This week saw the fourth run of The Photography Show at the NEC near Birmingham here in the UK. The show runs over four days, Saturday to Tuesday, and is aimed at both professionals and enthusiasts alike. Its a mix of gear (and lots of it, represented by all the big camera, lighting, printing and accessory makers), advice, how-to sessions as well as talks by some of the legends of the photography world.
This year the show managed to get no less an icon than Sebastião Salgado to speak on the Super Stage where he presented two very moving shows of his major works Migrations and Genesis as well as giving a brief history of how he became a photographer and what motivates him to keep working (he’s 73 and hobbled onto stage with a stick having broken his leg in the Amazon last year).
There were also talks from Albert Watson and Jill Furmanovsky, Alex Webb, David Alan Harvey and Frans Lanting as well as many others who were being sponsored to speak by the various manufacturers and suppliers at the show. Three notable speakers who I managed to catch in the latter category were the fashion and beauty photographer Tina Eisen (sponsored by Canon), the landscape photographer Charlie Waite (sponsored by Fotospeed) and the street photographer Matt Hart (sponsored by Fujifilm).
Although it’s always great to see (and buy) the latest and greatest in gear for me the highlight of this show is always seeing and listening to the working photographers who give up their time to come and tell us why they do what they do and what motivates them to keep doing it. I find it fascinating to understand how these great photographers got to where they are today and what opportunities, chances and sometimes sheer luck has allowed them to become the well known artists they are. Here are a few tips I picked up listening to some of the talks.
- Passion trumps everything. You have to want to do what you do, whether it be landscape, fashion or documentary you need to be pretty obsessive about what you do.
- Keep taking pictures, even when the weathers bad, the models play up or the right set of circumstances aren’t coming together, you just have to keep doing it.
- Gear doesn’t matter, but we knew that, right? It was very interesting that even those photographers being sponsored by brands never really made a big thing about the gear they used. It was all about the image, as it should be.
- You’re never too old to carve out a career in photography. You just need to be passionate enough and not afraid of hard work.
- It doesn’t matter if you’re a specialist or a generalist, what matters is having an eye for an image and just keeping plugging away at making them.
- Personal projects are key to a deeper understanding of what you do and building a body of work. It’s worth self-funding personal projects (actually probably more valuable than paying for workshops) and publishing your work, both as you create it and the final result.
- Don’t forget the importance of printing. It’s fine to push out images on your blog/website as well as social media but nothing quite beats a large, printed and framed image hanging on your (or preferable someone else’s) wall.
Overall another great show and I’m already looking forward to next years (17-20 March, 2018).