No man is an island and throughout our lives we will all need a helping hand – success is never achieved alone.
Until I joined a Camera Club, no-one I knew was into photography and I had nobody to help or guide me. I did, however, have a support system without which my photography journey would have been impossible.
I talk a lot about my little rescue dog Bertie, without whom I would never have become a photographer, but he’s a rescue with severe emotional issues. In particular he has unfixable separation anxiety and can’t be left on his own. Luckily for me, my parents are both retired and are always willing to have him if it supports my passion, whether that’s for a couple of hours while I attend my Camera Club or for a whole week while I’m in the Capital for an exhibition. In addition, they are excited for my competition wins, read every article I am featured in, pour over exhibition catalogues containing my images, proudly boast of my achievements and are behind me 100% in following my dreams. We all need someone who is totally in our corner.
I also have a small group of friends and family who have championed my photography from the get-go. They have made huge efforts to come along to exhibitions, have commissioned my pictures, shlepped my little country bumpkin bum around London, sent me congratulations cards and emails, and just generally supported and encouraged me and delighted in my achievements. It means the world to know that I can share my excitement, terror and journey with them.
But support has also come from much more unlikely places. The competitions secretary at my first Camera Club was a quiet, unassuming, man called John Tillotson. We didn’t speak much until I stormed off one night following yet more brutal comments about my creative images, when he got in touch to discuss the situation with me. There followed lengthy email conversations, which turned into an abiding, if unlikely, friendship. We share ideas, critique each others images and go on little outings together, sharing our passion for photography. Not only that, but John has made lonnnng journeys to support me at exhibitions, attended my distinction award with me, fought my corner when the whole world was against me and even helped me out financially when he knew I was struggling. In addition, he has been chauffeur for all my speaking engagements and unrelentingly encouraged me to “put myself out there”. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.
In addition, I have been extremely fortunate to have met, via my Camera Club, some wonderful people who have spent years generously and freely giving of their time and skill for no other gain than to help their fellow photogaphers. John Williams, who championed my early days at a Club and shared my passion for wildlife. Les Ayres, a leading Club member who helped me successfully achieve my first distinction. Dave Robinson, who unselfishly donated to me much needed camera gear. Richard Speirs, of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain, who helped me successfully achieve my second distinction. And Rod Wheelans, also of the PAGB, who gave me my first speaking engagement, encouraged me to enter the Master of Print, and helped me get my work known through his role at the PAGB news. It was through Rod’s showcasing of my photographs at the PAGB that I came to the attention of Lynn Troy Maniscalco and the Photographic Society of America. It really is true that it’s not what you know but who you know, and without help from all of these guys I wouldn’t have the success and standing I enjoy today.
Of course, there are also those people who help you in much smaller, but no less important, ways. The judges who critique images in competitions and from whom I learn so much. The energetic and passionate speakers who send you home with renewed enthusiasm and excitement. The YouTubers whose free tutorials have taught me everything I know about Photoshop! And last, but never least, the fellow photographers whose work I so admire and can only hope to emulate such as Andrea Hargreaves, Sharon Prenton Jones and Brooke Shaden.
As my skills and knowledge increased, I was able to pay back some of the help, guidance and support which was so generously given to me. For a number of years I volunteered to help teach a monthly beginner’s photography class. I now pass on my skills by giving talks and demonstrations, judging competitions, and share my journey and passion through various speaking engagaments. It’s an honour and a joy.
When we stand high we do so on the shoulders of all those who have lifted us up and I am thankful to have had so many helping hands.