While it is true that many people (outside of those looking for free, bargain basement photography by any means necessary) hire a photographer that they like based on the photographer's personality, their look, their demeanor and sense of humor (in addition to their actual work), I believe those things have to come naturally simply by being who we truly are as photographers. I don't think photographers should be so caught up in trying to be rich that they starting selling personality and no longer create photographs and/or are passionate about the art.
One of my friends wrote a post about the intersection of personal branding and culture. Many articles on personal branding are often written from a Eurocentric point of view and completely neglect how business works for and is perceived by multi-cultural buyers. (Many companies even advertise and market to ethnic buyers as one-dimensional caricatures that either dance, sing, rap, live in a crowded house, are super smart or can't speak English well, and their brands neglect the desires of the markets they say that they are inclusive of.) This is what I read in blog after blog everyday. Personal branding is shoved down throats so hard that opening blogs about it makes me choke. There has to be some kind of balance...somewhere. I have a hard time being expected to ignore photography and instead shove myself everywhere.
I have had clients from varying cultures and I have to consider that their needs and wants may differ based on their culture, familial expectations and beliefs. Though we are all human and all the same, we are different also, and that is ok. While some clients may enjoy the individualism that personal branding exudes and want to know more about my life than my work, others may find it overbearing, self-centered and annoying. Basically, I have to understand that balance in order to continue as a multi-cultural photographer...someone who photographs East and West, women and men, Black and White, Latin and Asian and so on.
I feel a certain stress and pressure as the photography industry seems to move towards the being the best ME I can be mantra with photography being a tiny percentage. Now there is some of that ME oriented literature that I've read in the past and liked. But, I want to remain a full person, not a personality caricature that might snap a shot or two.
I have to admit, my mind is reeling all over after reading some posts about inexperienced photographers who are selling workshops and breaking other photographers (who are the students) hearts (and wallets). I know for a fact that I am still learning the business side and have a long way to go. I've had some good times and good years! I've also faced difficult challenges and have some major rebuilding to do in some areas. I know many photographers who had a difficult year last year or last few years. I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I then pretended none of these experiences happened, lied about making hundreds of thousands of dollars and created workshops to sell my personality or ego to other photographers. (Apparently, this is becoming a trend from what I am hearing). I don't want to be that photographer who sells personality instead of art. I want people to connect with me (so of course, true personality is relevant and must be true for this connection to occur) and we work together to create stories about their external and internal beauty. I hope that the tide has not changed so much in photography that wanting to do what I just mentioned is outdated in order to build a successful business and selling workshops, fame and caricature personality are the only options. If the tide has changed, I am not sure what I will do as a profession because photography is all I love and I have too many shrapnel scars from past corporate work (oh god, not that stuff...) and I cannot do that stuff forever. Even my doctor told me so. Corporate America almost put me in a grave...literally. I seriously almost died twice. And I just turned 30. (Of course as a passion and hobby, photography is here for life. It called me. I answered. I was twelve when this occurred.)
I feel that workshops are best left to extremely experienced professionals who teach actual techniques. They cannot teach style or vision; that comes from within. But instead, techniques that have been proven to work to help us younger photographers build long-term successful businesses and become better artists should be offered. To be clear, if a photographer is an established professional with heavy experience in what they do and can really guide other photographers, I say more power to them, teach away. Workshop away. I love teachers and I love students. But it frightens me that some photographers have photographed for barely any time and are lying about their financial success in order to make money from other photographers...one who are probably actually hurting. It makes me a little nauseated that some are selling more how to be famous and get more attention instead of how to build businesses and master technique.
To date, I have never taken a paid workshop to become a better photographer (the art side). I never have. I've learned from mentors, peers and students. I've learned from classes in adolescence, reading in early adulthood, and thousands of hours of shooting (trying to get my minimum 10,000 hours in ;) ). I've learned from online groups I've been apart of and have ran. I've learned from question and answer emails. I've learned from critiquing and being critiqued. I do want to take workshops in the future, but now the concept scares me, I must admit. There are only 3 photographers (I won't put names) that have workshops (art and business ones) that I trust and want to take in the future. I guess I am just that afraid after reading so many horror stories and emails from friends.
I suspect that this post is just a mirage of thoughts and doesn't have my usual written logical flow. My apologies in this case. I just wanted to share what I was feeling with a few other photographers and see what your thoughts are on the matter. This is the first time, despite all of the (many) challenges that I've faced, and all the challenges that the industry has faced, that I feel genuinely troubled about the field of photography. I'm not giving up or quitting or anything--I think only a bullet would ever really stop me from shooting (that's a funny allusion) so I hope that my expression is not misconstrued...I am simply stating that much of what is going on in photography is troubling to me.
Link: "Work Doesn't Always Speak For Itself" - Personal Branding and Visible Minorities, The Crowd Is Rioting, Jim's Perspective on Workshops and Rockstars
And for those who view any form of dissent or critical analysis (without ad hominem attack of course--as that actually is hating) as hating, check this definition of what hating truly is and isn't, on my psychology blog. I can assure you, I am not hating on anyone who is successful by creating legitimate (or even scam) workshops. I simply want to...understand. I also want to find some balance within the new trend and world of the overbearing desire of branding that I don't think is one size fit all.