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The 10 Big Rules of Photography. Or so I think …

The Monk and the Camera . Photograph ©KIKE CALVO
The monk and the camera. Bangkok (Thailand) . Photograph © KIKE CALVO

Recently, while I was recording my video “Rain,” I suffered a heavy fall in the jungle. I had slipped on a bridge “slightly” slippery due to the rain, and the moss. The fall, combined with long periods of contemplation, an orthopedic collar injury, and various sedatives, I decided to develop a compendium of rules; that all those who wish to pursue a career in the difficult world of photography ought to remember:

1. “You will photograph. If they allow you…” My grandfather Enrique would always allude to the phrase “You will live. If they allow you…” I think that this phrase is realized in the current environment of photography. This can be understood in two ways: First: As photographers, in addition to being artists, we must also obtain permits or simply pass by unnoticed.  Second: The profession is more and more complex, and sadly there are many who will fall along the way.

If I had to start, it would begin anew, step by step. If you find yourself in those first steps, remember, always look forward. You never step back. Not even to catch momentum. Benjamin Britten told us that learning is like rowing against the current: As soon as you stop, you start heading back. Education will be our greatest ally.

2. “Nobody is perfect except the CAPTAIN”: The recent creation of a blog dedicated to the memory of my father, helped me remember, after reading a note from my brother Nano, that he used again and again, which said  “In photography, as in life, nobody is perfect”. We are all seeking out a dream or using photography as a means of artistic expression, or maybe just as a hobby, using our IPhone and other various programs such as Instagram to share with friends. But regardless, we need to help each other. The future of our beloved profession is intimately linked to the respect of the work of others.

3. “The Wheel of Life”: The Cubans speak of “cachumbabé”. The salsa singer Gilberto Santa Rosa, discovered this rule long ago, in the lyrics of one of his songs, “Everything that rises must fall”, is closely linked to the number 2 rule. We must support each other. It is clear that we must make our own way, and try to be the best that we can, but the brave act does not always rise above the polite gesture. Those who are ahead on the path of this profession, we must look back offering our hand to others, when possible. Those who initiate the way must look ahead with respect that the careers of others are deserved, regardless of style, techniques, or social platforms used.

4. “When a horse is given to you, never look at his teeth”: This rule I have written thinking about the new and future generations of photographers. Youth gives us hope and energy. Do no waste it. Photography, in a certain way, when viewed from a business perspective, would be very similar to playing Monopoly.  The way in which you move your cards at the start of the game, it is very possible, though not always, to determine what comes next. Think with your head, and photograph with your heart. As the Chinese proverb says: When you drink water, remember the source.

5. ”The world is a dangerous place,” said Albert Einstein. “Not because of the people who are evil; but because of the people who do not do anything about it”. Every day I am more certain about this. Many of those who I interviewed for my project, The Photographic Chain confirm this. The secret is to work hard.  Many have the talent, but only a few have all the rest which is necessary to be a successful photographer, and to go so far as to produce specific proposals and ideas.

6. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” as Eleanor Roosevelt once said. This phrase is key for those who for reasons in life, will have to begin or continue his or her photographic career outside of his or her immediate environment. Many people live (through) it. Fortunately or unfortunately, I left my “home” at the age of 24, in what was the pursuit of a dream. If I had to start, I will do it all over again. If you find yourself in those first steps, remember, always look forward. Never look back. As previously mentioned, Benjamin Britten told us that “learning is like rowing against the current: as soon as you stop, you go back”. Education will be our greatest ally.

7. “A smile is worth (more than) a thousand words”: This question is asked during my photography workshops over and over again. How do I get to photograph people?  With a smile. In the words of the Dalai Lama, “I think of a smile as something unique to being human. A smile is also a powerful means of communication, “A perfect expression of human love and compassion”.  The photography of people is more linked / tied to the connection with one another, than to photographic technique. If you give, you will receive.

8. “The fair price”: If we do not appreciate our work, nobody will do it for us. If they contact us for a job we say: “Surrender the free pictures, with me they will leave you with many orders.” Before that you must respond: “I am confident that many orders will go out. This is why, we will do nine jobs to my price, and when job number ten arrives, I will make it free to you”. And on the business of photography, perhaps I dare say that the best way to make money with photography is by selling our camera. Nevertheless, after many years in this profession and dozens of countries toured, I believe it is one of the most incredible professions that exist.

9.”We are our memory”: We are that fantastic museum of inconstant forms, that pile of broken mirrors”, said Jorge Luis Borges. Photographers like journalists, in addition to documenting first communions, covering events or documenting the world, we are part of the peoples’ collective memory. We help capture it, and on some occasions, some of them become “central” elements of the cultural life of their cities or regions of origin. Therefore I ask that we, the artists, remember the other artists. It is only this way, it that our work remains in a corner of oblivion. For example my father, one of the greatest journalists in which my region had given forth, called him “The Voice of Aragon.” And more than 18 years later, they became his children, who were tired of waiting for a street that was promised to them someday, created a blog to perpetuate his memory, and to educate the new generations on who was Enrique Calvo. Because as Camilio José Cela said, “Death calls, one by one, all men and all women, without forgetting a single one. God, what fatal memory, and those that for the time being are getting rid of, jumping from hole to hole like a butterfly or gazelle, we never came to believe that he would be with us, one day, within his cruel plan.”

10. “Never stop dreaming” – Kike Calvo

Comments

  1. Radha Stern
    Mill Valley CA
    January 24, 2013, 5:58 pm

    Kike,
    Yes…wise words…from a man and photographer who listens and learns.
    I hope your body is feeling better. Be good to yourself.
    Hugs, Radha

  2. Felipe Macía
    Bogotá
    January 24, 2013, 1:07 pm

    Kike, gracias por tan elocuentes consejos, tomé atenta nota y los tendré muy presentes. Espero que te mejores pronto de la caída, estoy seguro que valió la pena el riesgo y que te levantaste con más ganas de soñar. A propósito, gracias al taller de introducción a la fotografía que dictaste en diciembre en Bogotá, he seguido aprendido muchísimo de fotografía. Hasta pronto

  3. KIKE CALVO
    January 23, 2013, 9:27 am

    Dear Vuyi:
    Thank You for your kind words. I will be happy to see a photograph of your studio with my rules hanging on the wall. Would you be willing to send me one?

  4. Vuyi
    Johannesburg, South Africa
    January 23, 2013, 4:08 am

    Wishing speedy recovery, Kike! I like the encapsulation of the spirit of all decent/respectable photographers worldwidevand putting it into 10 succint rules as you did. Thank you and well done! I am going to blow them up and hang them up on my studio/soho wall.