Twice in recent times, I’ve been accused of being a “Pro”, as in a Professional Photographer, and both times I’ve been taken aback by it. Me? a Pro? Surely they don’t think so!
The first time was on a public discussion on the Guyana Tourism Authority’s Facebook page where we were discussing their Photography Competition, the unfairness of one of the “rules” and the general direction of the competition, the individual calling me a Pro thought that because I was a known name in Photography in Guyana I should not be questioning the rules of the competition (open only to amateur photographers), and stay out of it. I humbly submit that I am not a known name… stop ten people on the street and ask them if they know Michael Lam, and they’ll all probably ask “Who?” In the small, but growing, Photography world locally, yes, my name is known alongside those of Nikhil Ramkarran, Dwayne Hackett, Fidal Bassier, Ryan Dos Santos, Amanda Richards, Roshanna Mahadeo, Compton Sarabo, Vishnu Persaud, Philip Williams, Avinash Richard and countless others (sorry if I missed anyone).
The second time was in a newspaper article that covered the recently concluded Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, in which I gained the Bronze Medal in the Photography category, the reporter referred to me as “Pro photographer Michael Lam”, again I felt that it was a distinction I could not accept or live up to.
Who is a Professional? Generally you need to meet certain criteria to be a Professional:
“Expert and specialized knowledge in field which one is practicing professionally” I don’t possess that knowledge, certainly not to a degree to be teaching it or express an “expert” opinion on it, so that one is out.
“Excellent manual/practical and literary skills in relation to profession”, same as the first, not me!
“High quality work in Photography”, OK, if it’s good enough for the National Art Gallery at Castellani House to exhibit, then I suppose I have to acquiesce to this one
“A professional is an expert who is a master in a specific field”, definitely not me, oh no!
Let’s get specific to a Professional Photographer: A professional photographer uses photography to earn money; amateur photographers take photographs for pleasure and to record an event, emotion, place, or person. I have a day job, I’ve always described myself as a Photo-hobbyist, and I still see myself that way. Photography isn’t my primary income, if it were I’d be starving. Have I made money off of photography? No, I spent more than I made. I’ve been fortunate to have some of my images licensed for use in a few calendars, I’ve also had a few images sold for display, does this make me a Professional? Simply because I’ve had some income from my hobby?
I have to admit, that this view was the one I had originally taken of Professional Photographers, those who have sold their services or products, so now I fall into that category, but I still can’t see myself as a Professional.
I look at Robert (Bobby) Fernandes, whose years of experience and his natural Photographer’s Eye, can capture a scene with a certain “Je ne sais quoi” that tells you its a great photo, and I think that’s a Professional!
I look at Delano Williams, who has been doing portrait and wedding photography in Guyana for many years, and I think that’s a Professional!
I remember Mark Yhap, who took portrait photos on Camp Street, he used SLR film cameras and light meters, and had everyone wanting their photos looking ethereal because of a “soft lens” that he used, and I think that’s a Professional!
I look at Dwayne Hackett, one of the only trained photographers that I know of, who does spectacular work for everyone from Corporations down to studio portraits, and I think that’s a Professional! He knows more about lighting, depth of field, and most everything else, than I ever will.
I look at Fidal Bassier, who has taken wedding photography and portrait photography to a level Guyana has not seen before, and I think that’s a Professional!
I look at John Greene, who in a short space of time has carved out for himself a space in the Portrait photography world and is steadily expanding his repertoire, and I think that’s a Professional! I certainly don’t have that business sense or attitude.
I look at my friend Nikhil Ramkarran, Gold Medal winner in the Photography Category of the Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, whom I always thought “never had an artistic bone in his body”, but who read and looked at every single thing he could find about Photography and Photographers, and tutored himself (and me along the way) in the art of photography, and I think to myself that’s a Professional! You could ask him almost anything on the subject, and you’ll not only get expert knowledge, but an expert opinion.
Do I rank with these people, or with so many others in the field now? I am not sure, I’m happy to call them my peers, my fellow Photographers, and I am proud to be among the talented people of The Guyana Photographers. Can you book my time for a portrait shoot? No. Can you book my time for a wedding shoot? No. Will I ever do that? I don’t know, it’s just not my thing right now, and I have a day job 🙂
Why do people think I am a professional? I don’t know and it really does not matter in the long run. I know a few things about photography, and I’m willing to share what I know, and learn from others in the process, but in the end, I merely shoot what I see, and sometimes people like what I shoot.
To the Photographs in this post…. both photos were taken during the first week of the year, and both were shortlisted along with two others for the first photo for the Deck Project, but I chose another, just because I felt like it. The ;little icon of the Newspaper is the article which I mentioned, clicking on it will give you the full PDF version from the Newspaper’s website (Sunday Times Magazine).
Both of the photos are technically composites, that is they are High Dynamic Range (HDR) images each using three exposures. Of the two, the seascape that I titles “The Lonely Sea” is my favourite. HDRs are one of my favourite photographic techniques, but as with all techniques it can be misused. Click on the images for a better view in the Gallery, along with other HDR images in my Scenic Experiments Gallery on my site.
Definitions highlighted in bold taken from Wikipedia.org