Thursday, July 26th, 2019

Importance Of Mentorship

Photography is a deeply personal endeavour and for the past ten years it's been a journey of self-improvement, far beyond the art form and business alone. You have talent, you work hard on your craft but how do you find your voice?
With some perspective, I can say that, at least initially my love for photography has taken me to some dark places. Today, there's no doubt in my mind that before I understood and learnt how to deal with my calling there were times when I felt truly desperate and undone by the creative process.

Already early on in my career I received a lot of validation from my peer group, in a way that has made my climbing photography career possible. In the tight-knit climbing community you earn your stripes through hard work, authentic approach and being solid under pressure. Shooting with Dave Macleod on the Long Hope Route Direct was one of those first moments in my early career when I knew my performance had to be solid to make the cut as a professional photographer. Dave hadn't climbed the route yet, but I already knew I was shooting the next cover of Climb Magazine.
Years ago now, I once approached Ian Parnell to sit down for a lunch with me. Ian was one of the editors of the well respected Climb Magazine at the time, he was also somewhat a personal hero of mine - an alpinist and photographer, humble and soft spoken. I kept Ian in high regard for his bold life in the mountains and his long list of achievements.

I wasn't looking for shortcuts or a magic success formula - from where I come from there's no substitute for hard work. Sometimes though, it's possible to be so close to something that you cannot see the wood for the trees, especially with photography being so personal. I knew I had talent, I was prepared to work harder than anyone but I also knew that only by being focused would I be able to fulfill my potential. I was hoping talking regularly to Ian would help me gain perspective on things. Ian wasn't that keen to begin with though, mentorship is a two way process. The fact alone that I wasn't sure what kind of help I was looking for obviously wasn't at all helpful.
Sometimes to get the right answers you need to be able to ask the right questions and that's where Ian's life and climbing experience came in. Mentor, from Greek Mentōr, means trusted, experienced adviser.For me personally, Ian is helping me to find answers within myself to the most difficult and personal questions as a photographer. He doesn't provide direct answers but by asking difficult questions he helps me to understand and explore my own creative process. Like a shining of a torch in the unexplored parts of my mind - at times a little uncomfortable, maybe even scary but worth it as a way of finding so much more of your potential.
If you like the story, you can share it to your social network