Pay it forward

rkelly1I’m a big proponent of the idea of “paying it forward”. It’s something that really falls in line with my personal philosophy and I figure I can use all the good karma I can get! Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to return the favor to one of my mentors, ASMP president Richard Kelly. Richard got in touch with me a month or two ago to see if I would be willing to photograph him for the latest ASMP Bulletin, in which he writes a column (“President’s Letter”). Richard and I go back a couple of years when I interned for him at WQED Multimedia/Pittsburgh magazine. He showed me the ropes of the professional photo world, but more importantly, he taught me the more intangible aspects of the business, like that all important connection/relationship with your subject. Richard is a true master at making people feel comfortable in front of the lens- I really haven’t seen too many people better than him at it. He was (and still is) a wonderful mentor to me, so I jumped at the chance to help him out in any manner that I could.

And this leads me to my point. paying it forward does as much good for the giver as it does the receiver. With Richard, I have gotten enormous satisfaction by being able to give something back to him considering all that he has done for me. Our relationship of photographer/assistant or mentor/student has molded the way I deal with my own team of people. Recently I’ve had the satisfaction of seeing my main assistant take the next step forward in her career (she’s taken a fashion photography internship/job in New York City). I am both happy and sad to see her go, but more to the point it’s satisfying to know I at least played some small role in her progression. My big hope is that she gets the opportunity to have the same mentor/student relationship that we have, just with the roles reversed. The true measure of success would be for her to pass on those intangible qualities that I learned from Richard, onto her own students/assistants. That’s what it’s all about really (for me at least), more than the jobs coming in, more than the recognition, it’s about paying it forward.

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