wrote is not for you. Oh, do I need to remind you that this blog is but my own writings written to myself and also to those who can identify with me, which are the rare breed. (Yes, I never considered myself "normal")

Lastly, I don't need to claim to be someone else. I don't need to be famous. I just need to be myself. How about you?