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.