Responsibility

Just when you think you have nothing more to really say about the state of the photography/wedding industry because you just don’t care enough about it anymore, something tips you over the edge again.

I was recently asked to submit some photographs to a (in my eyes) ridiculous institution that promotes nothing but a stylised, trendy and popular wedding imagery. I completely understand that I wasn’t singled out to apply, but that hundreds of emails would have gone out some very excited, humbled and blessed wedding photographers. I…..am none of these things. I have one person to thank for what I’ve achieved, and that’s me.

So, as an exercise I clicked on 30 (I might have given you clue here) of my portfolio images, answered a couple of questions then left my fate to the gods of mediocrity. I did, at the time, have a joke with a friend about what they would think of my photographs.

Anyway, the inevitable rejection email arrived, an email so riddled with trendy embellishment it was a little awkward to read.

The main section, after saying that I clearly wasn’t good enough,  read like this –

The good news is, our editor-in-chief ………………… has offered to give a personal critique of your work, should you desire a little more insight into our decision. While we noticed this is your final year to submit, getting her feedback can be really valuable in submitting to other competitions going forward. Sometimes the thing that held the judges back is actually fairly straightforward and fixable as you continue onward, so finding that out can bring a little peace of mind. Like I said, competition was super tough this year. (Super tough, no wonder I didn’t make the cut)

 Again, I want to thank you again so much for taking the time to gather your work, answer our questions and send us your submissions during a very busy time of year for you as a wedding photographer, and we hope that the process of putting your 30 photos together was an enlightening or at the very least interesting task, as we’ve heard from other photographers.

“getting her feedback can be really valuable in submitting to other competitions going forward”

Really? ……So if I take someone else’s idea of what, and how I photograph I can hope to be successful in other competitions. But what if other Judges are looking for something different, or if trends change, or just like yourselves they are’t prepared to look outside of their small comfort boxes? I’d spend my whole life running around in circles, never understanding who I am as an artist and will never truly develop an understanding of what I do and why I’m doing it. I will forever be trying to copy the photographers who have been awarded god like status and will be in a perpetual state of unworthiness. 

I think I’ll pass on that, I’m happy with where I’m going thanks.

I added a quip to Facebook with regards to this experience with added tounge in cheek cheekiness like, yeah they can eat a dick, and, they wouldn’t know a good photograph it kicked them in the nuts…. Which received some interesting response. Mostly people will get that I’m just poking fun at the ridiculousness of the industry, but others, well……

“if you don’t accept the judge thoughts it’s easy, don’t take part to the race”

“I think you’d use different words in case you’ve been selected to be one of those 30”

“And I’d really love to see you in front of ………. editorial staff using the same word”

Yeah, man. I’m sure I’d be quaking in boots. Like I give a shit what their editorial staff think of my work.

It’s nothing more that prodding an industry that’s hell bent on homogenisation. I care not for them, or any other awarding body for that matter. I take an iconoclastic stance on all that threatens freedom of imagination. My words would be different if they had accepted my photographs. I would congratulate them on looking for more than popular trend, for promoting individuality. But that would have come with it’s drawbacks too……I can’t imaging how many more emails I’d get from other wedding photographers asking what gear I use, and what my settings were for that shot. Attention I can do without, thank you very much.

I had an idea that this post would be about the award thing, but, in a cruel twist of fate, it became about other photographers. Who, might I add, are the only people that care about how many awards other photographers have.

This sparked conversation in other places – Man, people really don’t like it when you laugh at their most coveted institutions.

A mate of mine directed me to a thread where the discussion had turned to responsibility, of popular artists, the responsibility to not be a dick.

Right, here’s the thing. I have a huge responsibility, to me, to photography, (It’s one of the very few things I give a shit about) to the people that commission me to be my best, to be me, to do what I do, to not fucking do it like everyone else, to be an individual, to not pretend be something I’m not, to be honest in all situations, and to not bow down to an industry that cripples the creative nature of all who are in involved, for their own gain.

I have, somehow, become well known within the photography community and have amassed a few followers. Honesty, I didn’t fucking ask for you to follow me, and I certainly don’t have any responsibility to you, or the photography industry…I especially don’t have any responsibility to the wedding industry and it’s tedious hyperbole. If you follow me with an expectation I will appease your every mood, or I will only post things you will agree with, or that I am somehow some sort of guiding light for you, you will, undoubtedly be disappointed.  Me not living up to your expectations isn’t my fault. 

Follow some other sucker, get over yourselves, stop taking everything so seriously, and don’t forget to eat a bowl of dicks.

Lots of love,

Ian

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If only I was a Lawyer

We are in a situation where it’s all becoming the same, no one can think for themselves and everyone wants an easy answer. Fortunately for them, easy answers are easy to come by……..

I get frequent emails asking about lenses, camera settings, business (I have no fucking clue about business), all kinds of photography related stuff, and recently had someone ask if I could send them a processed RAW file because they wanted their photographs to look like mine. Seriously, no liesies, “…but your look is the look that I want so if you could send me a processed RAW file, that’d be great”

Although my response is usually helpful, it’s starting to become a little less so, it’s starting to wear me down. Especially when all you get back is, “thanks for that”

I feel like it has become acceptable to freely give your ideas, your techniques, your process and your soul to anyone that asks, and it’s frowned up on, even offensive, to not be helpful. Everyone wants to be liked, everyone wants to be part of the cool gang, and everyone is obliging. Everyone is obliging to the point that there is no mystery as an artist, the popular style wins through, everything looks the same, and everything is just a watered down version of everything else.

Kool Herc wouldn’t tell people what records he played, stating that if everyone was playing his records then what would make him stand out, why would anyone go to his party over anyone else.

Likewise, if everyones photographs look the same, what makes you stand out, why would someone choose you over someone else……

When questioned about a specific technique, Bill Brandt replied, “a magician never reveals his secrets”

Why then do we think it’s ok to spill our guts to everyone that asks?  Why do we have a situation where we think that we are “All in it together” because that’s not the case at all.

Everyone is in it for themselves, and if they can shortcut to success they will step all over you to get there…..Ok maybe it’s not that extreme, but it’s not far off. False alliances and friendships built on the fact that we are all photographers and we should all be helping each other out are wearing a little thin for me. Just because you have the word, photography, after your name, does not make us the same. Neither does it make us friends, that shit takes time. I’ll gladly help anyone that is helping themselves, but free information because you can’t be bothered to find out for yourself is something that we should all start think about.

Try asking a lawyer for free advice.

Like I’ve got time for this shit…..

I don’t enter photography competitions, and I don’t submit my photographs/weddings to blogs or wedding industry websites. It’s not why I make photographs, it’s not why I’m a photographer. For some, it seems to be their whole purpose…….

I see the ‘photographer’ that needs to be validated, that needs to be part of the gang, the photographer that falls into line and shoots for the all powerful blog that drives popular trends, the photographer that is only shooting to be recognised, and to me, the photographer that is lost.

“the constant repetition of falsehood is more convincing than the demonstration of truth.” ― Mark Rothko

I do however, if asked (nicely) offer my opinion, my viewpoint and photographs. But all too often I find myself in this scenario……..

Hey Ian!

We’ve come across your wedding work as you were mentioned by another photographer and wondered if you would be interested in submitting a real wedding to the site, we’d love to feature you. We are (Blah blah wedding nonsense) and we showcase the very best wedding photographers around the world.

If you’re interested please get in touch, we just need you to answer a few questions and that’s about it, there is no cost to your business.

Thanks

The Team!

Hello The Team,

That’s great, I’d be happy to do so. If you send over the information I’ll get on it as soon as I can.

Cheers,

Ian

That’s awesome,

Please find attached a list of questions, and details about images and other info that we need!!

Can’t wait!!!!

Hi,

Please find attached your answered questionnaire, and link to photographs. Let me know if you need to make any amendments to the text (I can bang on a bit), I’d be happy to cut it down if needed.

Thanks,

Ian

Super!!! We’ll get back to you in a couple of days!

Two weeks later I while re-writing (endlessly) a to do list I realise that I had spent some time answering some questions, selecting images and forwarding it all to, Blah blah wedding nonsense. That shit takes time, a lot of time.

Hi there,

I was wondering if you guys had gotten around to the feature that I sent you a couple a weeks ago?

Ian

Hi Ian,

Thank you for submitting your wedding to be reviewed for a feature on, Blah blah wedding nonsense. Unfortunately, at this time, your work is not fitting with our vision, and style of wedding photography. Please feel free to submit in the future as we are always looking for unique weddings to feature.

Thank you,

The Team!

Hello The Team (Inappropriate exclamation mark)

You do realise that it was you that asked me to submit? I spent time answering your questions – to which I’m sure the answers were far from your expectations – selecting and formatting images and sending them off to you on your request, for you not to bother featuring them.

You are driving an industry with your own distorted view of what wedding photography should be, and so scared of losing followers that you are afraid to deviate from what is deemed acceptable. If you’d have done your homework to start with, you would have realised that what I do is not fitting with your ‘vision’, which in truth, is not your vision –  its a homogenised view that is so steeped in aesthetics it’s impossible to separate one blog from another.

Rest assured, I will not be submitting to you in the future because you are not, ‘….always looking for unique weddings’ You are only looking to promote yourself and further your reach by featuring what ever is most popular at the moment, and exploiting photographers that know no better for your own gain.

I don’t have time for that shit.

Lots of Love,

Ian

P.S. Add inappropriate exclamation marks wherever you see fit.

POWWOW!

ˈpaʊwaʊ/

“A conference or meeting for discussion, especially among friends or colleagues”
A Powwow!, and we’re having one. A Photography Powwow to be exact. Myself and my main man, Facundo Santana, from Argentina.
facusantana02
We think that there is a problem, and that problem is, “workshops”

We mean workshops that are delivered by ill educated, misinformed individuals that have no experience, giving advice to (paying) people that don’t know any better. The workshop giver that has no portfolio to speak of, no business apart from workshops, and is offering a quick fix to success……. The workshop giver that is fooling people into thinking that there is a substitute for hard work, determination, and failure, as is doing nothing more than praying on the weaknesses of other human beings for their own gain. That’s what really gets me. We have to find our own way, and if we start off in the wrong place then you may never find it. Ever. The industry, and systems in place are designed to keep you coming back, to keep spending your money – a bit like Weight Watchers – in a never ending loop of trends and popular techniques. As a lecturer on Photography History it pains me to see so many people being led up the garden path, to be fooled into thinking that there is an easy answer.  The whole,”Shoot to get Published” or “You’re a Rockstar” or “Smoke Bomb Prism Super Awesomeness” (Ok I made that last one up…I think) is wearing a little thin, and we think there needs to be a change. So we decided to put a plan into action.

www.ianweldon.com
www.ianweldon.com

Both myself, and Facundo are working, successful photographers, and although we photograph weddings we couldn’t be any further away from what you’d expect a wedding photographer to be.

facusantana06

www.facundosantana.com

Fundamentally we are photographers, with a love and a passion for the moment, and a love of photography itself. Our photography is not formulaic, it’s an extension of who we are, as artists.

www.ianweldon.com
www.ianweldon.com

Wedding photography workshops will show you how to photograph a wedding, we aim to teach you how to be a photographer.

Information on Ian & Facu’s, Photography Powwow!, will be coming soon……..

You can contact us @ photographyatweddings@gmail.com

Just a thought

I get into way too many conversations about photography, unfortunately these conversations are instigated by me. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson by now.

When I have these conversations, it quickly becomes apparent – in a lot of cases – that photography is being reduced to mere aesthetics. An opinion on how it should be, how it should look. An opinion that is derived from what the industry tells us is right. An opinion that is taken from who ever is a rockstar at the moment, because if they’re popular, then that’s the way to do it…right?

Mindlessly following trends and perpetually attending the same kind of workshop, or seminar might keep you in favour with the cool kids, and everyone might think you’re super awesome, but it’s nothing more than aesthetics, all style and no real substance. I think of it as like being a domesticated dog, eternal puppies. They never need to mature and fend for themselves, they don’t have to, someone is looking out for them. But for them it’s free, albeit the incessant paw giving, sitting and being a good boy. 

I know, blah blah blah, Evil Photography Industry, blah blah blah Photography History, blah blah blah…..But I’ve been reading some books recently on some of my favourite painters – Abstract Expressionism to be exact. An ideology that intrigued me from the beginning, that has weaved it’s way into my consciousness over the years.

Process by proxy?

So, the point is to express feeling through the act of painting itself, the process, without fixating on the actual product of that act, the artwork.

I think that’s the issue with most [Wedding] photography, is people fixate on the final product. People want to achieve that ‘popular’ final product, as easily as possible, that will ‘WOW” others. But really it falls short, even on the level it’s meant to work. It has no substance, and will eventually be cast aside for the next style or trend and photographers will get lost in the next vast landscape, or smoke bomb, and the latest trick seems to be the only guiding light. They latch onto it with all they have and flog that dead horse for all it’s worth.

I believe that the study of your craft, and art in general, will bring about a new direction for (all) photographers, a direction devoid of trends and fads, and set you on a path to understanding, not just yourselves, but the world around you. Sensitivity will bring you closer to your craft, and closer to yourself. You will never again be caught in the trap of the latest trend, where you feel safe and warm.

So the idea that we can study our art, and study the technical aspect of our equipment, and work on understanding what we do and why we do it, and understanding the world around us, and understanding others, is to create without consideration of the end product. Because that end product will be an extension of you, and no one will be able to copy it, and you will have a voice. Your art will be uniquely yours, an extension of you.

“They value expression over perfection, vitality over finish, fluctuation over repose, the unknown over the known, the veiled over the clear, the individual over society, and the inner over the outer” – William Seitz

Just a thought.

What’s the secret?

www.ianweldon.com
http://www.ianweldon.com

We all get it, and I’m sure that in the beginning most of us have done it.

In the search of an easy answer, in the search for the magic settings and in the search for that one piece of gear that will make you great.

What were your settings for that shot?

The problem is, is that most people looking for answers don’t really understand the questions that they’re asking. I receive a pretty constant flow of emails asking how I made the switch, the transition to shooting in my own way.

I get asked how – after shooting in a certain style and in a certain way, with such a healthy business and expectant clients – can I shoot more of what I want, in a way that I want, and like you?

The answer my friends is simple. You need to start again. From the beginning, and build your pyramid the right way up.  I don’t know of any other way to do it. I didn’t make a transition, I didn’t switch to my way of shooting, it’s pretty much how I started.  I’ve given this answer to people and have had responses such as –

That’s easy for you to say, I have a house and children to support.

But I’ll lose a hefty part of my business, I’ll alienate my audience.

I haven’t got the balls to do what you do, etc…..

Up until 3 years ago I was working 3 jobs to support my photography. Taking on commercial jobs to pay the bills, driving wagons on a weekend and teaching on an evening during the week. 70 – 80 hrs, easily. And when I wasn’t working I was studying. I did this so I didn’t have to shoot weddings in the way that it’s supposed to be done. I did it so I could document, truly document, and not have to pretend to be all gaga crazy over wedding dresses and pretend to be wrapped up in the charade. Because really, weddings don’t interest me, people do, and weddings are a great place to photograph people. I don’t have to pretend to be something that I’m not and I don’t have to follow what’s popular or trendy. I’m not thinking like a wedding photographer, I’m thinking like a photographer, and to me there’s a whole world of difference.

I find it difficult to give advice to people because they think it will come from the perspective of a business owner, a wedding photographer, but I’m at the other end of the scale, completely. In fact I’m not even on your scale, and I don’t say that as an, I’m better thank you, I say it as an, I’m completely different.

I see photographers, and I use that term loosely, who put in no effort, who look like a poor copy of everyone else, who steal jargon from the industry and pass it off as their own personality. I don’t admire your work ethic and I don’t think that your bag of smoke bombs is rad.

When the “How did you get where you are today?” question comes up I promote the understanding of the craft, learn the history, at least some of it, and study the philosophy of photography. Again, this is usually met with resistance. In fact, a surprising amount of resistance.

I recently had one response that suggested I was making a “Profound” mistake in believing that the history of photography was important…..

*Note – improper use of the word profound.

…..and that because I’ve studied the history of photography my work is more valid than that of a teenager who’s just picked up his first camera.  Stating that – ‘It’s probably going to be technically better, it’ll follow the rules of composition etc.,’

I think people are missing the point somewhat, or are afraid to admit to themselves that it takes more than just owning a fancy camera to be a photographer.

There is a general consensus, too, that because we are all photographers we should all agree on everything, all of the time. It’s simply not the case. I think that a lot of the issues I talk about – boring photography, copy cats, a lack of individualism, etc…. are born from this idea that we should all be supporting each other, no matter what. It’s as nonsensical as, ‘blood is thicker than water’.

When I talk of studying the history of photography, it has nothing to do with composition, or technical ability. People get so hung on the fact that photography is a visual endeavour that they can dismiss, easily so, the ideology that surrounds the craft. The same as any art form, the medium/technique is somewhat inconsequential. Photography in itself isn’t art, the artist makes it so.

I come to the act of photography through ideas, ideas of what, and why photography is. Not as a technical or aesthetic endeavour. We will all become proficient given time, and technical proficiency and composition can be learned by anyone. A philosophy is developed through understanding, not just photography, but also ourselves. So when I talk about studying early photographers I’m not talking about their pictures, I’m talking about their philosophy, and what they did to craft this relatively new medium.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and certainly don’t expect everyone to be a meticulous historian. But please, have an interest in your craft if you call yourself a photographer. The idea of being a photographer, for most, is far more important than actually being a photographer.

Where do we want be? I’m not a proponent of pop, but neither am I saying that we shouldn’t look at Instagram or Facebook. What I’m saying is, to stand out, we must transcend the commonplace garbage that’s forced in front of out eyes every minute of every day, and make up our own minds. To be a product of what photography is rather than a product of a diluted, and shallow aesthetic based culture. Ideas are paramount.

We need to promote the idea that photography, just like any other art form, requires dedication and time. Not all of us were destined to be artists, like not everyone who buys a guitar will become a musician. Unfortunately for photography, there is a make it look good setting. You don’t get that on a paint brush, and people can easily be fooled into thinking that they’re good. It’s bullshit. A well composed and sharp image isn’t necessarily good, and a blurred image with seemingly no composition isn’t necessarily bad.

A much longer and more detailed conversation about what makes a good photograph could be added here.

Study, and practice have been the driving force in my learning as a photographer, and understanding (at least some of) the history of your craft will better help you to contextualise the now, and the future of your own work.

I see a lot of copy cat photography, and as art, it holds no weight.

Individuality, purpose, and intent born from an understanding is much deeper. Fuck middle of the road. I like passion, and art, and that can really only be created from a deeper understanding of what we do and why we do it. When I look at a lot of photography there isn’t anything that really separates one photographer from another, it’s all style based.

My photography looks the way that it does not because of a trend of a fad, it’s looks the way it does through the implementation of my ideology, and the form, as they say, must follow the function.

So when I get asked how I made the switch, the transition, and how you can shoot like me, you can’t. I’d be impossible. I can’t explain it really, everything down to the way I hold my camera and how I push the shutter effects it. I just can’t be taught. A formula can be taught, but not what I do.

What you need to do is shoot like you, and I believe the only way to get there is to study the history of your craft and form your own understanding of what photography is.

“The mystery isn’t in the technique, it’s in each of us” – Harry Callahan

Peace, out 🙂

A Very Peculiar Situation

Sooooooooo, I’ve been asked be part of a collaborative group that share information, tips, images etc… for a popular photography blog.  The most recent is as follows –

“Next Collaborative Article!”

Top Wedding Photographers Share Their Best Piece of Advice for Beginners

I’m looking for:
1. An awesome image to show off your work

2. Your ONE piece of advice to someone just starting out in the industry (1-3 sentences)

SUBMITTING – Once your tip/comment has been selected, please

1. Send email to me hanssie@slrlounge.com including:

2. Business name/website

3. Images sized to 1000-2000px wide (landscape is ideal)

4. Your piece of advice

This article will be designed for keywords and SEO, so a link to your website coming from “Insert popular photography blog here” is a great content marketing piece. Be sure to take advantage and submit!

My Advice, and Photograph

“Only make photographs that you’d like to look at”

www.ianweldon.com
http://www.ianweldon.com

The response – 

Haha. This is funny, but do you have a more wedding centric one? Since the article is wedding photography tips 🙂

Errrrrrr….

This is one of my favourite wedding photographs of 2015, and epitomises the advice it supports. I’m not sure that I’d be happy to give this advice and attach a photograph that I think someone else might like to see. To me, this is wedding photography. Feel free to use it, or not.

Have you seen my wedding photography?

What were you thinking?

A lot of people I talk to about photography seem to see it as a purely visual thing. The aesthetic is all dominant and how you get there is unimportant. Well, it fucking is important, because without careful consideration your art is empty, boring and only geared toward the person that you are shooting for. That’s serving a customer base, not being an artist. I am specifically talking about wedding photography here, where everyone wants to be a rock star and everyone seems to want fame and fortune.

That’s all fair and well, but there are some of us who don’t really understand that, and are not motivated by numbers, popularity and giving people an “experience”. I’d like to think that the people who hire me are intelligent enough to create their own, experience.  The more numbers motivated you are, the more likely you are to adjust your sights to make up for any deficit, and the more “customer” orientated you are the more you will become a slave to them, and the industry.

I have a responsibility to the people that hire me, a responsibility to be the best I can be. Not to be the most popular, not to pander to every whim, not to be booking 2 weddings every weekend and be worn out, and most of all, to be honest in my approach and my photography.  After all, that’s what they hire me for.

There are years of refinement in my approach and understanding of photography and I will shout my belief  from the roof tops, I will stand by it, and I will happily be called out for it. After all, I’m putting it out there, it’s expected. I don’t want everyone to like it, and if others are willing to put it out there then they should be prepared to be called out too. Don’t get angry about it, and don’t try to win an argument when you are questioned in your methods.

Customer focused photographers create pictures, photographers create photographs that they would like to look at themselves. After all, an artist is making selections based on their understanding of themselves.

I can see what you were thinking, and a lot of the time it was nothing at all.

www.ianweldon.com
http://www.ianweldon.com