In many aspects photography is a solitary profession. Where does leadership come into the picture? Pun intended. Every image depends upon the push of a shutter. Therefore every event, every situation, every assignment depends on the experience, attitude, and the skill of the individual looking through the viewfinder.
That’s where leadership comes from. The individual behind the viewfinder determines the reality. Yes, there are outside goals. There are expectations from others. There is a need, there are consequences, and there are results.
A former publisher of mine made a wise choice, though probably not consciously when he hired me. He did not lay down a set of rules for me to follow. It was my responsibility to find my own way. I had to explore the boundaries of access, liability, and acceptance. It was a hard, cold, but cleansing first six months on the job.
Leadership Through Independence
However, like most photographers, my independence in such a solitary profession was also my greatest asset. Most photographers realize early on you are basically on your own. If you cannot handle that, you might consider looking elsewhere for satisfaction.
A solitary profession needs a person who is their own leader. Yes, there are guidelines, requirements, and deadlines. Most careers as a photographer require such a person to know the guidelines, the requirements, the needs of the employer, and accomplish those criteria.
Because experienced photographers know the rules, the tenants, and the lines of demarcation every company puts in place. If organizations with photographers want leadership from these individuals rules are broken on a regular basis. It is one part of being creative.
A Solitary Occupation
Being a photographer is a tenuous position when working for any company with rigidity built into their framework. The greatest burden and the best, and most important work result in the responsibility landing on the photographer’s shoulders. This is the ying and yang of photography being a solitary profession.
Consequently, pressure, anxiety, creative energy, and deadlines become a juggling act of infinite possibilities, and a constant challenge helping define those who accept this role. As a result, being a leader is generally not part of the mindset of creative individuals. They are pursuing creative goals, personal satisfaction, and hardly ever think of themselves as leading others to new heights of accomplishment.
Accordingly, photographers are an independent lot. As such, the company must allow these individuals a free reign to accomplish results. It does not mean they are free to do anything. It does mean it is important to allow them to be themselves. No predetermined outcome set in stone. This attitude will ultimately result in failure.
Furthermore, most good, passionate, photographers are not photographers by choice. They are image makers because it is a gift. It is also a pursuit of fulfillment, and a constant desire to find the holy grail of an image. This pursuit of internal leadership with external expression sometimes finds wisdom along the way.
These individuals realize there will never be an image without fault. There will always be good images. A perfect image is a holy grail in search of discovery. It is also a unicorn.
On the other hand, wisdom is not a unicorn. Wisdom arrives on the view screen of those who realize photography is a constant pursuit of light and shadow. Their use of light and shadow transforms images creatively. When this happens being a leader in such a solitary profession changes. Consequently, the leadership role becomes the electronic equivalent of the best image available.
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