It's Time to Define Your Photographic Identity


I recently wrote a blog on being paid what your worth and I got some interesting feedback from other photographers.  There was one comment I couldn’t get out of my mind. You shouldn’t spend your energy trying to prove your worth as a creative. You should show why you are different.

Initially, I struggled with this feedback. My inner ego shouted, “I bring value and should receive the pay I deserve.” But the idea continued to pester me. What is it what sets me apart? Do I even know? I came back to this question many times over the next few weeks. It was time for me to understand my identity as a photographer.

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Cultural Awareness

I want to do more on a photo shoot than just show up with my camera. I want to try to understand my subject. I want to have a relationship with them. But I have limited time on most of my photo shoots, so the work on the relationship comes before I’ve ever met them.

I spent time in each country I live in learning the local language and reading about the history of the place that I will be working. I am always amazed that a simple greeting and introduction in Kinyarwanda opens doors for my work in Rwanda. This small effort on my part changes the dynamic of the photographs that I create.

 

Technical Understanding

I am a voracious learner. I came into the industry as a creative, not a technician. But I have spent the last thirteen years sucking up knowledge via degrees, books, workshops, and online classes. I. I do not limit myself to studying only photography but also business and innovation. I believe that my passion for learning has been the best asset in my pursuit of greatness in my craft. I find knowledge in both my successes and failures as both teach me to be a better photographer. This pursuit of technical understanding forces me always to strive to be better than I was yesterday.

 

Personal Passion

I began to dream of being a professional photographer in my early college days, and I haven’t been able to shake it. I cannot imagine a future without my camera. That is what gets me through the tough stuff. When I doubt myself,  I look back at my first portfolio of work and I see the journey. Progress is simply putting one foot in front of the other. I understand that I cannot do without photography. It is as much a part of my identity as breathing.

Joining the Ranks of Ni Nyampinga & Inspiring Girls Everywhere

There are over a million girls in Rwanda and Girl Hub is creating incredible content to educate them through the Ni Nyampinga  magazine and weekly radio show. 90,000 magazines are distributed each quarter. It is the highest circulated magazine in the country and radio reaches every region in Rwanda. . Ni Nyampinga is made by Rwandan girl for Rwandan girls. It inspires girls to succeed and I got to be a part of it.

Photographers are rarely offered a job that encompasses exactly the kind of work they want to do. Working with Girl Hub combines my passion for photography, development, education, and empowering young women.  

I joined this spectacular team for Issue 10. This issue celebrates the role of women to reunite the country during the twenty years post genocide, showcases how women remain  pillars in their communities, and highlights the opportunity that is waiting for Rwandan girls.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. The journalists of Ni Nyaminga greeting the world and inspiring the girls of Rwanda.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. The journalists of Ni Nyaminga greeting the world and inspiring the girls of Rwanda.

I helped train young Rwandan reporters who have a passion for photography and storytelling. Together we traveled all over the country sharing the stories of women doing amazing things.  We met women feeding the sick in hospitals. Nurses, teachers, and politicians who were adolescents at the time of the genocide who went on do amazing work for their communities.  Mothers who came together to build a better school and brighter future for their children.  Girls who build homes for vulnerable people. 

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved.  The sick and elderly in Rwandan hospitals are dependent on others to bring them food. This women's group cooks together each week and each member cares for one or two people.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved.  The sick and elderly in Rwandan hospitals are dependent on others to bring them food. This women's group cooks together each week and each member cares for one or two people.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved.  A politician, a nurse, and a school administrator share their stories of being adolescents during the genocide.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved.  A politician, a nurse, and a school administrator share their stories of being adolescents during the genocide.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. Floride Basabose celebrates a correct answer with her students.  Her school was built by a group of mothers who were determined that the children get a better education.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. Floride Basabose celebrates a correct answer with her students.  Her school was built by a group of mothers who were determined that the children get a better education.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. Cecile Mukarugaza poses in front of the house that was built for her by an association of students who help vulnerable people.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. Cecile Mukarugaza poses in front of the house that was built for her by an association of students who help vulnerable people.

A Nyampinga Girl is….

Unwali Uharanira Kujya Mbere.

A Girl Who Ascends Mountains.

The future of Rwanda is bright and Ni Nyampinga is a movement that is leaving change and prosperity in its wake.

Experience Rwanda with Nyamirambo Women’s Center

Tourism in Rwanda often centers on gorillas, volcanoes, and Nyungwe Forest. But I want to promote an amazing community-based tourism project that showcases urban life and promotes cultural understanding in Kigali. Are you planning a vacation to Rwanda? Add Nyamirambo Women’s Center to your itinerary!

What Can You Do There?

  • Take tours of the women's homes, local food, and daily urban life.
  •  Attend a traditional Rwandan basket weaving class. It’s harder then it looks!
  •  Buy beautiful African handicrafts from the Umutima sewing project.
  • Visit the Isomero Library, which provides computer, Kinyarwanda, and English classes for the Nyamirambo neighborhood.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

NWC is one of my pro bono photography projects for 2014. The organization meets all my rules for working for free. Their programs are changing the lives of over ninety five women in their community by providing them with skills and education. Evidence shows that when women are empowered, they actively improve not only their life but their communities’ prosperity. 

How are women changing the world in your community? 

The Bigger Picture: Photography as Entrepreneurship


Are you interested in becoming a photographer? Are you so interested that you’d invest $100,000 and four years of your life towards pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the field? But what would you do if I told you that at least eighty percent of what you are going to need to know as a photographer isn’t taught in the best photography programs in the United States?

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I’m not really one to bash education as I have both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in photography. But even after multiple degrees, I left school without taking a single course that addressed the business of photography.  As the graphs above indicate, a successful photography business is just that—a business.  I learned how to run my business through trial and error.

Curious to see if any photography programs have added courses on running a successful business in the seven years since I left Syracuse, I rolled up my sleeves and did some research.

UniversityDegreeCostTotal Required HoursTotal Required Business Hours
Brooks InstituteBachelor of Science in Visual Journalism$90,488 for program1206
University of MissouriBachelor of Arts in Photojournalism$36,180 per year (non resident)410
Rochester Institute of TechnologyBachelor of Arts in Photojournalism $47,336 per year1220
Syracuse UniversityPhotojournalism or Illustration Photography$59,320 for program383

I’ve invested a lot of time in the last five years into learning about business of photography. There are amazing photographers out there whose businesses are failing because they don’t understand how to run their businesses. And there are less skilled photographers that are making a good living because they do.  I am not saying that photography degrees aren’t teaching valuable skills, but I believe that we are missing the bigger picture of photography as entrepreneurship.

When you create a soapbox, you have no choice but to stand on it.  I recently partnered with my friend and collaborator Laura Elizabeth Pohl to teach a business practices workshop for photographers in Rwanda.. We both have advanced degrees that taught us to take great pictures, but we left university without knowing how to charge for our services, market our work to clients, or even do basic accounting.  We felt that teaching this course is one opportunity to pass on helpful information developed through experience and help Rwandan photographers to make a living wage.  

If the business of photography isn’t being taught to young photographers, how can they obtain the tools to become successful? What can the professional community do to help?  I’d love to know your thoughts and ideas on how we can promote entrepreneurship.

In order to do my part, I hope to continue sharing information and teaching in the communities that I live in. Keep your eyes open for the podcast from our workshop.