About a month or so ago, I saw a link from the legendary, Chase Jarvis to call him and leave a question for his new show. I wanted to hear his answer about my current situation and to find out if he had the chops to answer a real question. I wanted the kind of answer without the usual “lifestyle entrepreneur” mumbo-jumbo of “hustle” or “build your tribe” that so many of these people say. A little while later I commented on one of his posts and got a response from Chase stating something along the lines of “it’s been recorded and will be out soon” or something like that.
As any artist knows, the biggest period of stress is when someone famous or important looks at your work. This was one of those times and I immediately started to sweat once the show started. Chase went straight to my site and my tutorials page. From there he started dishing out some great advice. I had asked Jared Polin from Fro Knows Photo something similar but I really felt Chase dove deeper into this. For that I have to thank Chase for taking the time to answer a question that so many of us have. This advice was also followed up by a great article that my friend Pete DeMarco wrote in reply to Chase’s advice and I encourage you to check it out.
Why did I ask THAT question?
I feel that at the time I was frustrated by a number of projects that were not gaining enough traction (not to mention my career) as I thought that they deserved. I was under the assumption that by simply putting stuff out there (wherever that is) then it would be enough. So I asked Chase for some concrete advice on how to get noticed and how to separate myself from the rest of the photographers out there. Innocent enough question, right? We probably all have been or are in this situation. I was getting frustrated by trying all the techniques, reading all the ebooks and watching all the videos to understand what it takes and still getting nothing in return. So when I saw a chance to call Chase, I thought “what’s the worst that could happen?” and called the number.
Should I stay or should I go?
The first thing that Chase brought up was the fact that in my question I mentioned that I am wanting to head back to Canada. Chase’s insight was to “just go” as there is nothing really stopping me. He felt that if I was doing all of this (photography and tutorials) to make money to go home then there are better ways to go about it. Fair enough, but the reality is that I am trying to shift careers so that I can be a little more location independent. Meaning that if my courses and photography take off then I can relocate back to Canada a bit easier. It is a huge risk transitioning back to Canada after spending 14 years of my life here in Korea . Although if you watch Chase’s interview with Brandon Stanton they mention about not waiting for the big thing to happen and just going for it. Sadly, I feel in my case that this would have disastrous results.
Is it for the MONEY?
After looking at my tutorial page Chase dives into the meat of the issue. He questions my “creative endeavours” and starts wondering if I really know what I am doing. Personally, I think that being a photographer and offering tutorials on how I make my photos and cinemagraphs is pretty clear. It is not “a facade to sell shit” as he mentions but more of an extension of who I am. I have been a teacher for almost 14 years of my life and have recently earned a master’s degree in education. The tutorials are a natural extension of my willingness to share my passion with others. Yes, I charge money but I also produce a lot of free content via my youtube channel, blog and my learn.jasonteale.com page. So, transitioning to a new career, making money from your passion certainly helps.
What’s my goal?
This was a great question but one that I feel Chase fell a little off the mark. However, to answer frankly my goal is to be a world-class photographer and pass my knowledge and tips on to you, my readers and friends. This is something that I think many people are trying to do these days and why this question hits home with so many people. I am not “just trying to make some money” but I do want to make a living. There is a difference that I think that deep down Chase himself knows otherwise his creativelive site would be entirely free. See, the thing is that in the core of my being I love photography. I have a deep connection with it and have devoted over a decade learning it. Ultimately, I want to spend my days taking pictures professionally and teaching people how to build that connection as well.
Master the craft and focus
This is where Chase really gave some good advice and it really made me think about my photography. Looking at my photos, they are all over the place. There are some from here and there and some food/coffee shots mixed in. Buildings and landscapes and whatever else I threw out there. I realized first and foremost that my site wasn’t really showing who I was. Also the people who are looking to me as a teacher should be confident that I can get them to a higher level of mastery and should be able to see this through my site. My site does not reflect that and I felt they way you’d feel if you brought your friends over to a messy house with dirty laundry and pizza boxes scattered everywhere.
He also brought up the fact that if my photography lacked focus and when it is “very generic” it makes it harder to master. Without the mastery no one will want to take my courses. This REALLY hit home. I wondered how many people have sites like mine with a little bit of everything. How many people have the messy house and never realize that people are viewing it every single day. I immediately updated my site to show more of the images that I want people to see and more of what I want to focus on. I also realized that my site did not link up to my courses or show that I make cinemagraphs as well.
Patience is a virtue
Embarrassingly enough Chase took a look at my new youtube channel that I started a month ago, after taking the advice of Jared Polin. Thus, it gave the impression that I was just starting out, which if you have been reading these blog posts you will know that I have been taking photos since 2004 or so and blogging like this for almost as long. To be honest, I shifted the content of the of blog in 2011 to be more focussed on photography in Korea. Professionally, I started working with companies like the AFC champions league around 2006 ~ 2007 and not to mention winning a few awards and putting on my first gallery in December of 2007 that was sponsored by the city of Ulsan.
I have had my fair share of struggles too. Read Pete’s article and near the bottom he tells what my good friend, Griffin Stewart said about my struggles (link). I have pushed hard with my tutorials and they didn’t go exactly how I’d planned them but I kept on plugging away. Now thanks to being a part of the 5 Day Deal, I have over 1200 students in my most recent cinemagraph course. So, patience is something that I have a lot of but it does wear out.
The problem is that I see so many success stories and it grinds away at me. Pete DeMarco made a good point is his article about the fact that we are basically made to think that success is our birthright. That is the type of thinking that gets me down. Even Brandon Stanton mentioned that he took thousands of photos before anybody cared about his work. However, when I watched his interview I looked at it and mistakenly thought that he was a guy that quit his job, moved to New York and hit it big after a few movers of taking pictures of strangers. Not to mention in that interview with Chase, they mention about not waiting for “something to happen” before leaving an undesirable situation. This sort of sheds some light maybe on Chases comment about moving to Canada.
Patience is great and in abundance when things are seemingly heading in the right direction. However, when you have a lot riding on your success and it just isn’t happening, then it wears thin. That was the place that I was in when I called Chase. I saw other people making their careers doing what I so loved to do and I was still struggling to get a single comment on my blog or get people to even sign up for a free tutorial. Now, a few things have changed and I have a large group of students enjoying my tutorials.
Be great at ONE thing
This is another really good point that Chase made. Trying to be everything to everyone will make things a lot more difficult at this stage in the game. It makes you appear to lack the focus and the discipline to be truly good at one thing. When people are looking to hire you or in my case, learn from you they want the best. However, Pete brought up a counter point that dabbling does help you find that one thing that you are good at. Had I not dabbled with cinemagraphs, I would not have gotten to know the awesome people at Flixel or have had the opportunities that came from being on the frontline of this emerging genre.
With that being said, he mentions a lot in the end about mastering the craft which made me realize that the images on my site or around may not show my best work. I got the feeling that he felt that I have not yet achieved the level of authority or mastery that he felt is needed to charge money for courses. Again, I feel that he is right in some cases but I also take responsibility for the fact that I am not always putting my best foot forward with regards to what I share with the world.
So the bottomline is that for me this was a huge learning experience for me. It is a hard thing to have someone like Chase Jarvis peel back the layers and go through your site. I have to thank him for choosing my question and taking the time to really give some sound advice. It has given me a lot to think about and I am sure that my question has helped a lot of other photographers as well.
I am now recalibrating and refocusing to show my best work and to improve upon that. I plan to give my site a massive overhaul as well. I have left it sit idle for too long and it is looking a bit sad and dated. If someone like Chase can’t take one look at my site and see how much I have done then it shows me that I have some homework to do. So with that being said I must thank Chase Jarvis for spending so long on my question and to Pete Demarco as well for giving his thoughts on the advice too.