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35 Magnum Photographers Give Their Advice to Aspiring Photographers

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( A photo I took on the Brooklyn Bridge, July 2011, 35 mm)

There was a lot of advice that some of the photographers gave that really surprised me, some of their responses actually made me pretty angry. Alex Majoli said to “look as little as possible at other photographers”. I am constantly on photo blogs, artist’s websites, Tumblr looking for inspiration and simply looking because I enjoy photography. A lot of other photographers talked about how hard the industry is and how we shouldn’t go into photography thinking we are going to have a successful career. I hate that they said that.

My favorite advice from the article was by Jonas Bendiksen,

“Throw yourself off a cliff. Figuratively speaking, I mean. Photography is a language. Think about what you want to use it to talk about. What are you interested in? What questions do you want to ask? Then, go for it, and throw yourself into talking about that topic, using photography. Make a body of work about that.”

He didn’t tell me to quit art school or to not be inspired by other photographers, he didn’t speak negatively about the industry, but instead encouraged young photographers to stay inspired and to work hard. He didn’t tell me that good photographers are only those who travel the world but that I can make good work wherever I am, as long as I find something I am interested in or passionate about.  I also really loved what Peter Marlow had to say,

“Be yourself, get up early, and don‘t try too hard, whatever is trying to come out will come eventually without any effort, learn to trust your instincts and don‘t think about what others will think or about the process too much. Work hard but enjoy it.”

Not caring about what other’s think is something that I constantly need to remind myself. I often let other’s thoughts and perceptions about my own work influence what I do or don’t do and most of the time that does more harm than good. I think I make my best work when least expected, when I’m photographing something without much thought or influence, without pressure or a detailed plan in mind.

I tried to ask myself the same questions about when it was that I first became excited about photography. The first time that I really started using a camera was during my junior year of high school. I had found one of my dad’s old film cameras and began experimenting with friends. We would all dress up and go to this abandoned railroad bridge in my town to take photos. They weren’t very good, I had no idea what I was doing, but we always had a good time. The first time I think I really got excited about what I was doing was when I enrolled at Pratt Institute and took my first photo class and that was where I really started to understand how to use a camera and look at other photographer’s work. I realized that the possibilities were endless and that I could use photography to not only document my world, but to create a new one entirely.

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