I was watching a Youtube video on Event Photography and suddenly realized that the instructor was telling me how to mix the techniques of using the camera with the techniques of client relationship building and how to manage the interaction of the two things. There seems to be a point where once the Photographer gets to the point of talking to a potential client, the real magic of photography is determined by the ability of the photographer and the potential client to reach a subconscious meeting of the minds. It seems that the tacit agreement is really a extension of the client's trust and goodwill to the person in the position of the photographer and the photographer's ability to elicit that trusting feeling in the potential client.
None of what's necessary to the building of that tacit relationship has much to do with one's knowledge of Photography, but much more to do with one's relationship building skills. I guess you'd call that the art of relationship selling.
I've written about the dependence of images on the relationship between the Photographer and the client or situation. The act of communicating with images depends on the participants in the dialog. The technical mechanics of creating the image take the position in the creative act comparable to the position of the technical skill of talking as a means to deliver a speech or knowing math in the process of creating a spreadsheet. In both situations the vehicles of communication are second nature and operate without conscious thought. How many Photographers knows their craft that well and hence are able to use their skills at a "second nature" level in the image creation relationship with their client or the situation?
All of a photographer's images are products of that relationship dialog that is captured and possibly passed on to the future. Just as an artist's song, story, or painting is left for future access so is a photographer's image; the product of his relationship with his client or subject matter. In this light a photograph enters the category of Culture; a statement from the past that depicts a person's relationship to their environment or client. It becomes the physical vehicle for conveying a prior reality that lends itself to the uses of the future viewer; it attests to the existence of a thing recognized by an absent perceiver.
In this era of rising importance of Social Media, its reach, how important is consciousness of Photography as an indelible statement about the relationship of the Photographer to the client or the situation? It is in this relationship that the Photographer has a power that defines the power embedded in the Photographer; the power to define the present for the future. Viewing Photography as grounded in relationships, it's also part of the bargain clients are contracting for, i.e., what message are they sending to the future through the power of the Photographer to grasp, construct, and record a shared reality grounded in the client-Photographer relationship?
I suspect that my views on Photography as relationship are really narrow and not what appears related to the business of Photography. But that's that's the aspect of Photography that draws me ever deeper into the examination of the practice as a social and cultural act. Like cinema photography, the big money makers are being constructed with knowledge drawn from an intensive study of cultural history and development of photographic techniques that immerse the viewers' sense of history and their physical senses in a visual and audible production that connects them to a perspective that is familiar at one level and novel at another. What still photographers have mastered these same relationships? Oh, Avatar is the movie I'm thinking of that was constructed as I've described. It's also one of the highest grossing movies in the history of the industry; if not the highest. What message did it send to the future?
Over the years I've found that my best shoots have had an element of client connection that rested at the bottom of my great experiences during the shoot. That connection seemed to shadow my time and effort as I edited the images from the shoot and constructed the coffee table product with the huge graphic wrap around cover. There seemed to be a subtle commitment, at a personal level, to do work that my client would appreciate at a deeper level. Over the years I've found that my steady customers not only returned to me year after year, family event after family event, but they also seemed to convey their trusting and respectful relationship with me to the the people they recommended me to. Sometimes the people they referred to me seemed to be familiar in an interesting and pleasant way; almost as if we'd been old friends. I suspect that my long time customers had been successful in conveying their trust and respect for me and my photographic work to them.
In retirement there's often a lot of free time to reflect on building relationships that advance your photographic interests. It's hard to focus on just what that means until you actually pick up a camera and begin working. I guess the first relationship that's most important is your relationship to time and its use. Pick up that camera and shoot.
For the longest time I thought my perspective of Photography as essentially a relationship was sort of "out there" and esoteric. Yet in reading posts from my alma mater in the Philippines I found the following article:
Check it out and see that if you too find a deeper meaning in Photography as your chosen artform
As I've grown older in this infectuous habit called Photography it's become clear to me that images find me. Even when I consciously setup a scene and look at it from a number of perspectives I find that one of those views calls out and touches me beyond my conscious efforts to construct a scene. Again, it's a relationship to this thing in my head that guides my seeing. When we, the thing in my head, and I, my conscious self agree it's a feeling of sureness about what I see. Grounded in the relationship of my inner self and my conscious self the vision I record has already been seen. Is this the magic of photography, of art. I've heard it said that you know when your dealing with a work of art if you have unbidden feelings about what you consciously see; if feelings arise beyond your conscious ability to control their occurrence. Maybe the real skill of a master photographer is grounded in his ability to produce Art grounded in his relationship with that thing beneath his/her consciousness that negotiates the images that get reproduced.
It's been a long while since my last post and significant things have happened in my life. I've retired and entered a new relationship with life and photography. Relationships are continuous things and we seldom take time to review the point to point experiences of daily living so we can see the relationship. I guess being a Photographer has a similar feel in that one remembers the moments but seldom views the relationship one lives over time with your passion. I'm determined to take the time to peruse my relationship with this thing called Photography and work very hard to fashion it as I would want it to be. I wonder if this same directedness carries over with my relationships with my clients. Can they feel my focus on our relationship as it forms our photographic journey. Who thinks of shooting a job as part of the relationship with your client. What comes first? How is it formed and nurtured; can you see it in your images? I'm sensing that it is there in each shot.
Sometimes it's hard to get a handle on the background tone of a shoot. This difficulty is often felt when there is absolutely no innate feeling for the subject and no form of identification beyond humanness. Often this happens to novice shooters more than the veteran shooters who have reduced their practice to a formula. It's the veterans who have learned to remove the energy drain of building a relationship with the subjects or the context in pursuit of efficiency during the shoot. Who has the internal strength to bring the relationship imperative to every image capture. How does a shooter grasp the tone of their shoot and muster the energy to manipulate that tone? I believe it's this type of shooter that can engage the spirit of their subject and the elements of the shooting context to get the most out of their intuitive vision and the energy present in the subject.
Relationships between the photographer and their technical training in fields other than photography can often guide the eye to see meaning from a perspective lying outside of the typical photographic thinking. Rather than shade and light a photographer with a background in Economic Development might see a scence and construct a visual frame around the hands exchanging money or goods. A photographer with a background in Engineering may well close in on the vital link in a complex building structure. While the untrained viewer may not see anything other than the structure itself, the Engineers viewing the photo is likely to relate to the crucial bearing of the subject of the photo to the unity of the larger structure. Relationships between the photographer and their subject relie on tact background understandings that aren't always obvious to the subject or aren't always obvious to the photographer either. There is always the question of what past knowledge is guiding the photographer's eye. The real challenge or the relationship photographer is becoming intimately familiar with the foundations of visual understanding that provide the intuitive awareness brought to a photographic session.
Reaching for my reality of photographic relationships between the photographer and the subject.