Process 072 ☼ 7 Questions to Help you Improve and Grow
GIVEAWAY: A Mystery Bag of Fresh & Expired Film from my fridge
In this week’s letter I dig into why I love mentoring other photographers and what that exactly looks like. I’ll share some recent Amsterdam street images throughout to break up the text. All shot on the Hasselblad 500cm with a 80mm 2.8 lens.
This week’s PROCESS GIVEAWAY comes to you from
Process and Practice and Commitment
The other day I was listening to a conversation between Seth Godin and Tim Ferris in which Seth shares the following quote from sculptor Elizabeth King:
“Process saves us from the poverty of our intentions.”
This really spoke to me. Matter of fact, this newsletter is called Process because I believe that focusing on process over final results helps us learn more and be more excited by building patience and a longterm view into our expectations. Photography as a craft is a marathon journey and we should be gentle with ourselves by focusing on what we can control: the process and how much we put into it through our practice.
Seth added the following context:
“Tomorrow morning when you wake up, you probably won’t feel like engaging in the practice. And if you do, you probably won’t feel that way the next day. What we do is make our decision once: We decide we are a runner and runners run every day. We decide we’re a blogger and bloggers blog every day. That decision lightens the cognitive load so much since there is no time or reason to negotiate with ourselves. We already decided. Now the question is not should we go or not but should we go left or right, because we’re already going.”
The moment I decided I was a photographer didn’t happen until after I had already started getting paid to take pictures. My main job was in the music industry, running an indie record label and writing and producing music. Photography was a hobby I had on the side, until it got a bit out of hand when I started taking environmental portraits of interesting creative people I’d meet and I started my One of Many project.
Once I committed to photography as a career, as unstable and mercurial as being a freelancer often is, it brought a sense of relief. I don’t have to wonder if I was going to bring my camera to whatever thing I was doing, because as a photographer of course I bring my camera everywhere. I don’t have to decide each week if I’ll spend many hours writing a new Process issue, because I already committed to it as part of my photography practice and giving back. The decision had been made already, now I just execute and avoid wasting mental energy on making the decision every day again.
In addition to the decision to be a photographer, I’ve decided on various other roles over the last few years and while some didn’t last most have.
I am a runner, so I run three times a week. I am an eternal student, so I embrace the beginner’s mindset and study photography, and more recently improv. I am an encourager-in-chief so I cheer on at least one person every day, a stranger on the street practicing a skateboard trick or a friend who just started a new job. I am a teacher, so I write down my lessons learned and share them through Process with as many people as possible. Speaking of, if you could help me spread the word I’d love it:
Why I Love Teaching
Before I was a photographer I was the youngest person teaching at the business school I attended. I was lucky to have excelled in one particular class as a freshman and was asked to help teach it the following year. I loved it from the start.
I grew up in a family of teachers. Both of my parents worked as teachers until their retirement, my sister was a teacher until recently, and suddenly I was a teacher too, while still being a student. I have always loved combining the two.
There is always so much more to learn and what is teaching if not being excited about what you have learned and passing it on to others who can benefit from it?
Before I started Process, I had joined the International Center of Photography as the founding curator of Projected, a series of nearly one hundred exhibits focusing on new voices in concerned photography. It became a great outlet for me to both learn and teach through helping photographers hone in on themes, select the best images to tell their story, and coach them through the process.
One Projected ended I wanted to take that experience elsewhere and continue helping other photographers grow and move forward in their craft so I started offering mentoring sessions and portfolio reviews as part of the launch of my book NOTICE. Those proved to be popular but also incredibly fun and satisfying for myself so I have continued them, in limited numbers because they do require a lot of time and work. Every quarter I open up a few new slots for a mentoring session or trajectory.
How A Mentor Session Works
We start by clarifying our goals together. Depending on the photographer’s needs I work in three different ways to help them get to the next level:
1. PROJECT-BASED COACHING — You’re excited to work on a project, like a book or a zine or a web gallery, and want to bring it into the world but don’t know where to start. Here my goal is to guide you through the process from beginning to end.
We start by getting clarity on what the project will be about, which goals you have for it, and which steps you need to take to create it and bring it into the world. Some photographers only need a single 2-hour session to lock in a vision and a bird’s eye view plan, others benefit from regular check-ins and accountability.
2. PORTFOLIO REVIEW — You love photography and you’re creating work you’re proud of but you need help creating an excellent portfolio to show and pitch your work to clients and contests.
We start by explicitly stating your goals, maybe it’s a certain number of pitches or getting an assignment from a specific dream client. I put on my curator hat, walk you through your pre-selection, and advise you on which images work best for your portfolio based on our stated goals. We also talk about what kind of work you can shoot to complement what you already have and fill some blind spots. This can be a single 2-hour session or be spread out over multiple ones.
3. CAREER ADVICE/Q&A — You’re an aspiring or working photographer and making progress but the industry and clients are still a bit of a mystery to you. I get it, it took me years to navigate and I still learn more every year.
We start by going over all your questions and I share tips from experience on how to tackle your next steps. This can also be combined with a portfolio review.
The Seven Key Questions To Start
Each of the three mentoring tracks start by gaining clarity around our goals so we can dig into them. Over the years I’ve put a lot of thought into which questions will help us get to the core of a project fastest and here they are:
What is your creative goal for the project? Why this body of work?
What is the best possible outcome of this project being put into the world? What does success look like?
What is the narrative of the story you’d like to tell?
How much work has already been done?
Will there be text? If so, how will this text serve the imagery and vice versa?
What is the scope of the project? How many images or pages? How much text?
Are there examples of existing projects that have inspired this project?
These are not easy yes or no questions. They require a quiet sit down and thoughtfully going through each question, which happens before our mentoring session. At the start of our session we go through your answers and I will dig into them with follow up questions to tease our what is often hiding underneath.
In almost every situation your answers will change, sometimes dramatically, especially if I feel your goals could be more ambitious and exciting based on my own experience. From here we start building a plan with practical steps, specific goal, and a time line.
New Mentoring Slots Available Now
I am opening up
They cost 250
All film was developed and scanned by my friends at Carmencita Film Lab. Use code “PROCESS” at check out to get a free size upgrade for your scans.
That’s it for this week!
Next week: Shooting a commercial campaign on a Contax G2 with flash!
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.
PS The thumbnail cover image for this issue was taken by my good friend Dan Rubin.
BuyMoreFilm is back! This week’s prize is a mystery bag of amazing fresh and expired 35mm film from my own freezer. I have collected a lot of amazing and unusual film over the years and this week I’ll share some of the wealth. Expect some Kodak and Ilford but also some stuff you’ve never seen before.
To enter this Giveaway visit the Process Flip page and answer this question:
You get a call to come to the studio and take portraits of one of your favorite musicians or actors. Who is it and what is your two sentence creative pitch?
For example, my answer would be: Willem Dafoe shot very tight in black and white to create an intimate and almost claustrophobic feeling, centering the amazing level of expression Mr. Dafoe can create with just his eyes and face.
ENTER THIS WEEK’S GIVEAWAY HERE before 11pm EST on September 3rd.
The winner will be randomly drawn. This giveaway is for Process subscribers only.
Shout out to the team over at Flip for partnering with Process.
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The best way to support Process is to order my photo book NOTICE.
Can’t get enough? Browse the Process Archives.