Creative people are an odd bunch. They see things differently, ask odd questions, think of things few others would have cross their minds, then they blow you away with the things they create with that same inquisitive and unique mind. I love meeting and working with creative people because they impact how I see everything and they push my game to higher levels.
In my experience photographers don’t like to talk to other photographers, especially the really good ones. It’s sad really because it comes from an insecurity and if those other photographers would stop looking at how far they have to go rather than how far they have come I am convinced that every one of them would stop feeling insecure about their work. There is no such thing as the Best Photographer, there are just good shots and some that you don’t like as much and no matter who you are and what level you are at, there will always be more that you don’t like as much and less of the ones you think are really good shots.
I was in Atlanta recently on a commercial shoot and met Ben Brown. Ben was doing a video documentary about the gentleman we were shooting. We had talked on the phone ahead of time but when we showed up at the studio Ben was there, excited, and right away we started talking like old friends. He was all over my work and the equipment I use and how I do things. It was like he was new to the whole process and eager to learn. Then he pulled out his iPhone, at my urging, and showed me some of his work. I was blown away. This was no rookie, he was a master photographer as well as a master documentary film maker. Ben has no ego at all, he just loves creative work and the minds that bring it to life. Rather than compete we shared our admiration for each other openly. We lost nothing in doing so, in fact we gained. We both had an awesome day feeding off each others enthusiasm, energy, ideas and creativity. It was one of my favorite days of shooting and I can’t wait to work with Ben again.
The whole experience reminded me of a conversation I once had with Kevin Horton, one of my mentors in photography. Kevin was never afraid to teach me what he did and why because in his words, “Terry, you can set up the exact same shot the exact same way with the exact same model on the exact same day and it still won’t look the same as my picture.” He taught me that photography is painting with light just as painting on canvas is painting with oils. Each artist will see things differently, and therefor shoot things differently. If you try to copy anyone all you can end up being is a lesser version of that person. You can learn and be inspired by others but whatever you create from that inspiration will be uniquely yours.
That lesson stayed with me and I have always gone out of my way to teach other photographers what I know. I always learn something in return and it makes both of us better photographers.
Not only did I learn something by talking with Ben Brown, I gained a colleague I can bounce things off of and will offer me a critique and suggestions, I gained a friend and one that thinks like I do and every artist reading this will understand the value of that.
Some pictures I took with my iPhone of Ben Brown.