We can all be horrible if we try hard. Rude, dismissive and arrogant are just a few words I'd use to describe some of my fellow photographers that i've met over the years, photographers that should have known better. I like to think I'm not like that, at least not very often, but truth be told I've definately been all of those things at some time or another.
Recently I learnt a valuable lesson and it got me thinking. Thinking about how people perceive me and how I treat all those people I come across in my working life. Before I let you in on my conclusions, in the words of the late, great Tommy Cooper "I wanna tell you a story"
Once upon a time, perhaps 7 or 8 years ago I did a lecture at one of the large outdoor shows at the Birmingham NEC. The lecture was for the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) and was essentially about how to break into the Outdoor photography market. I spoke for about 30 minutes and illustrated my lecture with images from across the Globe - Ice climbing in Colorado, Scotland and France. Rock climbing across the breadth of Europe and Mountaineering in the Himalaya. I spoke about the editorial and commercial side of the industry, as well as some of my personal work. The lecture went down well (I think) and at the end I asked for questions, a few hands went up and the normal "how do you do" and "what quipment" questions were offered up and dually dispatched - job done. As the theartre emptied a few people came up to me to ask questions away from the public eye, there's always a couple of people who want to ask a question in private, i guess a lot of people are shy!
After some guys talking about angles, climbing and rope work had finished their bravado, a young girl came up. I don't know, or maybe don't remember how old she was, late teens I guess. She was still at university studying photography, she was also a rock climber and wanted to somehow combine the two. We talked for a while about how "one" could break into the industry. She asked if I ever needed an assistant, I said not often but sometimes. I gave her my number and said to ring me, we could talk some more and it so happened I had a few things coming up which I might need a spare pair of hands on. She nodded and said she'd call, she didn't.
Fast forward to May 2010 and I'm sitting outside a restaurant in the heart of Chamonix in the French Alps. Just finished the penultimate day of shooting photos for one of the largest outdoor retailers in the UK. Most of the photos we need are already "in the bag" so a couple of the models, client and myself are deciding what to eat and enjoying a well deserved cold beer. After the meal we're all feeling a "tad" more human and get talking about various things, inevitably the conversation goes round the table and when it gets to me it's the "how did you get into photography" question. I start to answer and about half way through my explanation one of the clients points over the table and says
"Anna came to one of your lectures"
I guess I must have looked a little quizzical, so they explained. The gist of it was they needed a "new" photographer to shoot their 2010/11 products. The photos were mainly for Internet use on their various websites and on banners and posters in their stores nationwide. The client has a couple of studio based photographers (one of which is Anna) who shoot all of the products, but they needed an "outdoor" photographer to shoot the products on location, someone who was familiar working with and could also source local models in those locations.
Anna of course was that young student I'd met all those years ago, it had taken her 8 years to call me, but I'm very glad she did. A couple of days after we finished the shoot in Chamonix she jetted off on her honeymoon - here's to the future and congratulations on your marriage Anna.
So what conclusions did i come to about how i treat people? i guess i like to think i treat everyone with a certain amount of respect. It doesn't matter to me if you're a student or a major client. Treat people how you yourself would like to be treated and i think you'll do just fine.