Advice for Artists and Photographers Starting Out

Kevin WY Lee Art & Visual, Craft & Tools Leave a Comment

Photo: From Single Image to Story Workshop, Kathmandu Nepal (2016).

I was featured in a weekend interview by The Business Times on Saturday 2nd September, 2017. Looking at the shares on social media, it seems a little note and advice I shared resonated. 

“I think the world sees photography as a sunset industry. Photo teams have been cut down, and even in the commercial field they’re finding it tough to compete because the value placed on an image has decreased as everyone is making images and the tools have become so accessible. It’s the same with newspapers and television, because photography falls under the broader media umbrella. The problem is how do we reconcile this and what’s the next step?

It’s an inevitable evolution. For photographers, artists or writers, the only thing they own and control is their own sense of authorship and who they are in terms of the type of work they make. End of the day, people are still looking for opinion leaders, and experts, so building that brand, and becoming an expert in one field is important for riding out the turbulent times.

Look at local photographer Darren Soh. He has become an opinion leader and expert on HDB flats, history, heritage, and buildings that are getting demolished. He may keep shooting the same thing, but people see him as an expert in it. He is the “HDB Go to Guy”. People always need experts to refer to or call upon for advice, services, or whatever. So that’s probably the most practical thing I can think of to do.

After a recent workshop in Manila, one of the participants with a stable well-paying job in telemarketing approached me. He felt like quitting and diving straight into photography. But I told him not to, because what happens is that your motivation would be driven by finances.

Photography and art are vocations that are different from a ‘regular’ job. Creativity cannot be spun out of financial duress. A lot of great masters succeeded because they started out making decisions based purely on what they believe is truly creative without having to stress over shooting a wedding to pay the bills. So my advice would be to not rely on being an artist to put bread on the table when you start out, because the choices you make will be very different. They are usually very safe choices. And before you know it, 10 years will pass and when you look at your portfolio, you will realise it’s not why you started in this industry to begin with.”

Read the full interview by Rachel Loi on The Business Times website: http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/lifestyle/weekend-interview/kevin-lee

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