Shooting Home 2014: Chat with lead faculty Bryan van der Beek
Shooting Home is back for the 12th edition! A mentorship programme that aims to provide emerging photographers with a platform to start their photography or visual arts career, Shooting Home has seen more than 110 participants through its doors with many turning professional. Applications for Shooting Home 2014 are now open (click here for more information).
What has made Shooting Home tick over the years and why should an emerging artist/photographer think about a mentorship programme? Emmeline from Objectifs chats with Shooting Home lead faculty Bryan van der Beek.
Emmeline: You’ve been an integral part of Shooting Home since its beginnings in 2003 and have been lead faculty for the programme for several years. With many photography workshops, seminars, talks etc in existence, why do you think mentorship through a programme like Shooting Home is important for an emerging photographer?
Bryan: Shooting Home was initially conceived as a local alternative to the Missouri Photo Workshop (MPW) which gave participants gruelling real world tests and deadlines to find photo stories. But while MPW was geared mainly for photojournalists and documentary photographers, Shooting Home was geared towards the aspiring photographer who was considering making a living out of photography. We also made it less rigid in the sense that any sort of photography, not just documentary, was encouraged.
I think that Shooting Home is the only intensive photography workshop in town that doesn’t molly-coddle the participants. A carefully selected faculty ensures that there are always mentors for different types of photographers, whether they by photojournalists, documentary, fine art, conceptual etc (the list goes on!) Varied opinions from the faculty themselves often lead to interesting discussions that participants can learn from. Also, the bond that participants forge with each other tends to carry on long after the workshop concludes, giving them a wealth of experience to draw from.
Emmeline: Did you have a mentor when starting out? Now that you’re an independent photographer, how do you find ways to challenge or keep improving?
Bryan: Well, over the course of my career, I’ve had many mentors. Some of my earliest were Steve Raymer, my photojournalism professor and former National Geographic photographer, when I was in university. I’ve also had the good fortune to work for and be mentored by phenomenal photojournalists and editors over the years, and it is important to realise that one can always learn from the experiences of others. Now that I work for myself, I still have a core group of photographers, both locally and overseas who will take the time to look at my work and give me their honest opinions. That’s another thing that Shooting Home will actually offer participants – Honesty.
All too often, we have friends who praise our work and tell us how good our pictures are. Though they mean well, as photographers we cannot take those compliments to heart. Instead, we need the brutal truth. We don’t need people simply telling us that they don’t like our work, but we need people to tell us WHY they feel our work doesn’t reach out to them. You can’t please everyone with your images, but when you have people you trust and whose work you respect, you’d do well to listen to what they have to say.
Emmeline: Have there been any photographers in Shooting Home that have stood out for you in the past years?
Bryan: Of course there have been! And for many different reasons. We are always going to like the work that we are comfortable with, but the sheer variety of photographers that pass through the doors of Shooting Home means that there will be many talented eyes to see the world through. I don’t have to agree with the work for it to stand out and/or mean something to me, and that for me is the magic of photography.
Emmeline: You’ve seen many participants through Shooting Home, more than half have gone on to become full-time photographers. Do you think there are certain skills or characteristics that help some participants “make it” in their career as photographers? Are there any tips you can share with an emerging photographer?
Bryan: Well I think the one characteristic that all aspiring photographers need to have is hunger. They need to constantly want to explore and try new things, and to constantly capture the world in their photographs. Being realistic is also very important… we all start off wanting to change the world, but after a while, we realise that changing the world might not always help with the bills, so we do work that both sustains your financial obligations, as well as funds your personal work.
Tenacity is also important. Things are not going to fall into your lap. Often times, you need to work really hard to get noticed. I remember my professor once telling me that when he took over the photojournalism department at the Indiana University School of Journalism, that the outgoing head, John Ahlhauser, told him: “If someone comes to you and tells you they want to become a photographer, turn them away. If they come back again, you turn them away again, and again, and again. If, and only if, they keep coming back after you’ve turned them down oh so many times, then take them under your wing, and teach them all you know.”
That’s all there really is to it… as Yoda said (yes I am also a geek): “Do or Do not, there is no Try”.
Emmeline: What do you hope to see in Shooting Home this year/the upcoming years?
Bryan: Simple. I want to see hungry photographers. Age doesn’t matter, hunger does. I want to see people who want to learn. Photographers who aren’t afraid to learn something new, even if it’s something they aren’t used to. I want to see people turn inward for a change, and make pictures with their hearts.
But the thing I look forward to most? The smiles on their faces when they’ve realised they’ve come out of the workshop not only as better photographers, but better people.
What: Shooting Home 2014
Started in 2003 by Objectifs, Shooting Home is an annual programme designed with the belief that ‘home’ is the first step for aspiring photographers to explore their professional careers.
A non-profit initiative, Shooting Home brings together a community of established and aspiring professionals to create a supportive environment to grow and develop as a professional photographer.
Faculty for this year: Bryan van der Beek, Chow Chee Yong, Darren Soh, Sean Lee and Yee I-Lann
When: 1 Apr – 6 Apr 2014
Application deadline: 19 Feb 2014
About Bryan van der Beek
Bryan is an award-winning commercial and editorial photographer based in Singapore. His images span Asia, North America and Europe.
A former Executive Photojournalist with The Straits Times in Singapore, Bryan has also worked with newspapers in the United States. His photographs have appeared in several international publications including: Time, Time Asia, Newsweek and The Washington Post. In addition, his photographs known for their artistic sensibility can be found in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Singapore. A graduate of the Indiana University School of Journalism, he has lectured at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University, Temasek Polytechnic and Objectifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking. His works can be viewed on http://www.bryanv.com.