While penning down my next project, Culture X, I could not help but ask myself if I really was good enough to take it up a notch with a project like that. The fact that this question was lingering around in my mind, distracting me from my research, made me feel that I needed to speak to someone about it.
I reached out to renowned documentary and travel photographer, Jose Jeuland, whom I have been following on social media to know if I could get some words of advice from him. Jose, whose work has been featured on far too many platforms for me to mention given my word limit for this article, is a FUJIFILM ambassador, and is supported by BenQ, Manfrotto, Epson and Gravity Backdrops. He was, at that time, running an exhibition in Singapore titled, “Longevity Okinawa”, which had on display portraits of Okinawans aged between 89 to 106 taken by him.
Why would someone like myself, who has spent nearly a decade taking photographs through various assignments and personal projects, need the opinion of another photographer? Consider the following:
It could be an opportunity to experience something new.
Of course, it is always satisfying to hear compliments but learning comes from knowing what is lacking in our work. The varying opinions of another keen-eyed photographer can help with giving different perspectives and with singling out mistakes made that can be avoided in other assignments or projects.
Jose used a large-screened BenQ display to review a collection of my edited photographs. I was blown away at how much detail (and mistakes) in those photographs I had not noticed before. Through using the large display, Jose was able to make it obvious to me how I have a tendency of over-processing some of my photographs. While he maintained that different people tend to have different styles and preferences, the white halo-like lines that appear on the edges of the subject in the photograph (a sign of an over-processing) can be very distracting on print which is why he uses such a large screen to identify such issues in photographs before they are printed out.
While I have heard countless times about the sheer joy of editing on a large screen I have never gotten to experience it on my own. Thus, in this case, right at the very beginning of the workshop, I already had the pleasure of experiencing something new.
Critique sessions and workshops are not just about criticizing your work.
“To Critique” and “to Criticize” mean two different things altogether.
An often forgotten fact is that professional photographers are not going to dedicate their time to critique your work just so that they can bash it. They could be spending that same amount of time working on a project or resting up before their next assignment.
It is important to bear in mind that if a professional photographer puts in the effort to give you his or her time, it only means that they are passionate about imparting their knowledge. Throughout the workshop, Jose repeatedly mentioned that there is no right or wrong and that his critiques are based on his personal point of view which can vary from person to person. He also asked me for some background story or context and then proceeded to give his critique for each photograph. He emphasized on, not just the things that did not work in the photographs, but also on what worked. In addition to that, never once did he see the need to say something negative and, instead, shared how he would have taken the photographs which offered me a different perspective to consider.
It is never about someone else trying to impose their opinions, especially in the case of professionals who would know how to conduct themselves respectfully. Therefore, if you approach the right people and attend the session/ workshop with an open-mind, chances are that you will definitely enjoy the process!
It is a great opportunity to get some Pro-tips on the business of photography as well.
While there are many ways to acquire ideas and tips from professional photographers, I am of the opinion that the best way would be to speak to them personally. It is a sincere and direct way of communication that does not risk you looking like you have an agenda.
At the end of the workshop, Jose and I spent a while more discussing assignments, business and sponsorships that would assist in running projects smoothly. The grand take-away of it all was that nothing can replace good work as that is what industry-giants are going to take note of first but there are many things in between that can be done to put ourselves out there in a more professional light that could help the process.
I, personally, regard myself as a photographer who has only just started the professional stage of his career and while I do believe in hard work, that alone, is not going to help me sustain a successful professional career. Everything I have covered boils down to one simple thing: Learning. There is no point in doing something the same way over and over again if it does not get you the desired results. I am glad that right before the beginning of my dream project, Culture X, I was able to regain my confidence and that is my biggest gain from seeking out Jose Jeuland’s critiques.
We’re all Artists; learning never ever stops for us!