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My Analogue Life: Share and Share Alike?

I was at a dinner party once, a gathering of creative entertainment industry types who I’d been told were the best of friends. I was young — in my early twenties — and just starting my career as a writer. Everyone at the table was older, more experienced and definitely more successful. At first, it all seemed quite normal: small talk, gossip, big hugs and some happy-to-see-you air kisses.

But once we settled into our dinner and the talk turned to work, I noticed something odd. While everyone was more than pleased to discuss their latest triumph or current on-set nightmare, the chatter ceased when I made the mistake of asking specific questions about what they were working on, writing, filming, shooting, what-have-you.

It took a while, but it soon dawned on me that these were people who didn’t like to share.

I’ve long been an advocate for sharing information, whether that means introducing a colleague to my agent, explaining to another photographer exactly how I achieved a certain in-camera effect or offering publishing advice to aspiring writers. Unfortunately, many creative people aren’t as forthcoming. Even people I’ve worked with for years and have had long-standing personal friendships with can be cagey when it comes to sharing information and contacts. The fear seems to be spawned from the idea that everything is a competition and if they help me, somehow they risk getting edged out or having ideas stolen.

It’s a shame, really, and doesn’t make much sense in so many ways. In photography, no one has the same eye, no one sees something exactly the same as another person. If you put four people in a room with their cameras, no two photos will be exactly alike. I believe that there is room for everyone and that sharing information has more benefits than negatives. Sure, there are always going to be people out there who will take advantage, but thankfully there are more who won’t. Plus, when you are open, you have an opportunity to engage in an honest dialogue about something you love, and that can be one of the most motivating and inspiring aspects of photography. So don’t just keep it all to yourself: share your knowledge, your tips and tricks, and learn to enjoy how much fun letting people in can be.

Do you typically share your knowledge and ideas with others or keep that information close? Share your thoughts with me!

Pamela Klaffke is a former newspaper and magazine journalist who now works as a novelist and photographer. Her column appears weekly in the Analogue Lifestyle section of Lomography Magazine.

written by pamelaklaffke

20 comments

  1. falsedigital

    falsedigital

    Sadly I think the opposite in that there are more people who will want to take advantage than those who won't. Especially in the media industry. Still I think I'm a pretty open book and I love sharing ideas with people who I can trust. I don't like to look at things as competition and collaboration with other artists is definitely something I welcome. The thing is, no matter where we got in our lives we never got their alone. But if you're doing creative work for a living you sometimes have to keep certain parts private from certain people. Just the way it is.

    On a side note: I've had 2 photos of mine stolen and published into 2 major newspapers without even the slight mention of my name or credit. So I think my attitude is pretty good despite that. haha

    almost 4 years ago · report as spam
  2. spoeker

    spoeker

    I'm very talktative when it comes to plans, projects and stuff like this and so far I didnt made negative experiences...everytime someone wanted to use my photo I got asked and got the credit. Let's hope this won't change...
    But what I've learned and whats kind of dissapointing:
    If you have the chance to win something (cause of votes e.g.) there are some people out there who wont support you with a simple "like" even if they have no chance to win this by themself...true true.

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  3. tallgrrlrocks

    tallgrrlrocks

    "In photography, no one has the same eye, no one sees something exactly the same as another person." --so well said!

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  4. azzzy

    azzzy

    i interned before in an advertising firm, and we all know how creative agencies are. But i was really surprised, my creative director was more than happy to share his ideas to anyone and welcome suggestion and improvements, even from me an intern. I'm really great full to him. And today his one of the top creative directors in Singapore.

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  5. bovine

    bovine

    I don't really have too much experience, but I've experienced my fair share of "idea thieves." At this point in my life, it's not too important because I'm not in a professional field yet. Even if people try to steal ideas, the original thought came from you and it'll always be the most creative. So I don't mind sharing my ideas/processes on my writing and creative endeavors because I know that the people who might use that information for their own creations are merely imitating creativity, which never works out well. Of course, this is assuming that people are not literally stealing your work, like falsedigital...which is really horrible!

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  6. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    falsedigital: wow, i'm sorry to hear your opinion of people who work in media is so negative. i'm lucky to have worked in various media (including film, advertising and publishing) for almost 20 years and have never had my ideas high-jacked. copyright, however, is a completely different issue that i'll be addressing in an upcoming column — on that front, i've had too many violations to count, so i get your frustration about that!
    spoeker: i hadn't thought about people not supporting others in contests, but it makes sense; it's a shame, but i suppose people are inherently competitive on small levels as well!
    tallgrrlrocks: thanks!
    azzzy: i worked for a time in advertising as well and was also surprised at the openness, but then after i saw how everything worked, figured out that there was no way they would be successful as an agency bidding on clients — everyone's ideas built on those of everyone else. and indeed, it's a great way to learn a lot!
    bovine: i'm sorry to hear that you've already encountered "idea thieves," but your attitude is most commendable — i hope it stays with you!

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  7. ahleng90

    ahleng90

    hye ;p

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  8. raypg

    In this world there will be always somebody that wants to learn and not share, at one time I try to learn a lot about photography, then I ask people about how they did some shot and technical stuff, bad luck for me they did not want to share :(, and it was not form 1 or 2 It was form a lot of people. And it happens in every place, people don't like to get ideas stolen but, it depends about your approach, I get piss off about nobody sharing with me so when It was my time I start sharing everything I know. Photography is my favorite hobby I don't mind getting ideas stolen since Im very confident that I will generate more and better and show you with photos not with words. Then I will explain how I did it :) That is all about sharing to others learn more. :)
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  9. mephisto19

    mephisto19

    i like sharing ideas with people i work with, but i have too many ideas, so i rejects photo projects or make another thing first and the original plan might take longer. sharing ideas and plans includes MAKING them. i wanted to create a game about netherlands... i looked up many information, but never finished it, as i had to push pixles on a computer - work i really do not like... only one example of an idea i shared (with too many asking and reminding people) but i never finished.
    i think it is nice to share tips and tricks and i do think it is one of the bis plusses here in the community: PEOPLE SHARE HERE! it is an open community and that makes it special

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  10. tallyho

    tallyho

    Mephisto19, I'm so glad you said that! That's the draw here - sharing. Even the threads on Flickr can get snooty - which is why I'm here.

    I try to be choosy about who I share with. Also, sometimes you have ideas that you can't necessarily implement, but someone else can...And sometimes you can't help but share because you're so excited. That's me. I'm an idea person, always will be:)

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  11. stouf

    stouf

    'The fear seems to be spawned from the idea that everything is a competition' What a beautiful sentence Pamela... I love sharing my ideas because I am aware they're basically the result of my digestion of other's ideas... In fact I always add links to other's posts in my own posts. It's a professional deformation, in science (and I guess many other domains), if you don't cite your sources, you don't get published ! ...

    And all this made me think of the word companion. I think it means something like 'the one with who you share your bread'.

    We're all good companions down here : )

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  12. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    ahleng90: hey there!
    raypg: i'm sorry to hear that no one would share any techniques and tips with you when you started, i, for one, always am open to helping people out and it sounds like you are, too. that's fabulous and something we need to see more of!
    mephisto19: very well said! i often find myself with too many ideas as well. and lomography.com is a great place to share ideas, run concepts by like-minded people and just basically get inspired!
    tallyho: flickr has gotten to big and haughty in a way i don't really like, either. i still have a page there, but spend much more time here now. and when "idea people" meet up, whether face-to-face or online, it always creates such a great energy and really keeps me motivated!
    stouf: i know what you mean about citing sources — i wrote a non-fiction book a few years ago and was sure to accredit every little fact. and you are right about the "digestion of other's ideas." when it comes down to it, everything is derivative of something at this point in history. and i love your thoughts on the word companion — so true. i was thinking of starting a weekly discussion somehow here on lomography, maybe through a blog format or something. would anyone be interested in something like this? i'd be happy to put it together! anyone who is interested, just send me a message through my lomohome: http://www.lomograph(…)melaklaffke

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  13. wuxiong

    wuxiong

    Glad to read the article and especially with so many people feed backs. That shows that we all care about this sharing stuff. I also think that it needs some skill when you need people share their ideas, the way of communication matters here. And one needs to be honest and let the other know that you are thankful for their idea or help. If you still get neg answers, don't take it too much, don't get upset, don't loose hope for people . Some people are just like that, next time you'll sure have better luck. Hahahaa.... Best wishes for all..

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  14. whiteranger

    whiteranger

    This is a great, well written, article. The person who first showed me the wonders of analog photography is in a lot of ways like the people at the party. I will ask them about how they got some effect, or for some advice and they will be very hesitant. I feel that if I wasn't such a close friend with them I wouldn't get a word out of them. I agree that it is a fear of them loosing a competition, and that if they tell me what type of film they used or whatever, that they will no longer be the best. I personally am the exact opposite way. I embrace photography and would love to share my (very little) knowledge with anyone who would like to hear. I agree with everything you said about how "when you are open, you have an opportunity to engage in an honest dialogue about something you love." and that "there is room for everyone and that sharing information has more benefits than negatives." I wish everyone could feel that way.

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  15. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    wuxiong: you're right that it's not worth getting upset when you get a negative answer (or sometimes no answer at all!). i find it best just to move on an do what i do!
    whiteranger: people get so cagey and weird, don't they? especially if they feel it's a competition, which most of the time, it's not. i, too, wish people could just be a bit more open. they might be surprised how cathartic it can be. holding all of your cards so close can be very stressful, i imagine!

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  16. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    and i'd like to invite everyone to participate in our brand-spankin' new weekly discussion group over at my lomohome. here's the link: http://www.lomograph(…)g-live-film
    hope to see you there and hear more of your thoughts!

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  17. mikahsupageek

    mikahsupageek

    another great article ! excellent feedbacks as well ! All I have to say is that I really love this community and all you people, because everything here is about sharing love, experiences, passions and most importantly photography ! I believe that we move further by sharing, and that everything should be open to discussion !

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  18. meli4strings

    I'm a fan of sharing. In fact, I'll share with all of you creative strangers that I am working on a children's book, but I was tired of looking for the "right" illustrator. So I'm going with lomo images that i'll take myself!
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  19. vicuna

    vicuna

    I think taht if I like lomography (and this website) so much is because there's really a great sharing spirit! And of course, everybody is learning from the others, no idea will come out of nowhere to someone's mind without inspiration of something seen before... As we all love photography, we love looking at pictures and movies, and clearly, before I made of lomography my main hobby, I spent some years watching a lot of movies from the whole XXth century and from every continent... I think this prepared my look to photography and influenced my work... but all this is only about influence and can produce a real creative work only if all the influences are digested.
    That's why I don't mind at all sharing my experiences, there's no secret in my work. But you need then to digest it to make your own work with the help of your influence and not stay on plagiarism...

    Well, in a way, that's my everday work, I'm a teacher, and I share all day long my knowledge with children so that they can learn, digest and live their own experiences later :))

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  20. pamelaklaffke

    pamelaklaffke

    mikahsupageek: i totally agree that everything should indeed be open for discussion!

    meli4strings: that's great news about your children's book — i wish you the best of luck with it and hope you'll let me know when you've had it published!

    vicuna: i love the spirit of your comment and, like you, have no secrets in my work. i'm always flattered when someone says that my work inspired theirs (though plagiarism is a completely different issue that i have, unfortunately, had to deal with a few times), and think encouraging others and sharing ideas in this community is wonderful. and i'm sure you're a great teacher — the kids are lucky to have you!

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Deutsch.