The Art of Hope

A few weeks ago we had an award-winning, world famous photographer drop by the En Foco office to say hello and see what we were about. After a mention of our Foot in The Door workshop for emerging photographers, he said to me, “What for? It’s hopeless.”  To that I replied, “What is hopeless?” He continued to say, “Giving them hope…”

In defense and frustration, I replied in a way I thought would be clear, by saying that our workshops give people what they need, in order to have a fighting chance, an opportunity: “We don’t offer hope, we offer ‘tools.’ It is up to those that attend to do what they wish with those tools.”

The Foot In The Door workshop was June 9 — today is June 28 and here I am still mulling this over. Yes, it bothers me. It bothers me greatly. I don’t think his remarks we intended to disappoint but the delivery of the words were narrow-minded, as he ended up defending his comment by saying that filmmaking is the future of photography. That is all well and good but, what his comment also did was express what others have said to us in many ways: Don’t be a photographer, it’s a waste of time.

It’s comments like these that so many of us have heard our entire lives, and I have personally struggled with them. So thank you Mr. World Famous Photographer for dropping by and lighting another fire in my belly!

And to those sitting on their bottoms and not showing the world how talented you are, take heed of my warning: don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, or you won’t, because you can. Believe in yourself, learn enough skills, and create an art of hope. If you don’t have a personal manifesto, use this and add on as you please. Warning: it’s only for those whom are convinced they are destined to be photographers.

Art of Hope

Step 1. Find like-minded people and create a support system. They will come in handy in challenging times.

Step 2. For the family and friends that don’t understand or support your dream, know that they love you and are simply afraid. Love them back and don’t try to change them. They will come around as you continue forward and begin to succeed.

Step 3. Your personal survival and the survival of your photographic career walk hand in hand. Meaning, you may need to have several jobs to support both, and they may not all be related to photography.

Step 4. Practice your Art. Re-train yourself with the latest technology. Things are always changing in the digital world. Stay ahead of the game: the guy or gal next to you is!

Step 5. When you feel you have done your best work, appreciate it, and then go further.

Step 6. Don’t forget who you are or your dreams outside of photography. Create those dreams as well, for no regrets.

Step 7. Submit to residencies, grants, call for entries (like our New Works Photography Fellowship Awards, see below)

Step 8. Tell people what you are doing. Make yourself accountable to your dreams and create a reality.

Step 9. Well, that’s for you to write.

So I hope that after reading this, you will take yourself serious enough to start investing time in yourself – do consider submitting to En Foco’s New Works Photography Fellowship #13, and any other deadlines you come across. Heck, New Works is a free submission. Did I mention Anne Wilkes Tucker, the curator at the Museum of Fine Arts/Houston, is the Juror this year?  Several years ago, Time Magazine named her as one of the most culturally influential people in the world.

New Works is designed to give visibility to fine art and documentary photographers of Latino, African, Asian and Native American heritage, living in the U.S.  Photographers working in any genre is fair game, so its a great way to push a body of work along beyond the normal scope of what you might think is possible.

If you happen to be selected, you will have an extra $1,000 to play around with, and goodies from different photo companies such as Bogen, Lowepro and Fuji. It comes with an article in En Foco’s publication Nueva Luz photographic journal, not to mention all of the press En Foco will do on your behalf… and to top it all off, a gallery exhibition in New York City.

So now, all you need to ask yourself is how late is that post office open, and get cracking –  you just may be on the cusp of greatness!

Click here to take a foot forward.

The postmark deadline is Friday, July 31, 2009

Photos by past New Works winners
Photos by past New Works winners. L-R: Meg Escudé, Wendy Phillips, Trinidad Mac-Auliffe, Michael Gonzales, Morgan M. Ford, and Ching-Wei Jiang.

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