It has been a week since I posted this Open Letter to Photographers about child exploitation. I am blown away and humbled by the outpouring of private messages, emails, phone calls, etc. in response. I learned a few things:
Photographers want the truth about the state of this industry.
“I have been fortunate to have seen success for the past 17 years, but the recent years have left me completely dismayed with what has happened to this once exciting industry. After having a physical studio space for 11 years, I moved out in 2012 because the overhead was eating into ALL of my profits. It was a tough decision because I didn’t want to let go of all I had built, but I knew it was the best decision.
I just want to say a heartfelt thank you for your honesty. Everything you have said in your posts echoes my thoughts and feelings of what has happened. I feel like no one is really honest about it and it is truly refreshing to have someone admit what they really think about the state of the industry. No one wants to be honest…it is crazy!”
Photographers are embarrassed by the foul and disgusting behavior.
“I thought I would reach out to you and say thank you for your blog. You’re speaking on behalf of so many women who have face to face encounters with these bully photographers….”
“I’ve been in business for seven years and lately I have grown very tired of the whole charade….. at the end of the day, there is a whole world outside of photography….”
“I saw your recent blog post and loved it! I am so disgusted with the recent drama…. thanks for keeping it real”
There are some wise photographers out there.
“I’ve been following your transition from full-time photography back to school. I’m about to embark on the same journey….”
“I am so thankful that I never left my day job. While photography has been a good outlet for me, it’s just not worth putting so much energy into anymore….”
“I am not quitting, I’m just not going to apologize for my prices. If they book me, great, if they don’t, that’s fine too – just more time for my kids! I will not devalue myself.”
Thank you all for your kind words and messages – you have no idea how I needed it this past week which was especially a difficult week (totally unrelated – I’ll share in an upcoming post when I’m ready).
I’m sure I will hear “you ramble too much” or something similar. It is actually cathartic and therapeutic to write about this stuff so it gets out of my system, and I move on (and understand, you may be an extravert – I’m an introvert, and my reaction may be totally different from yours… and that’s okay….) And no, I will not post names. Names are absolutely unnecessary. These are my thoughts and experiences…. Remember… my personal blog….
my PERSONAL blog…
I will warn you… there is some harsh language below. While I am not a proponent of using harsh language in my professional life, I am no prude and curse quite a bit in my casual life. I simply do not feel it belongs in a professional atmosphere – I blurred out certain areas because even though it was not said by me, I feel gross posting it…. however, it is a great illustration of what is going on out there in the photography community.
I firmly believe that internet “bullying” needs to be discussed out in the open. I don’t believe in whining about it, but mature informational discussions are very much needed. Social media has opened up the public to a sort of regression if you will….. many have regressed back to middle school where mean girls rule the halls.
First, for the record, I am not retired from photography. While pursuing a new career, I still take photography clients, and they are WONDERFUL… the thing is, I’m not afraid to speak up about what is going on in this industry. FACT – I have nothing to lose. I work with a select discerning clientele. I really don’t care what other photographers think of me because I do not make a living off of them. Ya see, people like me are felt to be a danger to some in this industry – we can speak the truth about what is going on as we are not working in fear of losing followers. We don’t need followers. Again, this is my personal blog – it’s for my own thoughts and happenings. I share everything from a few photo shoots here and there to design projects around my house to family photos – read it or not, doesn’t affect me either way.
Many photographers are asking me what type of backlash I have gotten, and instead of answering all the emails individually, I may as well post it here to head off more questions. When people are desperate and fear losing their followers, they will go to all extremes and lash out….. as illustrated.
This was posted shortly after my Open Letter. (Dear photographer, I’m so sorry you have apparently had experience with herpes? I’m surprised you would admit that straight from your business Facebook account…. Remember, according to statistics, 1 in 5 are infected with it… )
I kid….. What’s life without a bit of humor?
This photographer has “known” me for 10 years on forums, but doesn’t really *KNOW* me if that makes sense. She also has spoke against bullying, yet…. what is THIS called?…… She and I never had any sort of falling out that I know of. I’ve always said she was very talented, but…. I may not agree with some of her controversial images – and I think therein lies the problem. One minute we were friends on social media, the next minute we were not. I never had any personal dealings with her except a few private conversations about lack of customers and her consideration of coming to my area and trying to pick up a few clients while she was here. I was not expecting such vile hatred over the fact
that I thought her image of a little girl topless was inappropriate.
A friend of mine received THIS particular private message (from same photographer above and below). I do not believe she deserved to be attacked simply for commenting on a post on my personal Facebook wall. There are victims of this nastiness popping up every day – I’m guessing that it is assumed the recipients will be too scared to speak up…. but whoah… really? Did this adult just make fun of my friend’s looks?
Another. This photographer expressed concern that one of those controversial child images was posted into a Facebook wall collection by a man who appeared to have some sort of obsession with nudity (and little kids). He felt the need to make sure that the photographer was well aware that the child was being used by a potential creep. To the left is the reaction he received.
I feel bad that photographers are being treated like this. Aren’t we adults? We can’t take some criticism or discussion of an obviously controversial image?
The word “Bully” is being used so often these days that it has just about lost its meaning.
What Bullying Isn’t
Opinions about art is not bullying. Every artist knows that art will get reactions especially pieces that are designed for controversy, and as artists, we must be willing to stand behind our art no matter if there are negatives or positives being said about it. However, as professionals, we shouldn’t tie our emotions up in our art to the point that we cannot take a step back and see why others may have the reactions they do. Just because some feel it is inappropriate to post nude children online to an audience of 200,000+, doesn’t mean there is something mentally wrong with them. None of us are ever correct one-hundred percent of the time, but we all have a right as humans to our feelings and opinions, and shouldn’t have to fear intimidation, revenge, and retaliation for critiquing or expressing concern or heck, even for calling out someone on their questionable tactics in the profession.
If someone critiques your art or states their concerns of your art, that is not bullying. However, making fun of one’s looks, degrading them, or trying to intimidate is a form of bullying. (Oh, and bragging online to everyone that you carry a gun with you everywhere doesn’t make you more intimidating. If you actually work with real clients, they don’t want you bringing a gun with you to their children’s photo shoot. Trust me. And if you ever harm anyone with it, the investigators will be all over your trail of aggressive, bordering violent behavior online.)
Don’t be Naive – Peaks Turn Into Valleys
This is another good one…. Does it bother me that this photographer (same one as above) is saying these things about me? I mean, it’s a little insane, but does it really hurt me? No way…. it’s funny really because the same person who says these things is describing what he/she will be one day. What do I mean by that?
There is one guarantee in life. Pride yourself all you want on your beauty…. your smooth skin, your luscious hair, your fit body… but guess what? You will get wrinkles, you will get old, and you will pass and rot and decay in this earth. Fat, skinny, man, woman, blond, brunette, black, white – we are all equal. Do you really think you are any better than everyone else around you?
There is one guarantee in the photography business. Your success or popularity is temporary. The masses will move on to someone else, just like fashion trends, music, etc. Those who are afraid of that reality will turn rabid in fear.
This one was by one of the “followers”…. I stink, I never “made it” bwhahahahahaha!!!!
My photography peak happened between 2009 and 2011. Go read MY BIO HERE if you want more details. How many photographers can say they made six figures in a week shooting print ads commercially? How many photographers can say they were actually paid mega bucks for simply assisting on two VIDEO COMMERCIALS (and actually appeared in one of them) where an entire production crew flew in from the other side of the country to their home town due to their expertise in a certain area? How many photographers can say they sustained their business for 10 years with revenue of $100,000 (first year) up to $400,000 (2010) per year for their entire full-time career working real photography jobs with real clients and not simply selling to photographers?
I know, I didn’t have to explain all that – I don’t owe it to anyone to explain -however, I have a point…. You know what? My success didn’t matter. Those days are over for me. I peaked… and that was cool and all, but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. You peak usually once in a career and that peak will naturally fall. This is actually quite normal, reality, and there is nothing wrong with that – but if any of these photographers who are peaking right now think that they won’t be a “has-been” one day, they are truly delusional.
(below…. one of the videos resulting from the picture on the right – a 30-second video but probably one of the most enjoyable weeks in my entire career.) Good times, but I am very much looking forward to this new journey in exercising my brain……
Fact — None of my prior success matters, you know why? I have said this before, but when my life comes to a close – what am I going to think back to?
- “Oh, I loved the success I had… wish I would have had even more success!”
- “I wish I would have argued more online defending my art.”
- “I wish I would have given away more cheap or free photo shoots!”
- “I wish I would have spent more time in front of the computer following photographers!”
- “I wish I would have had internet fame!”
Nope… do you know what I will be thinking?
- “I wish I would have been closer to my children.”
- “I wish I would have not let the things of this world get to me and nurtured my marriage more.”
- “I wish I would have had more time with the ones I love….”
Words don’t matter. Things don’t matter.
Photography really doesn’t matter.
Be Yourself and Who Cares What Anyone Thinks!
Erynn, at almost 16, is such a great example for artists everywhere. Her high school has “Drive Your Tractor to School Day”…. the football team wears [digital] camo uniforms…. the school has a history of being called “the duck farmers” and is known for their agricultural program and affiliation with Future Farmers of America. Erynn walks the halls in iridescent pants with silver boots, Kasabian t-shirt, and rainbow pixie cut hair with confidence…. with a 4.0 gpa that by the way she looks, many would never believe….
Standing up and being different and not following the masses is the sign of a strong, confident, and intelligent individual. Why not let the nasty vile evil words just bounce right off because guess what? Who cares what another photographer thinks of you? She/he has no more a right to this world than you do. Who cares what anyone else thinks? Be you… be who you are, share your opinions, your feelings, and laugh it off….
My daughter, aka Zombie Girl, read all the things said about myself and about her…. She laughed at this photographer and said, “Is that an insult? Is that the best you can do?”
Wise and confident behind her years…. we all need a little of that. This cyber “bullying” is never going away. It’s here. Social media has brought out some of the best and worst in people. There’s no use fighting against the bullies – we are just now understanding who people really are – how they show their true colors. What we can do is laugh it off…. and realize what really matters to us in our lives.
I’m pretty much done with this topic, but I will continue to share snippets from my life, my thoughts, etc. on this personal blog…. and you are welcome to follow the Honest Articles about business and photography, and if you have any questions or concerns regarding the industry that you want to chat about, feel free to send me an email!