My friend Arthur Ransom had a post the other day that generated a couple of comments from photographers and friends that I admire and respect. Arthur made a comment that he was grateful for friends who would take the time to make insightful and valuable comments.
This made me think, I too am indeed grateful to be surrounded by good friends who also happen to be excellent at their craft. Masters of things that I strive to master. I believe this is not a coincidence. While it may not have happened by plan, I do think it has happened by more than luck. Here is a list of some important influences in my life. Stick with me, I think what I have to say is important.
- I met Nancy Rotenberg (my first mentor) at the first workshop I ever took. Nancy and I bonded and soon became friends. Years later, she suggested I take over her workshops at PEEC. It was Nancy that pushed me (kicking and screaming) into teaching.
- I met Tony Sweet as I attended one of his workshops. After taking a few of his workshops we became more than just a business relationship. Now we are close friends, speaking almost daily. Tony has had a profound impact on my photography, specifically the ability to design an image and to see elements as graphic building blocks and not necessarily as what they are.
- I met Bill Strom as we both attended a workshop together. We didn’t like the teacher and went off to shoot on our own becoming lifelong friends. Bill was an amazing macro photographer. His influence on my work is enormous. His constant thoughtful critique was always welcome.
- I met Dan Sniffin while leading a workshop with Bill Strom as my assistant. Dan was eating breakfast at a small place in New Hampshire. We shared photography in common which led to a conversation that led to an invitation to shoot together out west if I was ever there. We did just that and the rest is history. Dan and I are now best of friends. Of all the people I’ve met in my photography life, Dan more than any other has influenced and shaped my work. His brutal (yet caring) honesty with my work, my processing, my website and my blog, has helped me immensely. It is Dan who helped me “believe” that I could be a good photographer.
- I met Karen Messick through Tony Sweet. Karen is an artist with a camera. Her work is stunning and inspirational. She has inspired me to try new things and think more carefully about my choices beyond the capture.
- I met Arthur Ransom through Tony Sweet. I am a fan of B&W photography. I see Arthur as one of the very best. He inspires me to think more carefully about my B&W choices.
- I met Dewitt Jones because I belong to an iPhoneography group on Facebook. Because of Facebook Dewitt saw the corny videos that I did for Tony’s Buff and reached out with a phone call. Dewitt and I are now friends. Recently he sat in on my Dream Believe Create presentation and gave me valuable and thoughtful feedback. Crazy huh? I have long admired Dewitt and have held him up as one of my photography heros. Now I call him friend.
So Barclay, whats the point? Well, who do you surround yourself with? Do you have mentors? Do you have someone who will give you honest feedback, good and bad? Do you surround yourself with good (even better) photographers who encourage you to be better? With each of the folks listed above, when I met them I was in awe of their photography. They were so much better than me. Was I intimidated? YES! Did I let that get in the way? NO!
So back to Arthur and the comments on his blog. I am grateful to be surrounded by friends who happen to be talented photographers who encourage me to be better, to stretch, to experiment, to believe, to fail, to succeed.