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Thread: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

  1. #1

    Default My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Eversince i picked up a camera i wanted to be a commercial photographer or photojournalist.Have been working towards that direction for a long time. It seems to be a hard path and i have not given up. But there have been some incidents along the way which have had a lasting impact on me. I would like to share some of those experiences with you.

    *Pls bear in mind! I'm merely sharing my experieces thus far and not directing anything towards any particular person or group !!

    Abt six months back I had an opportunity to meet up with one of Singapore's top Photographers .( Name will not be mentioned )

    We had a nice chat. And the topic of he looking for assistants came up. Thinking this would be a great opportunity for me , i offered to take up the job. First thing without even looking at my work, he said I cant make it (his exact words). WHY??!! Cuz i'm not of a particular skin colour and i do not speak a particular language.

    My previous boss shared the same ideas as him. So i was not surprised by what he said and did not take offence. But i learnt to accept the fact that we actually need to cater for the bulk of the market.

    Although i have mentioned only two such cases , along my path of trying to achieve my goals i have had many comments like this and have met pple who have even turned me away straight in the face.

    Sometimes it's really demoralising but yet the anger that keeps on building inside me pushes me on.

    I would like to know if any others out there have had such experience and how you beat it ?? !! Pls do share.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    wait a minute let me get this right..

    you were turned away because of your race? language capabilities is quite understandable as alot of communication in involved in the work and in fact in any work or job the language is a form of asset/skill.. but skin colour?

    perhaps you'd like to provide more details..

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    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    No comment...

  4. #4

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    there was a particular time....when this client of mine saw that i was the photographer....went straight to my boss and my manager to have me replaced.

    Yup i have been turned away for both reasons...my race and my language capabilities.

    Well i have put in effort to learn the language. I have bought books and tapes. And always have my friends teach me.... :P

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    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Quote Originally Posted by BornToRide View Post
    there was a particular time....when this client of mine saw that i was the photographer....went straight to my boss and my manager to have me replaced.

    Yup i have been turned away for both reasons...my race and my language capabilities.

    Well i have put in effort to learn the language. I have bought books and tapes. And always have my friends teach me.... :P
    i believe there should be some form of racial discrimination act in singapore that you can fall back on.. (disclaimer: i'm no lawyer).

    this thread has the potential to spark a huge debate.. with that in mind i shall refrain from any further comments too. perhaps you could seek redress in the courts. hehe.

  6. #6

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Quote Originally Posted by mrchua View Post
    i believe there should be some form of racial discrimination act in singapore that you can fall back on.. (disclaimer: i'm no lawyer).

    this thread has the potential to spark a huge debate.. with that in mind i shall refrain from any further comments too. perhaps you could seek redress in the courts. hehe.
    there is. with mom...
    Last edited by garou12; 1st June 2008 at 07:04 PM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Hey Mr Chua... thanks for the advise but i did not start this topic for debates... hahaha..

    I have learnt to live with this and infact like i said i have taken steps to improve my communications in the particular language.

    I just wanna know how others have broken the barrier and made a name for themselves.

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    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Quote Originally Posted by BornToRide View Post
    Hey Mr Chua... thanks for the advise but i did not start this topic for debates... hahaha..

    I have learnt to live with this and infact like i said i have taken steps to improve my communications in the particular language.

    I just wanna know how others have broken the barrier and made a name for themselves.
    hey man..

    yeah i kinda can understand how you feel as well being the minority, as i'm in a foreign land myself. the need to assimilate into others' culture, language and way of life is tough, it sometimes feel as though you lose a part of yourself and your identity. but i guess those that stay on and are determined enough to fight and persevere, are the ones that succeed in the end. i guess it takes alot of motivation, hard work and perseverence, as well as luck.

    fight on bro.. failure is the mother to success. its the times when we're down that we realise how strong we are when we recover from those setbacks.

  9. #9

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Thanks A lot Mr Chua....

  10. #10

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    It must have been hard on you to hear that. It is surprising he spoke the truth as to why he rejected your application/intent. Most hirer withold the truth in case the interviewee badmouth him/her.

    As with most hiring, chemistry do play an important role. And since he would be working very closely with you to get his projects done, he has to have a certain comfort level in communication and meeting his own expectation before he hires.

    The thing about discrimination is hard to enforce though the local press has new rules in advertising for position wanted. That is, the advertiser cannot indicate gender or race.

    But the hard fact is the boss still have the right to choose no matter how the govt try to influence in the hiring practicce.

    For example, if an advertiser was looking for a beautician for a renowned spa, would the boss be willing to hire a big fat and ugly looking man (full of pimples on his face & stinky+messy hair) to perform facial and having part of the job requirement is to rub oil on a lady's back (for a free shoulder massage) in an enclosed 1 to 1 setting? you want equality, but remember, the hirer do have choices and job requirements. And, again, the most important part is chemistry during hiring.

    Or, another example... If a cosmetic company needed beautiful caucasian models for a product launch. A Chinese lady applied for the post and was refused a chance for an interview as she is non caucasian. This is discrimination alright, but can we fault the cosmetic company? The company has a certain plan to project a certain image and they would probably tell her the truth as well (though they cant state the requirements in the press).

    You should move on and press on in your search for a good job. Hope you see where i am coming from. All the best to your career.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    i think the best thing you can do now is to look at the market that is left available to you i.e. the malay and indian market. see how best you can market yourself and exploit this area.

    there are pros and cons in this approach but as you can see, there are still avenues open. you just have to know which door to knock and step into.

    all the best bro.

  12. #12

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Quote Originally Posted by munkytrouble View Post

    i think the best thing you can do now is to look at the market that is left available to you i.e. the malay and indian market. see how best you can market yourself and exploit this area.
    Thanks for the wishes bro... but...

    I want to know how other photographers in my position managed to overcome this "tricky" situation. i dun want to change my path just because there is a hurdle.

    like i have mentioned i'm trying to break the language barrier by studying the language... :P

    Pronounciations still suck though...hahaha...

    Back to the issue...

    An example was given for the beauty industry... yup..totally agree. For that field a prerequisite is beauty. The sales staff needs to be presentable to convince the potential consumers of their product.Having a caucasian model for a certain product...it's understandable. Cosmetics are catered for diff skin typs..so they will definitely require diff types of models...dark skin to fair skin , oriental or watevernot.

    In the photography industry... which is more important...looks or talent ?
    I'm not hinting i'm talented . But my desire to learn from professionals by being an assistant was not fulfilled.

    I had answered many adverts before..this is one example of a typical conversation thru the phone ( this type of conversations has happened several times):

    Interviewer: Hello...this is so & so from so & so PTE LTD ..how can i help u ?!
    ME : Hi , I saw ur ad in the papers and understand that you r looking for photogs..
    Can i bring my portfolio down for an interview?! When will it be convienient for u?
    Interviewer : Hmmm...sorry ...ur name?!
    ME: THis is _______ !!
    Interviewer: ahhhhh...sorry...we looking for photographers who can speak _______ !
    Thanks for calling.... *CLICK*
    ME: Hello ...Hello...Hellooooooo.... @#%^&$^ !!!!


    If the interviewer rejects me over the phone ...got time for chemistry ?

    Rejecting an application on the basis that the employer has the right to employ who he wants is OK...but on the basis of language and skin colour...??

    Thanks to my late father's proper upbringing and proper racial education ...i'm biased against no race or religion.And have a great sense of respect for all. That's y i will not just venture into the minority market as advised by munkytrouble. * Pls dun get me wrong bro.. i know u meant well *

    But if i can try to bridge the gap by working hard and learning the culture and language ...y cant i get an opportunity.

    I had to go slightly off topic cuz many have misunderstood the purpose of my thread. I'm seeking advise from photogs who have crossed various hurdles. I had to mention some points above to illustrate certain stuff i had gone thru eversince i became a photographer.

    Guys this is not a thread on racial discrimination...hahaha... but some had given me encouraging words thru PM and i sincerely thank u for that.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Calling for jobs advertised does not work.

    1. Build a strong portfolio, u have to invest in time, money etc (just like any other business)
    2. Market, network, expand ,reachout yourself
    3. Brand and product-differentiate your output.
    4. Broadcast thru all sorts of medium especially the net.
    5. Build customer base.

    Once they know u have added-value, people wants to get to know you... but by then, you may be better off on your own in your own niche market..
    It is easier to critique than to create ; www.razin-photography.com
    My studio is available for rent

  14. #14

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Quote Originally Posted by razor View Post
    Calling for jobs advertised does not work.

    1. Build a strong portfolio, u have to invest in time, money etc (just like any other business)
    2. Market, network, expand ,reachout yourself
    3. Brand and product-differentiate your output.
    4. Broadcast thru all sorts of medium especially the net.
    5. Build customer base.

    Once they know u have added-value, people wants to get to know you... but by then, you may be better off on your own in your own niche market..
    Thanks bro....

  15. #15

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Very well, your points are clear to me now. I know it is frustrating. I hope you do not mind as I answered from the pov as an interviewer.

    I had conducted thousands of interviews in certain capacities in my career. I made hiring without bias as much as i can, but always aimed at achieving my goals in the interviews.

    As i have a soft heart, i welcome people from all ages, race, nationalities & gender to come for interviews. That is, even if i cant give them the job, they deserved their chance. But my super kind attitude came to a point where i realized IT DOES NOT PAY TO BE KIND.

    On one occasion, i got scolded by an old man. He kept telling me how disgusted he was with interviewers he met (over a period of 3yrs) as none wanted to hire an old man like him. In the end, he was also directing the scolding to me and said i would be no different from those f*&&%&^ if i did not hire him. I thanked him and immediately deleted him from the selection list henceforth. I told all my peers in the industry to avoid this man as well. Why? Because this is exactly the kind of candidate I Will Not Hire. If i hired him out of a generous heart, it will not likely end there. A person who can complain & f me on the spot before being hired, shouting and looking at me in rage during an interview, i will have a hell of a time hearing from his lectures for the rest of his stay in the company.

    So, lesson i learnt here was, when i look at cv or meet a person for interview, if my basic instinct said no, i will not allow kindness to over-ride based on sympathy and equality.

    Bottom line is, I need to achieve my objectives in the recruitment as my next focus will be to get the hired candidate trained up.

    BorToRide, if i may give you one pointer in interviews is, try not to indicate you want to learn from the master in the job. I am not sure how to word it, but what i mean is, if you tell the photographer you want to learn from him, it may be a wrong footing to anchor your way in. Why? Reason is very simple. read on...

    For eg. If I run a business, i post an ad to recruit skilled workers. Here is someone who come and say he wants to learn from my company so he can be as good as the most skillful staff in the company. There is a subtle message sending to the interviewer that you are taking him for a ride. As a businessman, i hire people who has to potential skills to grow or special attributes or skills. I do not run a school to teach! I need productivity, I need quality and I need the staff to contribute as the company pays for his time to exist in the firm.

    Let me give you my own example. I had hired a group of adullts (about 40yrs old) who came together from very good training schools and guess what, they came to try to steal knowledge and off they went. These few new staff often hold a book to write down whatever they see or learn and only discuss amongst themselves, yet not wanting to participate in teamwork with the rest of the crew. They did nothing much as they chose to hop around like a rabbit to learn from one team leader to another everyday. They dont pack up and they dont clean up as if they are someone in the firm. They resigned eventually and when i asked them why they choose to leave, they told me they did not learn much and they did not achieve their objectives in learning from the company. I pulled them aside and talked to them nicely. I explained that their intent in working was not right to begin with as they treated the workplace as their bloody training school! I may not be involved in their job, but i do have eyes and feedbacks from the team leaders that their attitude sucks. Worse is, my company pays them salary to learn. Without teamwork, everyone avoided them and, naturally, they didnt learn much. Everyone was so happy the bunch left as they were usesless tools that slowed down the workflow..

    It is not wrong to indicate you are keen to adopt new knowledge, but do word yourself tactfully during your interview.

    My appeal to you is, i am hoping you can take a step back, find out your key strengths and strategies to get into some good opportunities to get the job you wanted.

    A good job do not come by luck; it is usually well planned. Some take a year to plan towards it (with the right qualifications, knowledge, experience, etc), some take a decade to reach their goals. There are some photographers who want to work for Joe Bussink, but to become his assistant, one cannot just walk up to him and say, "hey joe, I am a chinese and from singapore. Can i work for you next month? If you do not hire me now, you must be a real racist." Tell joe that and see what he says.

    It probably takes a lot more efforts & planning than a statement before joe notice the right candidate for the job he created.

    Anyway, i do not know the real intent of creating this thread. it is meaningless how we speak to you. I am sure that famous photographer that you spoke to now read this thread. If he did, he probably got the message.

    And, sincecerly, all the best to you. I am sure you will find a good job soon. cheers.
    Last edited by contaxable; 4th June 2008 at 10:38 AM.

  16. #16

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    I think you are getting it a little backwards. If you have been told that you need to speak a certain language to get in the biz - tell me should you do ? How much effort has been put into that rather than just bxxxxing about it.

    Grin try not to take too long 'cos in the commercial photog biz age does matter. Above a certain age and you do not get a ticket to the short list unless your so hot it burns but then if you were so it that it burns you should be already there. There is a saying to succeed you must be able to edure the suffering along the way.

  17. #17

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    thanks contaxable ...

    and ellery sorry i gave u the impression i'm bitching abt what i was trying to do.

  18. #18

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    I think Razor has hit the nail on the head.

    These setbacks should spur you to greater heights. Be the best photographer you can be. After you have achieved some success, perhaps you should look else where to go to the next level. Maybe this will inspire you: http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?t=356576. A photographer that made it big in the States. His name, Huy Nguyen.

    Remember, success is the best revenge

  19. #19

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    Quote Originally Posted by BornToRide View Post

    Sometimes it's really demoralising but yet the anger that keeps on building inside me pushes me on.
    That's good! Keep it going. Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit. Every successful person went through a certain period of sh*t. The sh*t is useful as it straightens your spine. Those with spine will move on and thrive. Those without will wilt.

  20. #20

    Default Re: My path towards becoming a commercial photog

    1. actually, to be frank, i think folks here are saying things u probably know in ur heart. Like what find ur niche, what improve urself, blar blar blar. Of cse things are easier said than done (or even trying). Maybe only contaxable has some good interview advice there

    2. Many people say life is not fair. In your case, u are discriminated. It is not fair. I think you have to live with it. Very very few people can actually overcome the strong tide. ( i am not exactly sure HOW strong ur tide is. 2 rejections out of how many? Have u tried photojournalist application, magazines? Or were u applying for bridal studio work where 95% of the clients are chinese or even as an actual day photograhper for chinese weddings? I dun see for eg, why straits times will refuse to hire you, why a advert agency will not hire you, why a magazine will not hire you watever ur skin color is)

    3. Life is not fair, but only in the short period of time. I tink on the average and over a long period of time, things even out. You believe in something, you work hard for it, you should get it. Period.

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