Get them out!

If you are serious about making the art of photography a pillar in your life, if you want the work that you do to be seen and recognised as being worthy of use or even just of praise then you have to get your work out there.

I came to this realisation late, but it is true, whether you use Facebook to just upload some images to albums and share with your family and friends, or the Flickr community to have a wider reach, or you are feeling more demanding for larger space and go for your own website, just get your images out there, it is doing you no good sitting on your hard drive (or worse yet, on your memory card in the camera)

I started with Webshots, which, before it was bought over, had a good community and lovely photo Challenges to inspire you… then that went south… and recently it went out, I think it’s called Smile now.  I had also begun uploading to Flickr since I already had a Yahoo account, I figured what was the harm, I might as well use the service, but when I wanted somewhere online to store high-resolution images (as well as make them available for friends to see) Nikhil suggested Zenfolio.  That was a great decision!

What is great about having people see your photos?  For one thing, you open yourself up to not only praise, but also criticism, which helps you grow, it makes you see the work as other’s see it, through their eyes and not just your own.  For another thing, it gives a wider group of people a chance to see what you are doing, not just your friends and family, but other photographers, other artists and even the business community.

I like to think that my more “artistic” types of photos are the ones that are important to me and the ones I hope others like and appreciate, but the others that I take seem to demand equal or greater attention, the ones from events, such as Mashramani, Diwali Motorcade, Easter and others.  Were I to confine myself to just making available for viewing those that I want to “promote”, then these others would never be seen not appreciated for what they are.

This year my images made it into three calendars in local firms; Maggie’s Snackette and Catering Service, and NT Computeac both used images which were more to the artistic side, but the company that surprised me was Banks DIH Limited, and this is the one I am drawing reference to.   While both Maggie’s and NT Computeac chose what I thought were aesthetically pleasing images, Banks DIH chose images that were more representative of the events that they wished to highlight, even though those I would not put as my best images, it appealed to them and probably to those viewing it too, those images are worth something to someone, and had I not uploaded them for others to see, then they would never have made it into the Calendar.

They did a twelve page Calendar, and of those monthly pages, Dwayne Hackett and I got half, with images that represent our culture and our life as Guyanese.

Don’t let your photos sit idly on your Hard Drive, Get them Out!

Pro – defining and refining

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

A Photo’s Worth

Recently, Dwayne Hackett posted a question on Facebook, looking to garner from others what they thought, “What is a picture worth?”, and of course at least one person used the old adage of “a thousand words”.  I am sot certain of Dwayne was trying to get at philosophical or monetary answers  🙂

For more than a century we’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, usually meaning that a complex idea can be expressed in a single image, but what is a photo actually worth?  My answer was “A photo’s worth is weighed differently by each viewer, it depends on how the photo affects them.”  For me this answer works for both the philosophical and monetary.

The most expensive Photograph on record (as of today) is the Rhein II by Andreas Gursky, which sold at auction last year for $4.3 Million, the cheapest may be that passport sized one you recently got for your American Visa Application 🙂  Which one is worth more?  To the Visa applicant, it is certainly the passport sized one, without which they can’t submit the forms, to an artist, the Rhein II certainly surpasses the “mug-shot” 🙂

While the simplicity and boldness of the Rhein II appeals to my artistic senses, a photo that sold for one-seventh of its value appealed to me much more, that would be Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise”, but that is because of how that photo affects me, and so I find more “worth” in that image.

Last year I dealt with this similarly in my post for the 23rd Week of the Deck Project, you can check it there for reference  🙂

I had taken this photo while on a walk with Nikhil and Sharon, hen I had downloaded the images, I had decided that this one was not going to make the cut, and left it aside, but after Dwayne’s question, something sparked an interest in the image.  I had used ISO500, I had shot into the sun, and I had done this dangling the camera downward simply because I was too lazy to get down in the rocks to properly compose the image, so I wasn’t enthusiastic about it  🙂

I didn’t think the resulting image was worth my time and effort to process, but I went back and while it is grainy from the high ISO and from the subsequent processing, I like it.  It may not have the same impact on a Christian as it would on a Hindu, it would not have the same effect on a North American as it would on someone from the Caribbean, each would decide it’s worth, it’s value as a photograph differently.  For many this may be worthless, for me, it was worth saving, worth the time and effort in processing, and if anyone reading this blog-post realizes the worth in their own photos, then this blog-post was worth writing.

An Exhibition

 

From the gtvibes.com website

I seriously doubt that I should classify it as an exhibition, but failing to find another name for it, that’s what it was in essence.  There are a series of events held under the patronage of the local tobacco company, the Demerara Tobacco Company, where they associate their premium brand of cigarettes, Dunhill, with various forms of art, featuring local artists.  I understand that prior to the event at which I was involved, there was one where they showcased a local painter, some of his finished work as well as one he was working on at the event itself.

The event planners had shortlisted a few up-coming local photographers, you know, the ones who aren’t famous locally as yet, and we were invited to a meeting to discuss the event.  At the end of the meeting they had decided that this would most likely be the first photographic exhibition event they were doing and since both Nikhil and I had a “portfolio” each to choose from, they would like it if we did the event.  Our portfolios were originally sent to the event planners by another photographer (he’s the Professional one) Dwayne Hackett, so a big thanks to him.

At first we were flattered, and then we were panicked, as we had to choose (together with a representative from the sponsors) and print the images by the next day.

Amazingly we managed to do it all, and even helped to mount the images, with LOTS of help from the guys who work with me at the sign company (DD Signs), without their help it would not have come off, definitely not!

The event itself was….  not too bad.  It was held in the Blue Lagoon Bar at the Hotel Tower, we had to contend with lots of music from a separate event outside, the portable AC units were not doing the job of cooling the room, and we were asked to wear formal attire (I think the last time I wore a suit before that was to my sister’s wedding).  The attendance was poor, but that might have been a good thing for two very nervous photographers, we had less chance of embarrassing ourselves  🙂

We had our cameras, but they were mostly there to identify us as “The Photographers”, and I don’t think either of us took much more than a few token photographs.

For our regular readers, we decided that since we didn’t bother to actually take photographs of our photographs on display, we’d link a few here on the blog post 🙂

Nikhil’s Set

My Set

And here’s one taken by another up-and-coming photographer on the scene, Troy Parboo, in it we are graced by the presence of Ms.  Shannon de Haas, another of the short-listed photographers.

Michael, Shannon and Nikhil

It may not have been the ideal coming out party for a photographer, but it was exposure, none-the-less  🙂

Thanks for all the encouragement and well wishes folks.