Turning your passion for photography into a career can sometimes feel like an impossible slog – but every successful photographer has to start somewhere. In the third part of our series, a few of Magnum Photos’ biggest talents share their tips for young photographers…
Stop talking theory... and do not over-think the image. Lose the ego and let the photograph find you. Observe the life moving like a river around you and realise that the images you make may become part of the collective history of the time that you are living in.
Eli Reed took the picture above. See more of his work.
Learn the craft (which is not very hard). Carefully study past work of photographers and classic painters. Look and learn from movies. See where you can fit in as a “commercial” photographer. Commercial: meaning working for others and delivering a product on command. But most of all keep your personal photography as your separate hobby. If you are very good and diligent it just may pay off.
Have a look at Elliott Erwitt’s work.
My advice to photographers is to get out there in the field and take photographs but also if they are students to finish their course, learn as many languages as possible, go to movies, read books visit museums, broaden your mind.
Have a look at Martine Frank’s work.
Study the works of the greatest photographers, like Henri Cartier-Bresson and André Kertész. Try to travel to many parts of the world and understand what a diverse world we live in.
Have a look at Hiroji Kubota’s work.
Don’t stop questioning yourself (it’ll make you less arrogant). Push. Push, scratch, dig. Push further. And stop when you don’t enjoy it any more. But most of all, respect those you photograph.
Have a look at John Vink’s work.
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.
Have a look at Jonas Bendiksen’s work.
If you have something to say and, even better, you have an innovative way of saying it, then opportunities are out there. I sense that photography is concerning itself with real issues again. For some time much of photography seemed to be about itself, and while this was fine, and interesting in some cases, it’s not what photography is really good at. Understand this by familiarising yourself with the rich and wonderful history of our medium. Be proud of it – what it has and what it can achieve. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. Be inspired. Try and copy, if you like (because no one can). Find a subject you care about. Something that moves you. Something which stirs your rawest emotions. And then have patience.
Have a look at Mark Power’s work.
Find something you are passionate about, and shoot your way through this obsession with elegance and you will have potential great project.
Have a look at Martin Parr’s work.
Stick to one project for a long time. And keep working on it through many stages of learning, even if it might feel finished. Its the only way to break through what I think are some vital lessons that need to be learnt about storytelling and how to combine images.
Have a look at Mikhael Subotzky’s work.
More Magnum advice:
Part 1 – Alex Webb, Chris Steele-Perkins and more.
Part 2 – David Alan Harvey, Constantine Manos and more.
Want to improve your photography skills? Apply for a bursary to Magnum’s next Professional Practice seminar in Bradford.
Image: USA. Beaufort. South Carolina. 1984. Barbershop. © Eli Reed/Magnum Photos.
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