Perception is the way a person thinks about something. Ask five people to describe a thing and you’ll get five different answers.
William Branson III M.Photog., Cr., is a PPA life member and talented portrait photographer. “When I first attended the conventions and programs, I would sit in the back of programs by myself as I had not yet made any friends,” he told me. “I was petrified by all the people and intimidated by the speakers. After a few more years and after gaining some wonderful friends, I started meeting the speakers. I realized that they are all regular people like me; they just had more experience than I did. They endured the same business issues that I had but had more experience to deal with them.”
William’s story is much like my own. I looked up to those speakers and image jurors, never thinking about the fact that they started out in this business like everyone else. Even after many years of speaking and judging photographic competition myself, the first time I met William, I was intimidated. He didn’t do anything to cause that, but my perception of him was not reality. Flash forward to today, and I see that it’s the friendship I have with William and other photographers that continually inspires me to be the best that I can be.
Beth Genengels, CPP, is close to earning her master of photography degree. I met Beth at an Imaging USA a few years back. She was excited to be there, and I could tell she’d be the type of photographer who would jump in to PPA and get involved. She’s highly motivated and talented and open to all avenues of learning.
“I think when you are new in the industry, you are star-struck by IPC jurors, Board of Directors, and speakers,” she told me when I asked about her initial perception of Imaging USA and the International Photographic Competition. “They have dedicated a great deal of effort, education, and time into being where they are. The reality for me was getting to know these members more directly. In addition, knowing that I have dedicated myself to the pursuit of education and knowledge put me on a similar path, and like-minded people are fun to get to know.”
I was in college when I first thought that maybe I could have a career in photography. I pictured myself creating fine art, having gallery showings and museum displays. The reality was that I needed to earn money to pay for all the film and fiber-based papers. So I studied and started photographing weddings. I had the perception that fine art photographers and wedding and portrait photographers were not part of the same profession. Thankfully, I joined PPA early in my career and learned how to be a fine art portrait and a wedding photographer.
We are all here to grow. If there’s someone you aspire to emulate, if you want to improve your images, enhance your business acumen, or just find others who understand what it’s like to be a creative and run a business, don’t let your perceptions keep you from meeting them and asking questions. You just might find a mentor or a new friend.
Audrey Wanckett is the 2018-2019 president of PPA.