Your value as a photographer is not dependent on your ability to set up a light stand, nor is it your ability to know the difference between a mafer and a super clamp (there is no difference), nor is it how fast you’re able to run and grab an apple box. It also isn’t how much people are willing to pay you for your work. It’s.. as cheesy as it sounds, self-defined. The reason I say that is because I know so many talented photographers who don’t get paid, who still work multiple jobs to stay afloat, and wouldn’t know a thing about lighting equipment if you asked them. You wouldn’t look down on them as an artists though. These people are damn talented.
If you think about the greats like Mary Ellen Mark, Irving Penn, and Peter Lindbergh. Would you question their novelty? No. But can you really imagine them adjusting the sliders in Capture One? Setting up a 12x12 silk? Or struggling to move around those awkward V-flats? Ok, maybe you can, but even if they couldn’t, I wouldn’t look down on them.
So the question becomes, well, now what? Or better yet, how in the world do you even get to their level? I think it starts by stating yourself as who you are. You are an artist. First and foremost. A confident artist at that. And if you need to be an assistant to learn the ropes, so be it, but go into it knowing why you are there and what you stand for. Whatever happens, don’t let people push you around, because, well, that’s basically the nature of it all anyway. Don’t undersell yourself. Because if you do, people will walk all over you. You know your worth, and if you don’t, find it for yourself. The people on “the top” aren’t the most talented ones. They’re the most confident ones. And if you aren’t confident you’ll end up working for someone who is, and that’s that.
by Jason Lam