You're A Photographer, But Who Are You?

A red barrier provides a splash of vibrant color in this otherwise black and white photo of Web Bridge in the Docklands precinct of Melbourne, Australia.

Who are you? I think that question is, perhaps, the most important question there is. It can take a lifetime to understand. Not because it’s hard, but because most folks avoid it for as long as they can.

Most of us would go about answering this question, which is at the heart of the photographs we make, by referring to themselves in the following ways:

  • as a wife, husband or partner
  • by their profession
  • by reference to their parents (i.e., son or daughter of ...)

Rockhopper penguin making its way, over rocky ground, after returning from the sea.

Another common approach is to rattle off a number of achievements or academic and employment milestones. Let’s look at this example, from my own life.

Glenn Guy's Working Life, Hamilton

  • I was 11 years old when I got my first, part time, job.
  • I ran errands, did odd jobs and deliveries at two local shoe stores; picked up papers, early in the morning, at the local swimming pool; delivered newspapers; and worked in a milk bar, all by the time I was 13 years of age.
  • I started my first full time job, in the camera department of a large pharmacy, just a few days after my 17th birthday.
  • By 19 I was busy photographing weddings and portraits, as a side business.
  • At 22 I started my own wedding/portrait photography studio.
  • After 18 months I closed the studio, walked across the road and took a job as photographer at the local newspaper.
  • Just after my 24th birthday I left my hometown, Hamilton, and moved to the big smoke to undertake a formal education in photography.

Glenn Guy's Working Life, Melbourne

  • I studied for 9 years culminating in a Masters Of Art, Photography at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
  • I worked throughout that time, initially in camera stores prior to beginning work at Kodak in January 1990.
  • Starting in manufacturing I worked my way into customer service and then technical support, prior to taking on the role of Product Manager in the Professional Imaging Division.
  • I also began teaching photography, part time, during those years at Kodak.
  • My time at Kodak ended in December 1990. It felt great walking out the door knowing I’d done my very best.
  • After a 6 month break I started working, full time, in photography education. I continued to do so for the next 12 years.

Interesting sculptural elements become studies in composition at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia.

Time For The Backstory

Many of my initial travels were undertaken as part of my photography studies. I was so busy working that the only way I was able to keep making photos was to have a project, get on a plane and live the life of a documentary based travel photographer for 4 weeks a year. The projects from those adventures became my portfolios for my photography studies.

By the end of 9 years study I had built a lifestyle that enabled me to travel and photograph.

I’d been running weekend photography workshops for years in and around Melbourne. In 2010 I began to move into photography tours which have taken me to Argentina, Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, Antarctica and Iceland

During 2010 my formal teaching decreased as I dramatically increased the amount of time I invested in my website and blog

In 2014 I began working at The Arcanum, an online photography education experience. I currently facilitate several online communities working with enthusiast and professional photographers from all over the world. I produce content, provide feedback and support to my apprentices individually and through group hangouts.

I also conduct a range of one-to-one camera, practical photography and Lightroom courses for folks who live in and around Melbourne, Australia.

A portrait of a young boy with his father watching on in front of their store in Kolkata, India.

Moving Past A Résume

On one hand that probably seems quite complete, but of course it’s just a series of snapshots that, in very broad strokes, points to some of the things I’ve done over the years. But, just like music, it’s the space between the notes that best defines the song.

So, who am I? Well, a more personal response should bring us closer to the mark.

  • I am grateful to be the son of Mary and Fred Guy.
  • I remember spending a lot of time standing on my head and also looking out at the rain through the living room window when I was a child.
  • I started hitting a tennis ball up against a wall when I was around 6 years of age. It was fun and, a few years later, I had another go. I was hooked and it wasn’t long before I was imagining myself playing against the greats of the day.

A visitor to the magnificent Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain) in China moves gracefully through the mist shrouded landscape.

  • I remember, as a kid, staying up late on Friday nights watching Star Trek with my old man. I thought Spock was amazing.
  • I’m a sci-fi fan.
  • I read the Hobbit at age 14 and the Lord Of The Rings the following year.
  • I did not enjoy secondary school.

A feather, delicately positioned between rocks, lies in a shallow pool of water on Squeaky Beach in Wilsons Promontory National Park, Australia.

  • I got a guitar for Christmas when I was, I think, 13 years of age.
  • A few days after my 17th birthday I stared work with Ernest C. Cameron. I continued to work with Ern for 2 years until his death when I took on much of the photography work that would have come his way.
  • I started playing in my first band, Taxi, when I was 18 years of age.
  • I stopped playing tennis around the age of 18 due to lots of summer weddings, an arm injury and the commitment I’d made to the band. Oh, and I had a girlfriend.
  • Both the band and my girlfriend and I stayed together for 2 years. It broke my heart when both relationships were terminated, because of the way they ended.

Devotee praying in front of the Howarth Bridge on the Hooghly River in Kolkata, India.

  • I’ve fallen in love, more than once.
  • I’ve traveled and photographed extensively.
  • I have an interest in world religions, though I’m not a religious person.
  • I now refer to myself as spiritual.

Life size ice sculptures make for surreal scenes at night at Ice World in the city of Harbin, China.

  • I’ve worked in the photography industry for 38 years.
  • I’ve trained thousands of people in the techniques and art of photography.

What ever the weather Salzburg is a beautiful destination and a wonderful place to explore on foot. This photo showcases a pool in a beautifully designed garden where trees and the color green dominate.

  • I am for freedom, equity and justice.
  • I abhor bullying.
  • I look for beauty in all things, including the everyday and the mundane.
  • I believe in the transforming, transient and transcendental nature of light.
  • My heroes are ordinary people who live extraordinary lives.
  • I seek a purpose-driven and meaning rich life.

Seems to me that I’ve done a much better job defining myself the second time around.

I’d invite you to go through the same exercise. It might help to jot down, in point form, a basic résume first. Once you’ve got that out of the way you can think more deeply about moments in your life and how they’ve worked together to determine who you are.

If you really get into this search for self exercise you might consider putting together an Artist's Statement.

We might be born with a specific identity based upon race, creed, color, gender, religion, social economic circumstances, educational and employment opportunities. But it’s what happens to us along life’s journey and, more importantly, what we make out of what happens to us that matters most. We do make our own reality and, if we don’t like were we currently are in life, then we have but 3 choices:

- Accept our situation as that of a victim
- Get a wriggle on and do something to change our circumstances
- Change our perception of what’s happening so that it no longer seems so grim, so dire and so intractable.

A quiet night on the canal, lit by neon light in Bruges, Belgium.

Perception Is The New Black

Perception is the measure of success, whether we’re talking money or happiness. Perception contributes to happiness. In fact it's our perception that determines whether we are happy or otherwise. 

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru