Carol Friedman’s Advice for Young Photographers

Stop obsessing over lenses, and “make sure you have mentors.”
  • Transcript


Question: What are some common mistakes that novice photographers make?

Carol Friedman: This whole business of all these lenses is ridiculous.  You know, it’s like you have to capture your picture.  You have to create it.  You have to see it.  You have to seize it and you have to move in to get it, so those lenses are just an escape of some sort or a shield.  I think that people get into trouble when they photograph something that they... that is not in their world.  It’s like when they say "write what you know."  I can’t tell you how many reshoots I’ve done from, you know, famous photographers who really love just to shoot models and failed at shooting a Patti Labelle or someone like that because Patti Labelle didn’t turn them on, so you have to shoot what you care about.  For me if there is not a component of intelligence or music or culture or something that is fascinating to me I really don’t care about photographing the person.  That is just it’s about that psychological exchange.  That is what is interesting to me.  I think that people have to just go with their gut and follow their passion if they’re photographers.

Question: Who have been your mentors in the music industry?

Carol Friedman:  Okay.  Just I really have been lucky to have a lot of mentors in the music industry.  Quincy Jones, Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, Bob Krasnow, Bruce Lundvall, you know all label heads and that era is again, the music industry era is gone, but those rules still apply, because you know the record business is kind of a metaphor for life in a lot of ways, just because of all the components that had to come together and make an artist. And most of these people except for Ahmet, you know, came from the street and built empires, and you asked before about what would I recommend to young photographers.  Make sure you have mentors, you know, to teach you, because you can’t just intuit life by yourself, especially now.

Question: Have you ever acted as a mentor yourself?

Carol Friedman: I think mentoring is essential in life, both being a mentor to someone and being mentored, and I think that when you are mentored it inspires a generosity in you to mentor others and that I know is what happened with me, so for instance, the people that come through my studio to work for me, it’s not good enough for me to just give them a paycheck.  I want to help them get to where they…  You know I don’t care if it’s you know an intern or a full-time employee.  I want to help them arrive at who they are or who they want to be in the world and that is one of the questions I ask them when I meet them.  You know, who do they want to be.  So I think that that’s an essential part of life and if you don’t get to do that and receive it you’re missing something.

Recorded on April 21, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen