Mark

Forced Change

25 Jul ’11
Atlanta Photography Internship | LeahAndMark.com

- Posted by Mark

Every three months we have a good bit of upheaval around here. One Season of Interns ‘graduates’ and a new batch begins. New people, new shoots, new questions, and new work. Every Season is different. Sure we have some staples such as our business/marketing workshop, a lighting 101 class, and critiques – but every season is different. In colder months we spend much more time shooting in the studio, and when it’s nice outside, we’re shooting in a river every week.

The decision process for selecting Interns also changes every time – since our needs change quite often. You may have figured out by now that we don’t just need ‘good photographers’. We need people that we can work with, people who’ll bring something special, and just flat out generally good people. Because that’s what I need. People that are at times… better than me. (ha – which is also why I’m so lucky to have Leah around.)

Forced Change. Real forced change. Not the type where you say to yourself, “I’m gonna do things differently…” and then you never do. Having this Internship has made us do things that we never would’ve done if we were insulated and working primarily alone – like so many photographers do on a daily basis. Along with the general ‘you learn when you teach’ aspect, there is just a constant need for improving the Intern Experience. Of course to keep things fresh, but also because the way we’ve set up our Internship, if we want to continue doing it, then it has to constantly be moving forward and making progress. It has to evolve into something more.

Mind you – we’ve definitely taken our time. Although the Internship is one of the pillars of our business, it’s not our core business – but it heavily affects our core business.

Atlanta Photography Internship | LeahAndMark.com

So when we’re filling spots for each new Season, we’re using different criteria. Different roles are needed to be filled, and we take into consideration who we’ve accepted in past seasons and how well they’ve worked out. We’ve had fifteen months and five seasons of Interns to find out what works, what doesn’t, and what else we should or can try. So any advice regarding ‘how to do better for the next application’ should be taken with a grain of salt – because we’ll be looking for different things.

Honestly – it’s all a big experiment. Especially when you consider all of the factors like distance, availability, experience, temperament, magic, aversion to coffee, writing ability (a big one), and then how they’ll work together as a group. Because photography with us isn’t a solo effort. It’s a team sport – and for these three months we don’t need any superstars. There’s really only enough room for one big ego and I’ve got that spot forever.

Atlanta Photography Internship | LeahAndMark.com

You may have noticed that we’ve taken on what are essentially staff photographers. They are all former Interns – but they’re not permanent either. Just like the Internship, +status is little more than an agreement to work together. There is no obligation to work with us any longer than anyone wants to work with us.  In the same way as our Internship, our +photographers have to work and produce, or else they really don’t need to be with us.

We tell our Interns that they don’t need an internship to just sit at home and not photograph anything – and it’s the same with our +photographers, they don’t need a fancy/fun title to produce nothing. Forced change at regular intervals. Sometimes it’s just what we need, whether we know it or not. And that change doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. We rarely need bad things – but we often need change. So we view change as rarely ever being a bad thing.

Every three months.

Atlanta Photography Internship | LeahAndMark.com

We have a pretty extensive selection process for our Internship. It’s two applications and all essay question. We don’t care about resumes or even experience as much as you might think we would. This is largely because we ourselves were never officially trained and never attended photography or art school. Not that we look down on those that have a proper education – because we understand that we went a different route and spent 10,000 hours on our to learn what we would’ve learned in school – it’s just a different method of learning.

We have a Graduation/Introduction night at the end/beginning of each Season. We do not accept anyone who cannot attend Introduction night. An Intern once cut short a trip for their father’s 60th birthday, and flew back from Texas that morning to be with us that evening – and ever since then it’s been mandatory to attend. The bar is set so high that people who really want to work with us – will be there to work with us. Sometimes it just means that this isn’t the right time –  and that’s okay. This might seem a little extreme – or that we think very highly of ourselves – but Introduction night is that important.

Two applications, all essay questions. During the application process, an Intern’s ability to write and express their thoughts is slightly more important than their photos (their writing also shows whether or not they actually have critical thinking skills to begin with.) Because we push our Interns into a public spotlight – it’s very important that we don’t have to worry about them. Sure a little crazy is good – heck, even a lot of crazy is good – as long as it’s the right kind of crazy.

Crazy is a hard thing to identify sometimes among applicants who are trying their hardest to not come off as… crazy.

We want crazy. A little bit anyway.

Atlanta Photography Internship | LeahAndMark.com

The thing with this Internship is that sometimes, all we have to do is give people permission to do the things that they’ve wanted to do all along. Whether it’s blogging about topics that they want (but were always worried that it wouldn’t seem ‘Professional’) – or photographing whatever they want (because it’s not a part of their ‘niche’).

Sometimes they just need a realistic push – like when it comes to finding models to practice with – and any comments about not knowing anyone/not having friends/not being able to find models.

The fact is – if you can’t find people to model for you for free during practice sessions, then you’re going to have an even harder time trying to find people who’ll give you money to be your model – those are called paying clients.

Atlanta Photography Internship | LeahAndMark.com

When it comes to time – or the lack of time – I understand.

I understand that when I started this business, and even more so when I decided to take it seriously – everything else fell away. It became a single-minded pursuit. No other hobbies or interests, no realistic social life other than the one built to meet new clients and get us out there. We would see friends whenever they happened to be at an event we were photographing. I had a full time job during the first year of this business – and we grew it to the point where I could realistically leave my job because hanging out just wasn’t important anymore.

The Internship is only three months. ‘Lack of time’ as an excuse will never receive any sympathy from me, and definitely not from the Alumni Interns who made the most of the experience – and at times sacrificed quite a bit.

Atlanta Photography Internship | LeahAndMark.com

New Interns will be announced on Friday Morning.

See you then.

M.

 

 

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