This post isn’t necessarily meant to talk down to photographers; specifically the ones who have joined only in the past few years, but it’s more about sharing some sage advice from a calm standpoint. The truth is we live in a world where people love to risk their lives and sneak into places for Instagram likes much to the support from people who don’t care about your well being, and that we also live in a world where photographers sexually harass women. Both of these things give photographers very bad names and label all of us in a way that changes what people think of us. The honest truth (if you can seriously be that real with yourself for a moment) is that you’re not sorry and you’re not considerate until you get caught or until you’re at the center of it in some way or another simply because the internet makes it so simple for us to mentally disassociate from something by moving on to the next thing.
A few months ago, all of the major photo press reported on a number of photographers who faced felonies for climbing a bridge. I purposely stayed out of it. Why? Well, one of the photographers emailed us before it was all being reported and I’m sure the other press got the same email. The photographer was telling his side, saying he was sorry, and that he wouldn’t do it again. But he was also asking for help, saying he won’t do it again. Nowhere in this email did he admit to breaking the law, doing something he knew was wrong, and fully knowing that he was doing this. I think one of the reasons for this is because Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and the like have made it seem acceptable in some way. And for a while now, I’ve been sticking to the belief of responsibility while doing your job. But at the same time, I’m talking about something many folks possibly don’t think about: my job. My job is to acquire gainful employment from the content I create around photography. Others don’t do that. To that end, I don’t do things I may get arrested for or that aren’t by the book, within reason. For example, I won’t climb the Williamsburg Bridge just to get a better photo. I won’t fly a drone in NYC where it will cause an issue. I won’t sexually harass female or male subjects of mine, but instead I treat them with the equal respect of a colleague. I will surely put down a tripod in a place that isn’t super crowded and busy (like a park) if it’s only for a few seconds, but I won’t do it on a public street considered a commercial zone. I also won’t be any part of an event where we collaborate with other companies and a permit isn’t provided when 500 or so people RSVP. All of these things are irresponsible; and responsibility goes hand in hand with common sense as an adult and a photographer who looks to be doing this well up until retirement.
Unfortunately, people thrill seek or break the law in some way and then share it with the world where publications, in an effort to get page views, will report on it simply because it will get clicks and somehow or another create controversy. Then, you’re at the center of it and labelled. Don’t believe me? What’s the first thing you probably think about when hearing the name Sal Cincotta? Or Terry Richardson? Or Jasmine Star?
See what I mean?
More importantly, none of these things are creative. I think, in order for photography to truly keep thriving, it needs to put a bigger emphasis on actually being creative. Instead of capturing a moment; creating it. Interacting with people. While documentary processes have their place in situations where people are trying to make serious changes, the act of creation will shine well above and hold significantly more value than an image of you dangling your legs off of a building’s ledge.
I’m not telling you to not have fun – I’m asking you to not risk your life, your career, and potentially get other photographers labelled in a specific way as a result of your actions.