PDNPulse has a great video interview with James Estrin on what budding photographers with a bent for journalism can do to help get their careers started. Surprisingly, his advice can be summed up with “Be yourself.” He cautions photographers against imitating other work that has won awards or gotten published. Instead, he suggests that aspiring photojournalists try to develop their own unique style and their their own unique stories. Also he warns against traveling to exotic locales to try to cover stories that have already been done. There are good stories on every street corner — you just need to know where to look and you need to be there to capture the images that tell the story.
Those two pieces of advice (Estrin does go on to cover the photo editing process, mentoring, and developing relationships with editors and peers) are profoundly important. All too often aspiring photographers of any stripe see a great photo and their ambition becomes to recreate it. There are a lot of Ansel Addams or Alfred Stieglitz imitators out there. And, while imitation is the highest form of flattery and does offer lessons all its own, it would be better for photographers to become less imitative and try to find a way to view the same scene with fresh eyes and a new lens.
So, if you’re a photographer looking to move into the professional realm or if you just want to spice up your photography, try something different. Try being yourself. Take photos from your own point of view and don’t just follow the crowd. Who knows but that one of your “weird” or “zany” photos might be the ticket that gets your career out of the gate!
— da Bird