I recently edited some photos for one of my clients, and we were trying to decide whether they should be in color or black and white. I was immediately convinced they should be in color and told him so. I had both edits on my desktop and let them sit overnight. Sometimes you can get so wrapped up into what you think it should be you can lose sight of what they want to be. Well I can anyway. The next morning I took a look at both edits and was actually somewhat startled when I saw how much more powerful the black and white images were; they spoke to me.
I have always been a fan of B/W images; geez that’s why I started shooting with Tri-X back in the day. In this case, the photographer had a message and wanted to get across a point of sadness and wrongdoing and a bleak outlook. In this particular case, the black and white relayed that message better. Though the beauty of the outdoors was lost, the message was clear.
My point is that if you are having a hard time deciding on the direction to go with a particular edit, walk away for a few hours or let them sit overnight. Then come back and let them speak and tell you what to do.
Mary has been instrumental in helping me push beyond plateaus and identify the strengths and weaknesses in my work. Her expertise has helped me get into workshops and portfolio reviews that I undoubtedly wouldn’t have been selected for had I been left to edit my own bodies of work. Her frank and honest feedback is refreshing in today’s age of instagram likes and her encouragement is inspiring in a world where it feels like the competition for photographers is stronger than ever. I can’t recommend Mary highly enough - Tito West
Where does the time go? I’ve been working with Mayeta for years, but I remember the first time we had a Skype call as if it was yesterday. Trained in video, she wanted to improve her still photography, so she contacted me. Over the years, we’ve worked on her stills and video, and I watched her skills improve and her confidence grow.
When it was time for her to pitch a long-form video, she reached out to ABC (Australia Broadcasting Company). Not only were they interested in the project, she had two departments that were fighting to hire her.
She took the job and is doing great work. A story she had been interested in for some time finally aired: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/final-call/9498092. We don’t get to talk as much anymore, but it’s great to see her succeed! I still remember some of her earlier projects. This has always been one of my favorites from a drought story in Papua New Guinea.
I get to look at a lot of images from a lot of photographers in varying stages of their careers – from beginners to experienced and seasoned photographers. And a common problem I see in many photographers’ work is a lack of intimacy. I actually think it’s one of the hardest aspects of photography to master. But if you want to be a great photographer, you have to be able to shine a light on the subject’s essence, their inner self. You are asking someone to become vulnerable in front of you and your camera. By achieving this intimacy, you are allowing me, the viewer, to connect with your subject, and that is when you take your photography to the next level.
How do you accomplish this? I’m a believer in spending time with someone, lots of time, letting them get to you know you and trust you. I also think revealing a part of yourself helps too, or it might just be taking the time to listen to what they have to say, letting them know they matter.
It’s tough, but this is when the magic happens. Just as composition and lighting are important aspects photography, so is intimacy.
It’s time to update my website. I haven’t touched it for a while, and, for me, it’s a daunting task. Because most of the recommendations and testimonials on the site are from people I worked with over three years ago, I’ve been asking people I’ve worked with recently to write something. I recently received this one from Ioana Moldovan:
It was September 10th, 2015, when I had the inspiration to write Mary a message asking for her help. I had just returned from Ukraine, doing a story from the front lines of the war with Russia. I thought it was the most important work I had done that far and believed it needed a professional editor to give it the narrative arc I couldn’t. As a freelance, self-taught photojournalist from Romania, I had never worked with a professional photo editor before. The whole process was unfamiliar to me.
“Hi Ioana,” Mary wrote back, “it's hard to put in a little Facebook message what I can do, but basically anything you need.” At that moment, I was far from grasping the full extent of what that “anything” meant.
Ever since, Mary has been there for every important body of work I have done. She was never just an editor joggling images to send the right message, but also the person who challenged me to push my limits, to dig deeper, both into the story and myself. Mary has a sensitive eye, a deep and comprehensive view and a keen attention to details. She has this amazing ability to turn up the volume on a story and give its voice clarity and meaning. And she has the patience to make me understand why one photo is more suited than the other or why another approach might do the trick.
Working with Mary not only gave my stories the better look and feel they needed, but it made me a better photographer.
Now I know what “anything you need” stood for. It actually meant everything you need. I guess September 10th, 2015, truly was a day of inspiration.
Thank you, Mary! For precisely everything.
Watching this year’s POYi judging, I was reminded of how subjective photography can be. What I thought was a surefire “in” was “out” and vice versa. Sometimes, I actually got mad when I saw a good image get voted out. I saw some images I’d never seen before (different, unique) and then, all of the sudden, they were gone. But maybe the judges had seen them before. Maybe they were looking for something else this year. I had to remind myself that it was only my opinion.
A couple of years ago I judged CPOY, and when you judge you bring your experiences, your biases, and every image you’ve ever seen before. That’s a lot of competition.
So when viewing this year’s contest, it was only how I saw these images. Maybe we all need to remember this around contest time.
In a rut? Not inspired? Shooting the same pix over and over, bored, dreading the next assignment? Maybe it’s time for a break, so you can recharge yourself. Okay, I know, you have to shoot for the next month with no breaks in the foreseeable future….but there are other ways to accomplish this.
When I was a photographer, one of the best things I could do for myself was start a project. My energy would be so focused on the project that it would inspire and energize me. Not a project person? Maybe it’s a hobby. I also enjoy home improvement projects, currently installing hardwood floors in our house. I become so consumed with the project, sometimes slightly obsessive, that other thoughts fall by the wayside.
I appreciate it’s different for everyone, but a mental break can do wonders. Refocusing your energy on something other than those daily assignments can help inspire you and get you moving in a positive direction.
Thank you to all the photographers who allowed me into their lives and souls and let me edit your work last year. Through you, I traveled to Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, North Korea, Romania, Canada, Australia, Iraq, Japan, Germany, to name a few, and many unique areas in the United States. I’ve gotten to learn about places I didn’t know anything about and got to meet some fantastic people. Here’s to a great 2018!
What comes after Thanksgiving? Yep, a dire need to hit the gym. But maybe more importantly for some of you, it’s that time of year when people start planning their contest entries. I’ve already had people schedule my time to make sure I’m available. I’ve had my share of wins and yeah it feels pretty good, but it’s not everything. When you gather your work for possible entries, take a moment and reflect on what you have done this year: new stories, new ways of shooting, your accomplishments. Did a story you work on effect change? Did you meet a great subject that just inspired you? There are probably a lot of great things that happened this past year, so take a moment and feel good about yourself. Reflect on the good work you have done, please. Win or lose, it’s the work that really matters.