Musings in the guise of advice

Today I received an e-mail from a photography student at the Art Institute of Colorado…as a class assignment, he was to ask three simple questions of a working professional photographer.

I love answering these kinds of things, since (although I’ve never held a formal teaching position) I’ve always believed I learn the most by sharing what I’ve already learned with others.

Here’s his letter:

Hello Jeff,

My name is Jason Rowe and I’m a Photography student at The Art
Institute of Colorado.

For a class assignment, I was instructed to find a working professional in my field. Next, I was to ask them the following questions:

1. What is your favorite part of your job?
2. What is the most challenging part of your job?
3. What is one piece of advice you would give a photography student?

I realize you are busy and would really appreciate if you could take
a minute to help me complete this assignment.

If you are too busy, I understand and thank you for taking the time
to read this email.

Thanks again and Best Regards,

Jason Rowe
The Art Institute of Colorado

And my response:

Hi Jason,

You bet, I’m happy to help you with your assignment….  I’m going to answer in a little bit more general fashion, since I always find it so hard to come up with one “favorite” LOL

One of the things I like the most about my job is the variety….I’m not a cubicle kind of guy, and I get to do something different every day.   Some of it sucks…after all, I wear a lot of hats….similar to most small-business owners, I’m not just the photographer…I’m also the accountant, marketing director, and janitor.   But it’s worth it anyway….    Because, what I might like even more than the aforementioned variety is the simple satisfaction that I’m getting paid to do what I like….no, not just what I “like”, but something that comes from my soul.

The most challenging part of my job…..hmmmm, I’ll tell you two things again.  My first answer would have to be handling the business “chores”…..bookkeeping, scheduling, organizing, etc.    As a predominantly right-brained person, those critical tasks are easy to screw up or lay aside… I have to constantly remind myself that they are ***important*** and that many shitty photographers who are great business people succeed, but never the other way around.     My other answer to that question is simply that photography is its own challenge….there are always opportunities to learn and grow in my art. Being a good photographer (for anyone, as my theory goes) is directly tied to how you view and interact with the world…and therein lies room for constant growth not just as a photographer but as a human being.

That kind of segues into advice….I’ll tell it to you like the Greeks: Know Thyself.    Why do you want to be a photographer??  What is it about yourself (not just you as a surface individual, this dude who happens to be named Jason…but YOU, your innermost SELF) that you can bring out in your photography that will make it such a unique expression that it can be found nowhere else in the world, rather than a commodity to be sought at the lowest price?

This is something I ask myself every day, because this self-reflection is critical to developing and maintaining your visual style.   Your style is never a set of techniques…that makes you simply a technician with skills that are easy to replace.  Your style is how you express your unique viewpoint…your vision.  IMHO, this idea is critical *especially* today, when technology is putting picture-taking ability into everyone’s hands, greatly devaluing purely technical photography and the skills of button-pushing and exposure-making.   It’s easy to know a lot about equipment, and Photoshop….but it’s much more valuable to understand how to use those tools to communicate in a way that uniquely resonates with others.

Feel free to get back to me if you want me to explain further or have any other questions… Good luck, in general, and with your assignment!

Best Regards,

Jeff Navarro

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3 thoughts on “Musings in the guise of advice

  1. Hey Jeff, Just checked in to see what you’d been up to and I caught your open letter. LOVE IT! Hope you’re having fun and success!

  2. Hi Jeff,

    I really appreciated this advice from you, “… your innermost SELF) that you can bring out in your photography that will make it such a unique expression that it can be found nowhere else in the world…” It reminded me to look into myself, to see what moves me as a person, and then it will force me to think on ways of incorporating that into my photography.

    I was referred to you by Lynn and Jose, whom I met at the Jackie Evancho concert last night in San Diego. What a magnificent experience that was. I was great getting to chat with Lynn and Jose too.

    Take care,

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