Great photography jobs don't usually fall from the sky and land neatly in our laps. For the most part, it takes a lot of luck and a hefty amount of perseverence to find nearly any kind of photography gig. Probably more perseverence than luck if truth be told. While the world of digital has created more photographers than ever before and competition for available jobs is keen, there are also new and different kinds of opportunities available for those who work to find them. If you are interested, get out your pick-axe and night goggles and get started on your own search.Craigslist abounds with opportunities to work for no pay, while it is possible to find positions there as a photographer's assistant for nominal pay. Many people who have full-time jobs and dream of becoming a professional photographer can spend a few days with a photographer mentor through a popular program, Vocation Vacation. It is not inexpensive, but if compared to a fabulous recreational vacation, a Vocation Vacation can provide a priceless opportunity to try on a career for size and see if it could work for you in photography or almost anything you can dream of.
One of POE's talented and successful photographers, Tiffany Teske, got herself an internship with world-renowned photographer William Wegman while she was an undergraduate student. We talked about how she landed the position, what the job as intern entailed, and as Tiffany's own career launched, how she by provided internship opportunities for photographers-in-the-making.
Hannas Onions by Tiffany Teske
Tiffany was working on her Associate of Art degree in Photography and had to create "independent learning situations for myself to earn my credits." She knew William Wegman spent his summers at his vacation property in a town close to hers, and she knew he hired locals to work with him. Through a series of connections, Tiffany found his New York City studio address, wrote a letter which "I guess was convincing, because someone from [his] Manhattan studio called, and we worked out the details. I was basically the assistant to his assistant." When I asked her if she felt any trepidation about contacting such a famous photographer to ask for a summer job, she replied, "I wasn't nervous about getting in touch with him; I figured I'd ask and if he said 'no,' that was the worst that could happen."
She didn't have any idea of what was in store for her when she showed up at his cabin. Although Mr. Wegman is "kind, and soft-spoken for the most part and welcomed me matter-of-factly," Tiffany sometimes had "comfortable and uncomfortable moments" at the Wegman house, and she sometimes felt in the way. The shoots in which Tiffany assisted took place in the house, out at the lake, and only occasionally in the studio, and sometimes the Wegman family was all around. Working with Wegman's dogs was part of Tiffany's job, and "I really love the work Wegman does with the dogs. The dogs are professionals and members of the family. They are quite aware they are famous. They would work with me just fine when on the job, and they could hold poses for ages. But when they weren't working, they were snobs, walking past with their noses up, not like many dogs who yearn to be petted, oh no. 'No time for you when not working.' So funny!"
Tiffany, the dogs and William Wegman on the porch
Tiffany and I talked about her program's internship requirements and how they fit in with the jobs she did for Mr. Wegman. "Much of [the work toward] my degree allowed me to bend the situation to suit me, rather than having hard and fast rules on what I HAD to learn. So, I really did enjoy working for Wegman because there was not a list of things I had to do. I did whatever I was asked. He works in medium format, which I had not studied thus far. There were some very unique and specific things I learned from Wegman that had to do with photographing dogs. But I also learned a lot of good general photography."
Tiffany, William Wegman, and the dogs
Tiffany's advice for someone who's thinking about applying for an internship: "Be brave, and approach the person you'd like to work for. Do your research and figure out how best to contact them. They may say no, and they may say yes. Aim high and be confident."
As Tiffany's career moved forward she, too, made room in her work for interns as well. "I've provided internships for three people -- two of them are now professional photographers, and one may make the leap once her kids are older." Tiffany was shooting weddings at that time, so she was able to mentor her interns in darkroom techniques and wedding photography. "If someone worked for me now, I would just show them all the things I do day-to-day to run a business along with what they'd like to learn about photography. I believe all photographers should be well-versed in communications and marketing; they can't just be creative -- they need business skills. I am a free and flexible person, so an internship could virtually look like anything."
As Tiffany's career continues to evolve, she maintains an amazing capacity to pay it forward and give her knowledge and experience to other up-and-coming photographers. And, thus the world of photography continues to move on a path of sharing and collaboration.
Thank you, Tiffany!
Spring in NYC - Tiffany Teske
A world traveler and self-taught photographer, look for Ann wandering around city streets and tromping through woods and hiking trails with her camera. After owning an international transportation business for many years, Ann has found her creative spirit again through the lens. See more at Ann's shop and her website, and say hello to her on her blog too.