I can't say that I have always been the model student. In fact, if any of my grade school or high school teachers were to read this, they may have some unfortunate flashbacks to my days in their classrooms. Let me just get this out of the way..."my dear teachers, I am truly sorry for any physical or emotional damage I may have caused to you or others while I was a student in your classroom. You did your best to contain me, but...well, I'm sorry. If it's any consolation, I did learn the power of influence and persuasion while I was in your classrooms and that has served me well in life. So for that, I thank you."
Ok, let's move on. Believe it or not, I have been an avid learner throughout my life. If it is a topic that I am passionate about or interested in, I will seek out answers to my questions and pursue knowledge on a daily basis. But my interests over the years had tended to be less conventional than most. For example, if you stick me into a conversation about who's who in the NFL and I got nothing for you. I don't have a clue. I don't care that much about it. But, if you want to talk about Rastafarianism...yeah, I am right there with you and I can hang. (random Rasta trivia: Did you know that Rastafarians believe they are the direct descendants of the Tribe of Judah? And they also believe that a mystical plant sprung forth from the tomb of King Solomon that had the power of healing and transcendence. Interesting...right???).
So when I was bitten by the shutter bug, I immersed myself into learning photography through YouTube tutorials. I found a world of endless discovery and possibilities. I could learn something new every day for the rest of my life and still never "master" everything photography is and everything it can be. That excited me. I found my passion and it required me to be a lifelong learner!
This led me to taking a night class at York College in Digital Photography that challenged me to capture images from my own unique perspective and let my own style emerge. From there, I signed up for some amazing workshops with some of the best photographers on the planet. I found myself "in class" with photographers from around the world, learning from the best in their genre; Peter Hurley, Julia Kuzmenko, Pye Jirsa, and Joey Wright to name a few. The photographers that I admired the most, were teaching their tips, tricks, and "secrets" to me! Amazing! And then, I discovered the power of a global network of photographers online, willing to help fellow photographers that share the same passion for the art. It still amazes me that I am a part of such a unique club and as a result, have formed some great friendships. The learning and sharing never stops.
In addition to my desire to learn, I have a strong desire to teach. Prior to going full-time with my photography career, I spent a couple of decades in Recruiting and Sales. One of the things I enjoyed the most about my job, was mentoring, teaching, and developing other Recruiters and Salespeople. SO now that I am a full-time photographer, I decided there is no better time to start teaching than the present. I had a fellow photographer (Kelly Spence) reach out to me, a few weeks ago asking if she could be my helper on any upcoming shoots. I had never met Kelly, but we were both a part of a local online photography comunity. So I decided one of the best ways for Kelly and I to get to know each other was for me to shoot her. I invited her to the studio.
When Kelly first arrived I went through my "routine" as if she were any other client/model coming in for a shoot. The only difference was that I spent some extra time explaining things like camera settings, lighting, and some of the technical side of photography. We went through several magazines (Vogue, W, Vanity Fair) and talked about specific "looks" and how the photographs were constructed. Then I had my amazing makeup artist, Tiffany, do her hair & makeup. Next, we started shooting and I realized as I was directing her, how valuable it is for a photographer to get in front of the camera as a way of learning photography.
We shot with several different lighting setups to see the impact that different light can have on the mood of an image. Somewhere in this process, I also realized that I really loved teaching. Not only did I feel like I was helping Kelly, but I was also learning through the process.
In conclusion, I'll leave you with this thought. Never stop learning. Pick your topic, find your passion, and surround yourself with people that are like-minded and willing to mentor, teach and develop you. And don't be afraid to teach or share your knowledge, technique, or skills with others. The more you teach, the more you will learn, grow and evolve as a photographer and a human being. No one can ever truly replicate your art because there is only one YOU. So put yourself out there...learn, teach, grow and evolve. Peace out.
(Again, my apologies to my grade school/high school teachers...especially Sister Ann)