How to Craft a Mentorship: Advice from Photo Editors and Photographers
What does mentorship in photography look like? How does one find a mentor? What's it like to be a really great mentee? This conversation with six photographers and editors illuminates just how diverse and powerful mentorship is, and what it can look like for you.
A little while ago I ran a membership community called Wild Idea Lab. It was a space for conservation photographers and filmmakers to get together and learn about all things conservation photography and making an impact with images.
One of the things that came up often was the idea of mentorship.
What does mentorship look like? How does one find a mentor? What's it like to be a really great mentee?
So I held a bonus event about how to craft a mentorship. I invited six pro photographers and photo editors to share the way that our mentorships were structured and do a Q&A session.
Well, I've been getting a lot of questions lately from you, dear listeners, about mentorships.
So I thought it would be really beneficial for you to hear this bonus event and learn how we have shaped our mentorships, what they looked like, what we got out of them.
You'll hear from:
- Suzi Eszterhas and Susan McElhinney, Photo Editor of Ranger Rick Magazine
- Morgan Heim and Jen Guyton
- Jaymi Heimbuch (that's me!!) and Sabine Meyer, Photography Director for National Audubon Society
Each of us shaped very different mentor-mentee relationships based on what we most needed help with.
There's SO much great information and insight in here that can help you shape your own mentorships.
PS: If you enjoy this episode and know someone who would benefit from it, would you do me a wonderful favor and share the episode with them?
Just copy this link and send it via text or email ➡️ http://JaymiH.com/130
Let's help as many other photographers find their stride in creating images for conservation! 🎉✨
Resources & Links Mentioned
This episode is sponsored by:
Conservation Visual Storytellers Academy trains photographers and filmmakers who are passionate about conservation and science.
We are the only online education platform designed specifically for conservation photographers and filmmakers. Our ever-growing selection of robust online courses, in-person workshops, mentorship programs, and membership community are designed specifically to address the unique skills and resources you need as you focus on documenting environment, science communication, and conservation issues. We help you follow your passion to be an effective, successful, and joyful conservation visual storyteller.
EXPLORE THE COURSES
Subscribe & Review
Are you subscribed to the podcast? If not, I’m excited to invite you to subscribe today. Not only do I unroll new episodes weekly, but I also add in a ton of bonus episodes. If you’re not subscribed, you’ll probably miss out on those great bonuses and I don't want you to miss a thing!
If you love listening to the podcast, I’ll be so grateful if you leave me a review on iTunes. The reviews help others find me, and I also just love to hear from you! Just pop onto the show in your mobile device, scroll down to “Ratings & Reviews” and tap “Write a Review” Then, you’re off to the races! Let me know what you like best about the podcast. Thank you so much!
Also available on Spotify // Google Podcasts // Stitcher // iHeartRadio // TuneIn // Amazon Music
Episode 130: How to Craft a Mentorship - Advice from Photo Editors and Photographers
(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)
[00:00:00] I'm really appreciative that you guys are all willing to get in on this conversation because this is a topic that comes up a lot for us, for how we grow and develop and as visual storytellers, and to be able to lean on the experience of people who are either more experienced in the field, have been in it for a while, or who are related to the field, but have experience in other areas that can help us build our skills.
[00:00:25] What we're gonna begin with is a general conversation between each of the pairs of mentors and mentees. So we have Susan and Susie here for a mentorship that looks kind of like typical and traditional in that it's a long-term mentorship that has really helped Susie inside of her career.
[00:00:46] And then we're gonna go to Sabine and I where it's more of a like project oriented mentorship. And then we're gonna go to Morgan and Jen, or it is very much like an on the ground in the field assignment oriented mentorship. So these are three mentorships [00:01:00] that take shape in different ways, but. Very much fall within, you know, the, the framework of how to gain experience from someone who can help you out or help you troubleshoot.
[00:01:11] As you're going through things, we're going to also have q and a available at all times. So for anyone watching, if you have questions about anything at any point in time, you can go ahead and pop your question into the q and a box, and I'm gonna be monitoring that and making sure that all of your questions get answered.
[00:01:30] So everyone's welcome to ask questions at any point in time that I'm gonna be watching for that. So we'll go ahead and dive in. Susan and Susie, would you like to take it away and tell us how your mentorship began? What's the origin story of this? Go ahead Susie. You want me to, ok. So I first met Susan, so keeping in mind that I was a kid who tore pages out of Ranger Rick Magazine.
[00:01:59] [00:02:00] So and my, you know, my, one of my life's goals was to take photos of baby animals for a range of Rick magazines. So meeting Susan at a Nampa conference was a very big deal to me. And it was something, so I signed up for a portfolio review at the, at the summit, and I think I probably was around 25, 26 years old maybe.
[00:02:23] So I'm 44 now, so this was quite a while ago ago. And I sat down with her super nervous. I was shooting slides back then, of course. And I had pages of slides and what I was bringing to you was I had been photographing harbor seals and they're popping season for, for the last three seasons.
[00:02:43] And so I had. Photos of, you know, Harbor seal's giving birth and cute mom and pup photos. And was showing Susan, and, and, and Susan took the slides from me and she was quiet. She was kind of looking at them and, and I was super nervous. I was [00:03:00] definitely trembling and shaking. And then she's like staring at it.
[00:03:03] She's looking. And keep in mind, I don't know that Susan's nice. I have absolutely no clue about her personality whatsoever. And she's looking at it and she pulls out this slide and she looks in and she goes, is this a dog hair? And I was so mortified because I, I tried to clean the slides as best I could and make them look all professional.
[00:03:23] They were all labeled and stuff. And and I was terrified. I just froze. And she goes, it looks like a black lab here. Is this a black lab? And I've had a black lab at the time, and it was the best icebreaker because after that we bonded about black labs and, and why they're the best dogs. And then, And then it, everything just sort of started from there.
[00:03:45] And you know, Susan has been a tremendous influence in my life in many ways, though, not just professionally, but also personally as well. And I know that we'll talk about that a little bit later in terms of like, what, what a [00:04:00] mentorship should have. But Susan has been a mentor to me when it comes to my career and navigating the career professionally.
[00:04:09] She's been a mentor to me in terms of dealing with men and sexism. She's been a mentor to me in terms of personal issues, relationships, juggling this job and travel with romantic relationships, you know, issues of do I want children? Like all these things. She's been an incredible in incredible support and sounding board and advisor to me.
[00:04:32] So, you know, very, very much indebted to you, Susan. Hey, it was easy. But seriously, I mean, it's really all about support. It's about just being there, you know, listening, trying to, you know, being a source of information when the mentee wants something, needs something. But really listening and [00:05:00] then looking at their work.
[00:05:01] I will go back to that Portland encounter. She comes to my table and I can still visualize it. It was in this big room and we were near a window. And she's across the table and it's this pile of slides like this, shoot some slides. And I'm like, God, doesn't this girl know anything about attitude?
[00:05:23] Too many, just a bit too many. Yes. Especially when it's all one subject. And these harbor seals, which were, they're interesting. There were probably like 30 sequences of births in there. Little too much, right? Just a little bit too much. But. I thought, well, you know, there are good pictures here. She needs to learn something about editing.
[00:05:44] Anyway, we did find, you know, that Labrador retriever to bond over and but, you know, she was incredibly nervous. And I do find that, you know, when I do meet people and, and try and look at their pictures, but [00:06:00] but that's brutal honesty too. You were always brutally honest with me, which I think is really an important part of, of being a mentor of, of, you know, letting your mentee know what they're doing wrong and what they're doing Right.
[00:06:14] And, you know, Susan's always been brutally honest with me about everything, and I think that's incredibly important too, to not, not sugarcoat things too much. And you know, in, in some ways it's almost advisory, almost like a, you know, small part of parenting or something you don't wanna sugarcoat.
[00:06:33] things too much for your mentee because this is a tough world and it's a tough career, right? So, mm-hmm. that was very useful as well in my career. I had I didn't have any mentors like that, but I had, there was one editor in particular I worked with and every time, and everybody I worked with was out of town.
[00:06:55] They were in New York and I was here in Washington or somewhere else. So it was always a long [00:07:00] distance relationship. And but there was this one editor in particular, every time they returned my material to them, to me, she wrote unknown about what the successes and what the failures were with the assignment.
[00:07:17] And as a consequence, you know, the work grew, you know, my relationship. To them and what their needs were and her helping me improve my material. It was and I I find that, and you say brutal, and I find it like, I don't need sugar. Thank you. I need, you know, I need that. I need that criticism. I need that constructive work.
[00:07:44] Yeah. I hope it was, I hope it was never hurtful, but no, not at all. Not at all. And the other thing too that I think also a lot of people think of as a mentorship is like, you're out in the field together. Susan and I have only been out in the field together twice. And it [00:08:00] was, it was really, there was only once when we were in the field together on a story capacity and that was like six hours or something.
[00:08:06] We've spent very little time in the field together. It's all been about sort of navigating the professional, the sort of almost business networking. Side and and not so much the, the field mentoring. I was very lucky where when I was in my twenties, actually when I was 18, I was an informal apprentice to a BBC film crew and they became my mentors for field based work and still are mentors to me to this day.
[00:08:36] But I spent so much time in the field and they taught me how to live alone in the bush and all the, the confidence and the skills that I needed as a wildlife photographer. So there's sort of mentorships in different departments and different capacities as well. Mm-hmm. , when it came to, oh, I'm sorry Susan, I was just going say ours was on that level of editing.
[00:08:59] [00:09:00] Mm-hmm. , what you might think about when you're in the field to bring it back. This is how this story could be built better or in another direction. And of course we did a lot, we've done a lot of work after the fact on stories. You know, maybe we should go in that direction instead of this direction.
[00:09:18] Yeah. Stuff like that. So, yeah, and our work with Susan, like, even though it all took place in the office, it made me a better shooter in the field in terms of putting together better stories. Mm-hmm. , when it came to like Susie, if you were asking for input or if you needed Susan's advice on something, was it just picking up the phone and calling?
[00:09:42] Was it, you know, sending an email? How did that interaction kind of go? Was there any structure to it? Or, Susan, did you just welcome any time she needed to get in touch? Go for it. If she could get through to me, you know, anytime, you know, anyway, it doesn't, you know, sort of, you know, and the honesty [00:10:00] is I can't talk right now.
[00:10:01] I'll call you back later and. She'll call me back because she knows I forgot, you know, so I'm also remarkably persistent as well. Yeah. Which helps as I think, but Susan's very approachable. That's where I got quite lucky, not everybody as is as approachable, right. As a mentor. So especially as the years went on, I think in the beginning I was quite shy about approaching her about things and it was much more formal and much more structured and probably more like on my visits to DC but very, very quickly the door was, you know, always open to me.
[00:10:38] And, but also too, like always a level of respect to that, you know, this is someone who is very much giving me advice and very generous. With the advice. And although I consider Susan a very good friend, I also have a huge amount of respect and gratitude for the role that she [00:11:00] plays in my life. And I never really forget that.
[00:11:03] Hopefully, hopefully I haven't or taken it for granted. Cuz I think that's big in a mentorship as well, right? Is that if you have a mentee, I've mentored a lot of young ladies and there've been a couple who've really taken advantage and that, that is a, a deal breaker for, for a mentorship, right? So to really respect the mentor's busy schedule and life, I think is incredibly important.
[00:11:25] Su when you say taken advantage, what does that look like? What is what for someone who may not be aware of what taking advantage looks like, what was the deal breaker behavior? Like boundaries, right? Someone who's constantly texting me or texting me without my permission or you know, Hounding me, you know, too often, right?
[00:11:46] I, I don't have enough time to put into this someone who is Contacting me at inappropriate times. Maybe, you know, at during nine, you know, [00:12:00] 9:10 PM at night. I think it's mostly a boundary thing in terms of too much time. And then also maybe too, you get a feeling where a mentorship is very much, I think a relationship like the mentor should get something from the mentee as well, right?
[00:12:17] Like I, with the young ladies that I mentor, I love those relationships. I'm getting something out of those relationships. And I think you realize very quickly when you're dealing with a mentee where it's like all they wanna do is take, take, take. Right? And then that's not a mentee, that's a parasite. And so, and you can, you can figure that out really quickly for the most part.
[00:12:40] And and I think that and that's where you just cut it. And for those women, I have just cut it. You know, I've just said, I don't think that this is working out. You know, there haven't been many women, there's just been a couple, but there are some. So I think showing gratitude, you know, saying thank you, respecting someone's schedule [00:13:00] time all of those things as a mentee are, are really, really important.
[00:13:05] That being in that constant state of gratitude of this person is giving something to me out of the kindness of their heart is, is really, you know, should always be the at the forefront. And with Susan, it always has with me, you know? Mm-hmm. . And Susan on your side of it, what did you, because I also agree completely that there should be some sort of a trade between mentor and mentee, and the mentor needs to be getting something out of it as well.
[00:13:30] What did you get out of being there for Susie over the years? Well, obvi, the most obvious thing is that, you know, Susie's excellent pictures, make me look good, , you know, make the magazine look good. And that's, you know, that's, that's, that's the big one. That's the big prize if you know, when that comes about.
[00:13:50] But it's, it's the pleasure of returning so much of that [00:14:00] which has been given to you. And it's also that relationship. Just watch somebody grow. I mean, how I raise. A child and, you know, he's reasonably grateful. But I've, frankly, I've for many days out than I have outta my own son,
[00:14:25] SAB agrees with me. It, it's, it's, it's in that sense it's, it's, it's a pleasure, you know, to work with people who are eager and who are who wanna learn more and think that maybe I have something to share with them. So, yeah, it's very nice. It's lovely. Yeah. There are people who think that, who think that Susie's my daughter.
[00:14:52] I don't know if you've ever picked up on that. You know, it's, it's a little extreme, but to get it a lot. [00:15:00] Yeah. We have gotten that. It's really funny. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm tired for, I'm very flattered. But yeah, and I think too, like for me in my position as a mentor with the young ladies, I iMentor, I get it.
[00:15:16] I hope this isn't too self-serving, but I get this immense sense of pride in terms of seeing them accomplish things they wanna accomplish. And then also I get incredibly inspired. I'm not suggesting I inspired you, Susan, but I get incredibly inspired being around these young women that are, you know, super enthusiastic.
[00:15:38] And I mean, this is, this is the whole reason why I started Girls Who Click is because those workshops profoundly affected me and my heart was so full, I was like, oh my God, it needs to be bigger. It needs to be a bigger part of my life. Cuz just being around those girls and seeing that I could just impact them, even just a few hours at that point in time was incredibly important in my life.
[00:15:57] And the, you know, the smiles and the enthusiasm [00:16:00] and. I'm enthusiastic about my work, but there's just something about a young person's enthusiasm that I think is very contagious and and I love that, right? So I feel like that's one of the big things for me as a mentor that I get out of my mentees, is that inspiration and that pride.
[00:16:18] Wonderful. Thank you so much for, for getting us started and sharing so much about the shape that things have taken and a lot of the detail about what goes into your mentorships. I wanna let everyone who's watching know that if any questions pop up you are welcome to ask. So go ahead and put those in the q and a, I've got that open and I'm watching.
[00:16:40] So you, you're all welcome to ask questions at any point in time. Now I wanna talk with Sabine and kind of share what our mentor mentee relationship looks like and how that got started. And Sabine, I wanted to share ours as well because I think that. It's one of those things that pop up a lot with [00:17:00] questions that people in Wild Ideal Lab have been asking, which is, how do you start a mentorship?
[00:17:04] How do, how do you reach out? How does that look to get started? So I'll, I'll start with like how I reached out to you and then ask you about like why you said Yes, essentially . So I've got a very long term project going on and I started to dive into the shape of it and what I wanted it to accomplish and what I wanted it to look like, and it became really big and overwhelming.
[00:17:30] And I got really stuck on how to move forward inside of this project because, It felt just kind of like big and almost now that I had all of these different things that I would love to see it do. It now felt like a burden. It felt it, it took less shape the more I tried to shape it. And so I knew that I needed the guidance of someone who was really skilled in helping to, in shaping stories and in like asking the right questions.
[00:17:58] And someone [00:18:00] who I knew that I could work with really well. And I had had a really amazing experience working with Sabine as a photo editor. And she was someone who like. As soon as I started working on this assignment with her, she hopped on the phone and started shaping like the shot list with me.
[00:18:16] And I just loved working with her. It felt like really comfortable and natural. And so I thought, so you might be a really good mentor for this, and I'll just reach out and ask. And so I sent an email to to you and said, Hey, I know this might be a long shot, you're a really busy person, and I really respect that.
[00:18:32] But I, I would be really interested in finding a mentor for this project. Would you want to do that? And then you said, yes. So, so when you got that email what kind of went through your head and, and why did you say short? I I said yes because I actually had the time, which not that it, it, [00:19:00] I am not busy, but I had the bandwidth for that because I typically teach every spring at ICP and editing class.
[00:19:07] And last year because of covid and I had been doing it for 15 years, I was really tapped out with ICP and I said, you know, I'm gonna pause. And then of course I regretted it because there's, as a photo editor working for an organization, my days I spend project managing. I am just moving projects along with timelines, people, money, deliverables, you know, it's like all these myriads of projects.
[00:19:33] I work on the magazine, the website reports, the science team, the kids team, the dam, the photo awards. Anyways, I do not spend a ton of time. Thinking about stories or thinking about photography or talking about, you know, actually aesthetics, ethics, that is a part of my job, but not all of my job. And I really felt that conversation, you [00:20:00] know, was missing.
[00:20:00] And when I deal with my team, we, we talk about these things, but most of it, we have deadlines, so we've to produce stuff. So we, we are trying to craft more time to have these conversations. So your timing was just about impeccable. I also, So that was lucky. I also you know, I do do volunteer work with a local organization here where I live, which is the Newberg Community Photo Project.
[00:20:26] And we typically are busy in the summer, so I was on pause with that and I really craved sort of the mentorship. To me a mentorship can be very different, a lot of different things and it could happen at different levels depending on where the photographers are. But I really look at it as a collaboration.
[00:20:47] And to me it's sort of like I'm helping someone with shaping a project, but I'm also doing continuing education for myself. You know, where instead of just sitting there and [00:21:00] doing the stuff over and over again, I do the same thing. To help someone with shaping a story is to challenge myself and force myself to think about stuff that I would necessarily sort of, when I'm on autopilot doing my job, I don't necessarily think about it all the time.
[00:21:16] So that's a challenge to me, and I really like the fact that, you know, I mean also I had just talked to your wild Idea Lab. And I sort of was super impressed with all the stuff you were doing. You're a woman, you're helping other women and women identifying. You know, to me that was super important.
[00:21:35] And you know, I, I think I, I just looked at it as, you know what? I need to keep working on my skills as a photo editor. And for me to do that, I have to step out of my day to day. And so this is a great opportunity and it's related to conservation. You know, I typically work on two different sort of genres.
[00:21:55] I do a lot of conservation, but I do a lot of hardcore human [00:22:00] rights photojournalist or community activism type of stuff with Newberg community photo project that's more, it's not conservation oriented. It's completely different muscle also that I exercise. So that's kind of why I I jumped in it and, you know, I also I think it's a two, two way street.
[00:22:23] The stuff I learned from working with a photographer is, is invaluable to me because, you know, I mean, I've been a photo editor for 25 years. Things are changing a lot. You know, the way stories are being approached, especially these days is completely different. And working with, with mentees is really sort of challenging some of my ways.
[00:22:47] So I like that. And you know, I, I try to craft the relationship always as kind of [00:23:00] not appear to peer, but I really try not to be in the position of the expert slash saviors going to be, you know, giving you all what you need to do. And, and I wanna know, I wanna learn too. So I'm, I'm really mindful of that and I hope I can.
[00:23:20] Keep that going with our next meetings. Yeah, yeah. We've got a next our next meeting is Monday. I think that the relationship aspect that you mentioned is, so there's two things I wanna talk about before we move on to Morgan and Jen. And one is the structure that our meetings have taken. And two is the relationship because I agree that the relationship component is a really big deal, and we touched on it with Susan and Susie, but as being a mentee, finding the mentor that.
[00:23:54] Encourages you, holds you accountable, but also in ways makes you comfortable. Being open is [00:24:00] a really, really big deal. If you're trying to get a mentorship with someone who intimidates you or brow beats you, it's not gonna work out. And so, being the, one of the things that made me want to work with you specifically as a mentor is the experience that I had working on assignment with you was, you made me want to work hard.
[00:24:20] You made me want to like do the best that I could because I respected you. And it wasn't because I was intimidated and be like, oh, I got, I better do a good job, or she's gonna be mad. It was like, I really don't wanna let her down. Mm-hmm. , like, I, I want to provide her with the best possible content. And I knew that going into a mentorship, having someone who made me feel that way, that just out of like genuine respect and collaboration, it made me want to question, okay, so am I doing my best in this moment or is there more that I might be leaving on the table?
[00:24:53] And then work on that. That was a really big component of I think finding the right person to work with. The [00:25:00] other thing too, oh, sorry, go ahead. No, no. I just wanna point out so everyone knows, and that first assignment was not a deal made in heaven because Jamie had to come clean with something that happened.
[00:25:10] And I'm sure she was shaking in her boots because she got really sick motion sick on a boat to the point where I think you probably were not able to really perform at the level you were. And I remember having the conversation saying, you know what? Shit happens. You know, I mean, what can I say? I'm not going to put you down because you got.
[00:25:29] I mean, stuff happens to everyone. But I, I, to me, that I also appreciated the transparency and you actually telling me as opposed to not, because I think we all human, we all have No, no one is perfect. And you know, my idea is to problem solve, not to put someone down and, and to say, well, you know, next time think about it.
[00:25:53] You know, you had that bad experience. So prepare or say, I don't think I can handle that piece because blah, blah, blah. Anyways, [00:26:00] I just wanted to say that cause I think it's important. That was a very, to me, your honesty also in that moment was a factor for me to say, you know, this is someone I really I wanna work with because I know there's no bullshit, you know?
[00:26:13] Thank you. Oh, that's good to, that's good to know. Oh yeah. No, we can cuss on here. No problem. But yeah, that is, that, that. Very tough moment. I was pretty sure like coming off of the boat and knowing what had happened, I was like, I, she's never gonna work with me. Wanna work with me again. I can't believe that, you know, this happened and I have turned down opportunities on boats since then.
[00:26:35] I'm like, Nope, not gonna ha not the right one for me. , go to someone else. But the other thing that I wanted to bring up with you is, The shape that our meetings take, because I profoundly respect the fact that you're a really busy person and that whatever we do, because you are volunteering your time and your energy and your expertise, it's really important to me that I work around your schedule and [00:27:00] what works well for you.
[00:27:00] And so we came up with basically a structure, like how frequently do we wanna meet? What are the best days and times for you? How long can we meet? And then inside of that, like once it's my, for me, I feel like it's my responsibility as someone who is so directly benefiting from this, to be the one who says, Hey does this work into your schedule within these weeks?
[00:27:22] What's best for you? And here's what I would like to bring to the table. I'm not just being like, Hey, can we talk and showing up and being very loosey goosey about what it is we cover. There's very much like, I'm here to talk with you about this thing on this day. And to have structure. And Sabine, I'm curious like how.
[00:27:40] Valuable. Is that to you or have you been in situations where it's been different from that and has it worked well or not worked? I, I really, I like the idea of having a contract between the mentor and the mentee. That's, or some sort of agreement that both parties agree to that spells out this is the [00:28:00] ideal way of working the schedule.
[00:28:02] You know, that setups maybe some of the boundaries that shouldn't be, just so that it's, it's clearly spelled out. And then, you know, as you keep working with that person and you're more comfortable and, you know, maybe you could, you can just say, Hey, is it okay if I text you? I have a super quick question.
[00:28:20] You know, you've just built up to whatever relationship it's going to be. But I like the idea of starting with something that's structured. You know, cause there's work, there's family, there's everybody has obligations, whatever. And, and that's to me is also helpful because when you volunteer. To me, that's volunteer is not a nice to do thing.
[00:28:42] It's it's part of my job. So if volunteering is structured in the same fashion as my workday is structured with meetings, I'm going to take that seriously. I'm not just gonna be like, oh, I'm really too busy now. I'm, I'm totally, you know exhausted [00:29:00] from my workday. I just don't wanna do this. I'm gonna reschedule.
[00:29:03] So I think having some sort of a really formal. So to speak. Agreement, you know, where both parties agree cuz volunteering and, and mentoring as a volunteer is not, to me a nice to do thing. It's like part of what I want to do as a person and as a photo editor. So that's just me. But having a schedule is super helpful to me.
[00:29:25] And that's just personal. I like, I'm, you know, a monster of organization as people have told me, and to a, to a fault sometimes. But it's, it works for me and, you know, it keeps you accountable. You just can't blow it off. That's what I like. And then you have to prepare and you have to review the stuff and, and make sure, you know, stepping into the meeting.
[00:29:46] You know, if you're just shooting the breeze and catching up on stuff, that's fine. But if you have an agenda, you know, you wanna prepare. So I, I like having, you know, okay, what do we do? We have an, it's sort of like, to me it's like going to a [00:30:00] work meeting. It is part of my day to day job, so, mm-hmm. that's what I like about our setup.
[00:30:07] I do. I do too. And I'm a freak about organization for sure, as everybody knows. And so SAVI and I have a shared Google Drive and that's, and I've got folders in there for how things are organized. And one of our first sessions, You know, this, this huge project, and I don't understand, like, am I doing one big overarching story?
[00:30:26] Am I doing little stories? What does this look like? And so, so being one of the first things she said was, well, you need a spreadsheet. And I was like, oh my God, this is, this is wonderful. And so I made a huge spreadsheet because this is my language, this is like how I function. And so to find someone who functions, I think in the same way in terms of organizing ideas and helping things take shape.
[00:30:48] And that was a, that was a pretty important part of, I think a mentorship that works as well is, is we both function and think the same way overall when it comes to like, [00:31:00] how organized we wanna be and how structured we wanna wanna be with this. And just as a, you know, for everyone to, to kind of know what our overarching mentorship looks like, like inside of meetings I've brought things like, here's the images that I have so far and what I want to accomplish.
[00:31:17] Am I on the right path or. I don't really know where I'm going with the storyline. How do you think I should start to think about this project and how do you think I should start to break it up or what makes sense? And Soine really helped to troubleshoot a lot of that. And then I've got I've got a, a new component that I'll tell her about on Monday and hopefully get some feedback on.
[00:31:37] But a lot of it is like every time I, I get to a little chunk of this project, that's when I know I wanna talk with Sabine about like, okay, so am I, how am I thinking about this? Or Here's where I'm stuck, or what do you think about these things? Okay, so we've got one question coming in. Oh, Morgan, you're such a great moderator.
[00:31:59] So [00:32:00] Gretchen, we will, we will definitely get to that quite shortly. Before we do Morgan and Jen, I would love to hand it over to you because you guys have a, a like another way to be a mentor mentee that can be intensely helpful. So I'll hand it over to you too to talk about what shape your mentorship's taken.
[00:32:17] Cool. I feel like Jen, you ought to go first. . Okay, I'll try. Yeah, I, it's interesting to hear kind of about you know, Jamie and Sabine's relationship because I've been set up on a couple of like, really formal mentorships that have just for me, never really stuck, like the whole thing with contracts and like you know, scheduled meetings and that kind of thing.
[00:32:40] And, and for me, for whatever reason, it's never really stuck. But Morgan and I just have had this kind of very informal, impromptu casual relationship. I mean, I feel like we're friends as much as you know. Mentor mentee and yeah, I, I think [00:33:00] we just like met at a meeting. Was it Nampa at, in Jackson where we first met?
[00:33:04] I don't remember. It was something like that. Yeah. Yeah. So we just like met at a meeting and I knew Morgan's work and I thought it was amazing and that she was an incredible storyteller and we just kind of kept in touch and crossed paths a lot at different meetings and I always enjoyed spending time with her and talking to her.
[00:33:21] And yeah, over the past couple of years, I just found that I was reaching out to her a lot when I needed advice on something or when I needed to rant about something or you know, that kind of thing. And, and I found that she's always been so receptive and available and just a really amazing person and I trust her fully and completely.
[00:33:42] And I think that that is, Hugely important in a mentorship relationship. So, And I, yeah, I, I think that, like, one of the most interesting experiences was definitely last year when I was working in the field and was able to reach out to Morgan [00:34:00] while I had, I had just like four days to work on this story.
[00:34:04] and Morgan was hugely generous and just like was responding to all of my nonstop messages, like all day, every day. Like, what do you think of this photo? And I have some of those photos to show, but if you wanna talk first Mo. Okay. Well, I couldn't, I couldn't agree more with like, I feel like Jen and I, it's, it's almost kind of weird to think of us in any kind of mentor-mentee relationship because.
[00:34:29] I think of Jen and I, first and foremost as friends and peers. And, and I, I feel like I haven't actually been in this, you know, working professionally in this much longer than she has. But I do think that you know, it's, it's very, I think it's more often the case that mentorships are, you're kind of revisiting things after, after they've been completed.
[00:34:57] And the fact that Jen and I get [00:35:00] to basically workshop ideas as she's on the ground is just like, it's super fun and like, it's, it's very, every time Jen sends like a, a photo Especially after, if we've like kind of talked about the photo and she's gone back and had a chance to do a reshoot, that kind of same scenario to see what she then comes back with.
[00:35:23] It's kind of like opening a present. Cause it's just, and it's just like so gratifying too to see like, oh my God, she just like really took these things to heart and she went back and she was paying attention and she found these, these, she found that other layer in the moment and, and was able to capture that in the photo or and sometimes too, I think it's just like having a person there that can be like, no, no, no, you're, you're paying attention to the right things.
[00:35:48] Like stay on track with it. Like work that situation more. You're definitely like you're on the right track with it and. So often when we're in the field, you know, we're navigating all these [00:36:00] variables and it's so easy to question yourself, even if you have a lot of experience in a situation to be like, you know, is am I going too far?
[00:36:09] Am I not going far enough? Like, how do I navigate the dynamics here? And it's, it's not, it can also be like, and it's dynamics with so many different things too. It can be with like, you know, fixers or other people that you're working with in the field. It can be with your subjects and the photos. It can be just that sense of like, is it okay to sort of, you know, how am I gonna navigate this or get a car or, you know, get around this area.
[00:36:35] And, and I think just that idea of not feeling alone in the field is just such a. I've always found that to be a very comforting thing. And, and it's nice to feel like I can help be that for someone else.
[00:36:51] But yeah, I, I've really, I am someone who and Jamie knows this about me for sure. I'm, I'm [00:37:00] very creative and that means I'm not always like super structured . So I'm like, when was that meeting again? Even though I've written it down like three times. So I'm like, what notebook did I write that down in
[00:37:14] Anyways, so I, I work really well with the kind of like opportunistic grab and I'm, I'm also a night o, which works out I think really well for Jen and I because she's often. You know, she's like halfway around the world from me. And so she gets me at these really good times where I'm just sort of like hanging out on the couch working at night.
[00:37:37] And and then like it's way more fun to talk with her than actually work at my own stuff. But yeah, so I think that, you know, all of those things just I think can lead to a really lovely just friendly and sort of like a mentorship that's full of camaraderie. And, and I feel [00:38:00] like I'm learning all the time from Jen too.
[00:38:01] Like when I see what she comes back with after we've had our talks um, and even like what she comes into before we've had talks, like, it's like, oh dang, like, you know, this one, this is a really great frame. And it's like, let's figure out how to make more of this one happen, you know? And it becomes like Game theory, you know, trying to puzzle out, like what, what do we need to figure out to bring that into these other pictures?
[00:38:25] And she always just like comes back with amazing images. So, one quick question before Jen, we get to see some of these images. Mo what would be different for you if you talked stuff through with Jen and then you saw that she wasn't actually implementing anything that you were telling her but continuously coming back?
[00:38:48] Like how would that be different for you? Well I definitely would probably be less keen to, to like have those chats and stuff, you [00:39:00] know, so, you know, I'd probably be like, oh, now's not a great time or, But I do also think that Jen and I, like if she was at this point, especially like if Jen, like if she came back and it wasn't happening, I feel like I could totally be like, Jen, come on.
[00:39:16] Like get your act together. So I feel like I could be a little bit like ra her a little bit. And that's actually, I think one of the really, really great things about Jen is like when we pick something apart or if we, if we, if there's anything that's like a little critical, I don't feel like Jen ever gets defensive.
[00:39:38] I feel like she's always sort of like soaking it in and being like, okay, and, and like let's figure out then what, what I need to do to, to fix this. And that's hugely important in any mentor mentee relationship because cuz no mentor worth their salt, even if they're criticizing, you know, what you didn't do [00:40:00] right.
[00:40:00] Is. Doing it in any kind of mean spirited way. And, and you, and it comes back to that trust thing that that we've all talked about is that you trust that the person providing that feedback knows what they're talking about. And, and so you're like, okay, I, I totally get it. I believe you. Let's figure out how to solve this.
[00:40:22] And that's just, I think one of the most important things. And then kind of tangentially, I, I would say kind of coming back to navigating the photo side, it's also really nice just like learning how to navigate the professional world and crafting pitches like it's, you know, things like that or who to pitch or how to pitch and all this stuff.
[00:40:45] Like all of the behind the scenes stuff that's like, has nothing to do with actually taking the pictures. Mm-hmm. , it's so rare to have. I think lots of times we feel like we're kind of. Trial and erroring our way through it, . And so to have people that [00:41:00] you can go to and be like, how is this sounding? And then we start kind of talking about crafting that in a slightly different way to meet certain needs and mm-hmm.
[00:41:11] Yeah, definitely. And I was just gonna say, yeah, with like the, the constructive feedback you give, I feel like you're very tactful about it. So it's not like hard not to feel defensive. , you're very good at giving constructive feedback in like a nice and, and a way that doesn't make people feel bad. I think, like I've worked with other mentors who, you know, I had one who I showed a portfolio to and he was like, never show this to anyone.
[00:41:39] I was like, wow, that's, that's harsh, but okay. And so yeah, that would, that, yeah, it was easy. It's easy not to feel defensive. When I'm talking to you, so, yeah, and you know, I think it's important that the trust goes both ways. The reason that, you know, someone is a mentor to you is because they believe in you.[00:42:00]
[00:42:00] And you know, I think to say something like that, never show this like to anyone that's, that's, that's just a defeatist. It's, and it also is, it's, I mean, maybe on one end they think you can handle feedback like that, but on the other hand, it's like, that's just not helpful feedback at all. It will not get anyone anywhere.
[00:42:18] And it, it creates a divide in the relationship that you have with that person. Mm-hmm. . So it's just like, does double damage, mm-hmm. , I think it's really important to know how to give critical feedback. Yeah. Well, Jen, do you mind showing us some of the stuff that's kind of come out of this really open feedback where you're so open to what she has to say?
[00:42:40] You actually go and implement it, which is a big deal. Like you're, you're taking it to heart. You're going and doing something big and then improving from it. We'd love to see like kinda what the evolution looks like. Cool. So I'll share my screen really quick.
[00:42:54] Yeah, so I mean, I guess, you know, Mo has helped me with [00:43:00] images and multiple projects that I've been working on, but this was one particular one last year, I think in February when I was kind of doing this pilot project to That I was hoping to build into a bigger project in Canada.
[00:43:17] And I reached out to her first because, I don't know, I think I was complaining about the person I was working with or something, . It just, it, you know, kind of developed to the point where I sent her a few images on the first day and she was like, oh, well, are you still there? You know, if you go tomorrow, you should try and do this and this and this.
[00:43:40] And then it turned out that like every day I was sending her new images and she was giving me feedback, and it allowed me to just go back out the next day and try to implement some of that feedback. So like for me, the, probably the most, the strongest image that came out of that was from [00:44:00] these coyotes.
[00:44:01] It was a guy who. Feeds deer in his backyard. And he also shoots the coyotes that are around because he doesn't like them preying on his deer. And so he had these coyotes hanging in his yard just permanently, I think that they were supposed to be scaring off the other coyotes, I think. And and so I sent mo pictures like this and I, and I knew that they weren't really, I wasn't really getting it.
[00:44:28] And she saw the one on the bottom and, and was kind of like, yeah, you know, something like this is great, but it would be awesome if you could have the guy in the scene, you know, in the background doing something, you know, getting wood or whatever. And so I was going to this guy's house every day and after she told me that, I just kind of had her voice in the back of my mind and I was keeping an eye on the shed to see when he went in there and.
[00:44:56] At some point this came together and it's way, [00:45:00] way, way stronger than, than anything I had gotten before that. And it was, you know, all because of that suggestion that Mom made. And so it was just hugely helpful to, to have sort of that real time feedback from someone. And I think that some people get that from editors when they're working on a story with an editor.
[00:45:18] But, you know, in this case I was out there doing this project of my own you know, motivation. And so I didn't really have an editor to discuss it with, but it was really cool to have mo kind of step into that role. And I guess another example is this one. I was getting a lot of shots of these deer feeding on bales of hay that this guy had in his yard.
[00:45:42] And I had one from the first set where a deer was standing on top of the hay. And, and Mo said, you know, that. The, the deers being on top of the hay is way more interesting than, than anything else because it's a different perspective, something you don't see that often. And so again, I was paying way more [00:46:00] attention to that.
[00:46:00] I stopped shooting images like this and focused on getting stuff more like this. And then with these, it was you know, I was trying to get images of people interacting with the deer. A major part of the story is that scientists are really concerned that people are interacting in this very close way with these wild deer because they they carry all kinds of diseases and I mean, you can see the top right one, the woman is literally feeding the deer an apple with her mouth.
[00:46:31] And so, so I was getting photos like this, but most suggested. I could probably create sort of a more layered image where there was more going on in the background. And so that totally changed the way that I was approaching the scene. And I ended up getting some shots that were more like, like this.
[00:46:50] And yeah, so those are just a, a few examples of, of how that went and it was just so insanely helpful during those four days, during that really, really [00:47:00] quick time period. You know, I think if I had just been shooting for four days and then come back and showed the photos to someone after the fact, I wouldn't have come back with, with nearly as strong photos as I did.
[00:47:13] I'm so glad you showed the that the coyote one at the beginning, cuz that one in particular for me is like, I, I was sitting here going like, oh, I hope she shows this one, because it was such a fun one to see how that evolved as you worked it. And I also really love that shot that you got of the, of the coyotes of the, the family that, like the dad and the son, like the dad's basically ingraining in his son.
[00:47:41] The idea that it's a good thing to be killing these coyotes and the mom is taking the picture of them and the coyotes hanging there on the tree. Like that to me is like perpetuating a, a legacy of a thought process against predators. And so I think it's a really important frame, and I remember that was also one that you got, [00:48:00] you know, towards the end of your trip and you, you saw you, like, you workshop that one all on your own.
[00:48:05] I think that was a, I think a another cool thing is like, as we kind of tried to workshop a few of these other images, I think it just like clicked something in your brain that made you see other things that were happening in that way. And it it just, like you just took it and ran with it. Definitely it helped just to be talking the story through and thinking about the different angles and the different types of photos that would tell the story.
[00:48:33] And and yeah, it definitely helped me to see things differently. I have a question on that topic for Susie and Susan. Susie, did you sort of have the same kind of experience as you're working with Susan and she's giving you feedback on stuff? Did you start to more and more hear her voice and, and what she would think in your head as you're shooting and start to workshop as if she were there with you?
[00:48:58] Yes. You [00:49:00] know, I, I never really had the opportunity to call Susan from the field. But Susan definitely helped me. One of the things that I approach a story with is I think all of a storytellers have a shot list, right? And prior to working with Susan, I didn't, and I was just sort of flying by the seat of my pants.
[00:49:20] And not only did Susan teach me to have a shot list, but also to really what that shot list should have in terms of my subjects. And so in the field, The shot list would come to mind. And then also just certain things that, you know, in addition to photography advice and in composition and whatnot.
[00:49:41] But also, I mean, I, there's a couple things that immediately come to mind. One is the Susie give me more pictures where the animal's not, we don't have eye contact with the animal. And then the other thing was in addition to [00:50:00] that, it basically is that we need, you know, scene setters, right? Cuz I was shooting quite tight.
[00:50:08] Because I'm, you know, what really gets me going obviously is these maternal interactions and this, these feelings of intimacy. But for a story, we need scene setters. The other thing that I, the editorial perspective of like some, you know, in some magazines, the colors all need to match on a spread. So we can't take, you know leopard cub in green grass and put 'em on the same page as leopard cub in this dry, almost desert looking environment, right?
[00:50:37] Depending on the story. And so I think there's those perspectives that that came into play in the field. But I think more than that, I probably had, you know, before I met Susan with Owen and Amanda, who were my field mentors, [00:51:00] I, you know, I learned all this stuff in the field in terms of. Photo advice, like composition and framing and stuff.
[00:51:09] Of course, back then it was slides, so it's not like Owen and I could look at the back of my camera and he could be like, oh, you should have shot this differently. But he would give me advice like while we were shooting. And then for me, a lot of it for the field stuff, since it was Africa based in particular, a lot of it was just survival and you know, how to live in the bush.
[00:51:33] And I mean, just literally everything from like changing a flat tire, right? Cause I grew up in Marin and you call AAA for that, right? So just little things that you don't think about when you have to be a woman on your own surviving in the bush, right? And so for me, a lot of the field instruction I had from my mentors was more about being confident in living by myself and not being scared as a woman in the bush alone.
[00:51:58] And then also [00:52:00] to animal behavior. And this is something I work with my mentees all the time with, is understanding animal behavior. So much of what I actually incorporate into the mentorships is about animal behavior versus photography. And so, you know, being able to know your subject and getting them to learn about their subjects and what they're passionate about and, and because I feel like that's more of my job actually is understanding the animal than actually the taking the pictures part.
[00:52:28] And so all of that, I think, you know, this, I did have a strike gold with having this relationship with Owen and Amanda and like, you know, to this day. I'll spare you the photo, but like, I just, there's a photo of them. They're, they're quite old now, and I see them every two years about, I go out to England and visit and, you know, they're dear, dear to me.
[00:52:49] They're like, you know, just a friendship that I always will cherish. But those kind of mentorships are really hard to come by these days. Right. But any time that you can get out into the field in a [00:53:00] mentorship is just, but yes, Mo and Jen have like the next best thing because she's actually able to guide Jen in the field, which is, you know, worth so, so very much.
[00:53:12] It's magic. Thank you. To interject there. I have worked with photographers who are on assignment for me, and they go out in the field. I depend upon them to be my eyes and ears in the field and to bring me that story. But we will brainstorm that story beforehand and work through those. Various shots and possibilities, but still, they'll call me from the field and say, well, gee, you know, this went up the river and that went down the river.
[00:53:44] Should I go up the river and get this, or do you know? Anyway, there are all these different scenarios and just, I mean, pardon me having two brains thinking about it, it's really helpful. So it's, it's [00:54:00] very interesting. It's, it's great being able to do that. And this, this day and age with cell phones, we can do it much more easily.
[00:54:07] Susie and I have never had the advantage of doing that, but with her foreign trips, however, but yeah. Can interject into that too, Susan. I actually encourage also the photographers to be in touch with me when you they're in the field, especially with the current new technology. You know, you can, you can nearly photo edit in live.
[00:54:29] Not that I want to, but Right. You know, I always suggest, you know, if you're stuck, call me. Let's problem shoot together and you should review your images every night and make sure and, and think about what am I missing? What else do I need to bring to the story? And then potentially call or, or text me.
[00:54:50] And we did that quite a bit, Mo and I on the Bob Whites, maybe not on a daily, but you know, there was a lot of emails, super detailed, this is what I'm doing tomorrow. You [00:55:00] know, and that's really to me a really beneficial relationship because you know, you're not just sort of, Clicking the send button and sending your photographer in the field and never hearing back until they come back and hoping that everything turned out okay.
[00:55:15] The problem with photography, it's not like words. You cannot massage, edit, and edit until it's perfect. You have to get it right the first time. So, I mean, to me it's really important to say there's, it's a collaboration. There's no issue calling me saying I'm stuck. I mean, I'm also stuck a lot. And we work together on figuring out a solution, you know?
[00:55:35] And I mean, I remember an assignment in the field where we wanted with another photographer, you know we needed this particular raptor. Eating a bug on a plant, and that never happens. So how do you show that? You know? So we came up with a dip tick you know, two photos that were going to work as an opener.
[00:55:56] But I think until we had sort of said that, and it was also [00:56:00] managing my expectations for the photographer's side so that they were not going to be distraught because they couldn't get what we had imagined in our heads, you know, which is , sort of like, no, this is what I think we should get, but let's the story, let the story happen.
[00:56:16] You know? But managing that somehow is also good because that's sort of, that's the relationship part I feel. And so yeah, I, I love the fact that you, you can nearly review, like live now. Some, sometimes, like what do you think of that? You know, like the back of the camera. I know it looks, but for important stuff, you know, for any, yeah.
[00:56:41] Well, I, I really find that, that To emphasize with the photographers that, and I mean, these photographers are on every level. They're not, you know, they're not necessarily down here. Even highly experienced photographers will utilize that, that [00:57:00] tool of staying in contact. But I emphasize the fact that I'm sitting at a desk in a room.
[00:57:06] I don't know what's really going on out there. I'm sending you on an assignment to do this, but we really don't know. I really have you in the field to find out what is out there and then come back to me with all the variations on that, but then, you know, brainstorm it while we're doing it, so, mm-hmm. . I feel like that was a big part of what when Jen and I were talking, you know, we talked just as much about the road conditions and like, you know, the logistics of getting around or things like that, that as we would about the, the, the story image that you're going for, because that then becomes a huge part of being like, okay, well then how can we think about tackling this logistically?
[00:57:49] And I wanted to say too that like, I think, you know, at the end of the day, mentorships and I, and I view like pretty much every relationship I [00:58:00] have with an editor as, as a mentorship it's you're each other's allies, you know, that's, you're, you're each other's allies in the field and. It's also an enormous, I think the other thing that comes out of mentorship is this sense of, of comfort and inspiration on all sides.
[00:58:22] Like, it, it, it's a chance to not feel so alone in the whole process of things. And, and I can't tell you how enormously comforting it's been on many occasions to be able to contact an editor I'm working with and let them know about something I'm dealing with and get that, get that feedback or that help on like, okay, well let's figure out what can we do now given these factors.
[00:58:46] And, and it's, it's enormously comforting. And that ends up making me, I think, more, freeing me up to be braver and more creative in the field. Mm-hmm. . Well, it's a partnership. That's what it is. It's not, [00:59:00] it's not an adversarial relationship. And the minute it is, get outta there. I also do like, I, I think there's an element of sisterhood to it as well that I really, truly.
[00:59:12] Appreciate. You know, with Susan, there's been an element of that. Like I said, some of it is dealing with being in the field as a woman and the challenges that come with that. And then o other parts, just navigating romantic relationships when you're traveling many months of the year. Like there's, there's a, a particular bond I think you can have with a female mentor that is not necessarily possible with a, with a male.
[00:59:40] You know, like even going back to with Owen and Amanda, Owen mentored me in many ways differently than Amanda did. Owen mentored me very much artistically and in terms of how to habituate shy animals, whereas Amanda was like, we need to get you to be a confident woman alone so that you can fly the [01:00:00] nest.
[01:00:00] Right? And so I think that there's that sisterhood component that I, that I really cherish. And, you know, I think is important to cultivate in a mentorship if you feel it's appropriate. I like that. I think that one of the things that, that has come out of this as well is that you can have that mentor mentee relationship with a really excellent photo editor that maybe only lasts for the duration of an assignment, or it's something that can end up going on and on and on.
[01:00:30] As you, as you work together I wanna go ahead and get to a couple of the questions that have come in. So Gretchen asks, what do your mentorships mostly consist of now that the mentees are well established, narrowing down photo options for a pitch or shot list ideas, pitch ideas, something else.
[01:00:47] I'll just, I'll kick it off by saying I don't feel well established . I, I doubt that I ever will. If I feel really comfortable in who I am as a photographer, then I think I'm doing something wrong. [01:01:00] So I always wanna feel. I'm un not unbalanced, that's not the right word, but like, I'm a little bit on a teeter-totter with like, I'm confident enough to do this, but I want guidance.
[01:01:13] So I'm just gonna put that out there. As someone who's in a mentee relationship with Sabine I I, I feel like we're open to anything and any troubles that I might be having, even if it feels like really beginner shit. Even if it's something where it's like, this is the mo, the most basic question that I might have for Sabine, that might be something like, how should I light this shot?
[01:01:38] I don't, I like, I, I wanna figure something out. And that seems really basic. It seems really beginner. It seems like something that I should know, but it's not at all, and I don't think that I'll ever get to the end of that knowledge strength. But anyway, I wanna open this up to the, the rest of the panelists, like, what do.
[01:01:54] I guess Susan and Susie might be some of the best folks to answer this too, because Susie is [01:02:00] this very well established person. You guys have had a multi-decade long mentorship. What do your kind of mentorship sessions look like, I guess? Well, we never had a formal mentor mentee relationship. So informal
[01:02:19] Yes, totally informal. And it, and it's continued that way, but clearly it it was never intentional either. That's the thing. No, no. Well, su you answered that question. I mean, so I mean, I think it's, as I know Susie's worked better and. As I have more experience, I'm still, I'm always a lit ahead of her a little bit. I mean, not that she's not fully established and, and hugely competent and successful but I, I sometimes like to think that I still have something to offer her so [01:03:00] well, she calls and asks questions, and I think I, I'm gonna go back to what Jamie said, first of all, about not always feeling established.
[01:03:09] I feel that. And I think part of it is just that we're always struggling to make rent. So how in the world can you possibly feel very established when you never actually leave that scenario? So like, I think I think we all feel like we're flailing around a little bit no matter how long we've been doing this and how many balls we have to have in the air in order to make a living in this career is like astounding, right?
[01:03:36] So I don't think anyone actually feels like they have their shit together. At least I don't. I do feel obviously more confident editorially than I used to. And that's largely to Susan's credit. And I wish I had a better way of, of answering this question, but this, you know, like this is gonna make Susan and Susan and I look like [01:04:00] we don't really have our stuff together.
[01:04:02] But I think a lot of the mentoring these days and the relationship. That we have, we still do a lot in terms of stories, but a lot of it is about girls who click and cultivating female empowerment in this industry. That's kind of like our, our big relationship now and that's what we, you know, we talk, Susan's on the board of Girls who click, she's a vice president and and so Susan was an integral part of me starting Girls Who Click.
[01:04:31] I'm not sure I would've started Girls Who Click if I didn't have Susan's support because obviously starting a nonprofit is absolutely terrifying. And so I think that now our mentorship is very much about how we can be of service to those around us and to our community of, of female nature photographers and, and and that's very much one of the things that's changed in my.
[01:04:59] As a [01:05:00] person is like, you know, I've always like been, you know, raised a lot of money for conservation and stuff, but since I turned 40, I've had this tremendous feeling of needing to be of service to my fellow human beings as well as wildlife. And I'm not quite sure where that's coming from, but it's something that's really deep inside of me and almost like a spiritual thing.
[01:05:18] And this is what Susan and I really work on with girls who click is how we can be of service to others. And so I think in many ways our mentorship has changed quite a lot because now we're very much partners and when I, when I have a big decision that needs to be made with girls who click, it's always, Susan is the first person that I go to.
[01:05:39] And a lot of these decisions really aren't easy. And it goes back to Susan's ability to navigate the, the network and the community and her good standing in the community because so many people respect Susan. So, so yeah. So that's, that's, I don't think that's a fantastic answer to your question, but that's the truth.[01:06:00]
[01:06:01] That's really helpful. Thank you. I think Susie's giving me far too much credit there. I, you know, she's easy to support in the, in the undertaking she has. I'm sort of stand behind her and say, yes, go for it. Do it. Go for it. You're doing the right thing. And with very few, well you do help. A lot corrections there.
[01:06:23] But anyway, , so thank you. But does anyone else wanna add anything before we jump to the next question? Yeah, I wanted to quickly add sort of some one experience I've had, you know, working with more established photographers rather than students or photographers who were sort of in the early years of their careers that often there's a pause and restart with a photographer and that person is working on a personal project or sort of taking a different approach to their work or [01:07:00] rethinking sort of generally how they work or how they tell a story.
[01:07:05] They're trying to challenge themselves. And so on occasion I've helped in then very informal for all the talk I did about, you know, being formal and meetings being very sort of informal talk. Sort of helping someone brainstorm through new approaches, a personal project that's completely different from what they used to do.
[01:07:27] And, and often, you know, sort of a career reboot type of way or you know, I'm trying this new way of photographing or I, you know, in that way I've had some successful and really interesting for me in terms of sort of the brain space in the work with, with more established photographers working on, on some sort of totally loose, informal, you know, mentorship [01:08:00] slash give me some feedback.
[01:08:01] If you don't mind, I would love to hear what you think Session. Mm-hmm. , that's really helpful. Well we have one more quest or we have several more questions. We have one more question that's sort of like, In terms of shaping things. So as a creative, I definitely find myself relating to Morgan and Jen's relationship the most.
[01:08:22] My question for the mentors is this, would you be as open to mentoring someone who is either your own age or older than you with a wealth of experience, but in different areas? So someone who brings, say, writing and photography experience to the table, but not specifically in conserv. What would you what would make you consider that type of mentorship?
[01:08:41] Morgan, Susan and Sabine, what, what are your thoughts on this
[01:08:44] Well, I mean, honestly, I, I think when I think about mentorships, I'm not at all ever really thinking about age or how much experience or what that person's [01:09:00] previous background is. I'm looking more at what they're bringing to the table right now. So there, there's usually something about, you see something in them, you see something in, even if the photography needs a lot of work, you see something and maybe in how they are thinking about, about the subjects that they're shooting and you wanna kind of help them, you know, polish that and tease that out a bit more.
[01:09:23] So, so most of, when I have form relationships with people, it's, there's some sort of like, I don't know, I shouldn't say aqua that's there, that it feels very organic and And I can, I can appreciate how like, maybe other skill sets, like being a writer or having a science background could be used to, to that photographer's advantage.
[01:09:45] But that sort of comes, that's not the deciding factor for me. I really think putting together like the best work you have an articulating like what you're trying to do very well and what you're trying to work on [01:10:00] really well. And, and, and also just like something about whatever your natural dynamic ends up being with that potential mentor is way more important in figuring out whether a mentorship's gonna work.
[01:10:18] So do you have any thoughts to add on. I, I pretty much agree with sort of aligned with Mo on, on what she said. You know, I think to me age or even specific, obviously I wouldn't feel equipped to mentor a writer if they sought some, you know, help of writing. But I've been around the publishing world in stories for so long that I, you know, to me, I would approach a story visually and, and often sort of if we agree that I can help in ways which story development as opposed to, yeah, I think the story should be this or this [01:11:00] or that, rather than, this is the way you should write it.
[01:11:04] But I always think about a story in terms of visuals. So you know, I. Sometimes I've had these kinds of informal mentorship relationship with folks out of my sort of quote unquote specialty, but it often related to more like, career decisions or, Hey, what's your opinion about I'm thinking about a career move or sort of work slash yeah, career decisions.
[01:11:36] And that's just about, you know, okay, well yeah, I'm, I've been around for a long time and this is my experience and this is what I can share. So there's, you know, there's all kinds of, of ways you can formally and informally mentor or collaborate or to share your, your expertise or your feedback, [01:12:00] really.
[01:12:02] Yeah. Awesome. That's where I am too. And I mean, to me, you know, there's a larger picture here of. My career has been about storytelling. And so I like working with writers. I like working with editors. I like working with, you know, people of different disciplines. If those disciplines end up knitting together in some way.
[01:12:29] And I think there's a lot that we can lend each other by doing that. I don't think that anyone medium is a hole unto itself. I think. They share different things just as a painting will share a great deal with a photograph. A sculpture will share a great deal with a, a photograph as well. And so it goes and on it goes.
[01:12:59] So I, [01:13:00] while I don't think I could do a full, full on mentorship, as you say I can't tell somebody how to write or how to, how to do the filming on this particular script. I can sort of work with them on the storytelling components and to think about this and, and let everybody sort of sort of move about in the box and maybe brainstorm things better.
[01:13:25] So it's a collaborative thing, mentorship or not. But anyway, it's a collaborative thing. I agree. Awesome. Thank you. We have two questions in here that kind of meld together, so I'll ask them sort of simultaneously. So Lisa, ask like, how do you recommend finding a mentor if you feel you need one, and you're starting out.
[01:13:45] And Christine mentions thoughts or advice for folks of a certain age who have worn many hats in their careers and they're only just diving into conservation photography stories. Like how do you possibly find appropriate mentors for older [01:14:00] beginners? So I think in general, when you're beginning in conservation photography, at any age level, at any point in time in your career, how do you begin finding a mentor?
[01:14:11] I'm gonna open this up to anyone. I think I can speak to that. So, , I basically just stalked people when I was, when I was younger and starting out, not Susan, I didn't stalk Susan, but I stalked Owen and Amanda and prior to that I stalked like five other filmmakers and they all brutally rejected me. And then Owen and Amanda basically took pity on me, I think cuz I was so desperate.
[01:14:36] And I was, you know, quite a keen 18 year old. So I'm, and I've actually, in my younger years, I had that strategy with, with also with the the first book that I published, which was A Future for Cheetahs by Dr. Laurie Marker. I stalked Lori at an event as well, and I just basically showed up [01:15:00] and she had no idea who I was.
[01:15:03] And I grabbed her and she was like, well, if you can wait around till the end of the event, you know, I'll give you a few minutes. And so I, you know, I had like my pictures ready to go and I sat there and waited and waited and I was like, I think at 11 o'clock at night until she had time for me, and she's like, you're still here?
[01:15:20] And I was like, yep, I'm persistent. And waited. So I think like the idea of just going for it, like, you know, you emailed Sabine and I, you know, had my stalking strategy. I'm not sure I'd, you know, suggest that, but like, just being really persistent in going for it and reaching out to people that you would like to have as your mentor and, and, you know, know that you're gonna get a lot of no's, but you might get somebody saying, yes, I, that would be my only.
[01:15:50] Advice because it is difficult to find a mentor. And to be honest, most of us are, are so busy that we can only take on a certain amount of, [01:16:00] of men mentees. Right? Like, I can't take on any more mentees at the moment cuz I'm, there's just too much, right? So it's like, think all of us, not all of us, but hopefully many of us are mentoring people and it's just a matter of finding someone who has that open part of their calendar and the, and the luck of that.
[01:16:19] So I think to just be really direct and persistent would be the way to do it. Confident approach people. Yeah. I just wanted to agree with Susie really quick. I I've also mentored a few people and I, I get requests from people to, you know, talk on the phone or whatever, a few times a month I'd say.
[01:16:43] Often I'm really busy and I just, I'm like, okay, I'll answer that later. And it just gets buried in my inbox and I completely forget about it. And it's the people often who email me like three or four times who I'm finally like, oh yeah, this person, I need to answer them this time. And then I answer them.
[01:16:58] And so I think it's, [01:17:00] it can be good to be persistent in that sense. Mm-hmm. , I think too, one thing I'd love to add in is there's, I, what I have noticed is that there's kind of a fear of just asking that there's a lot of like, how do I go about it and how do I ask? And what I found is you, you just reach out and ask you just, if there's someone that you wanna get in touch with for whatever reason, whether it's for a mentorship or you have a question about their work or their research, whatever it is, just reach out and ask.
[01:17:29] The worst that can happen is they say, I don't have time for this, or No, or they don't open your email and that's not the end of the world and it's not that big of a deal and you just move on. And so I think it is just simply to be like, I'm curious, I would like to ask about this. And I mean, I asked Sabine specifically because I felt like she would be a really incredible person to work with, and I felt really comfortable.
[01:17:50] I knew that she would give me guidance in a certain area, worst case scenarios. She's like, no, I don't have time. That's not, that's not that big of a deal. And it's not scary. And so I think it's [01:18:00] being really comfortable with the possibility that a no might happen and it doesn't mean anything about you or, or your work.
[01:18:06] It just means like that's not quite a match and you can always return to it. And also in some of the mentorships, like I have formal mentorships, like with girls who click, I'm mentoring one of the ambassadors, and that's quite formal. Every month we meet for half an hour and you know, it's very structured.
[01:18:22] We schedule our next meeting before we even get off of the first one. And and that's one way, but then I, there's also. Really informal mentorships that I kind of get involved with because someone reaches out and asks, asks me questions that I know I can help with, and they're really aware of how crunched for time I am.
[01:18:42] They're really aware of like boundaries. And they say that up front and they say, I know that this is something that you normally would do as like a paid consultation. I respect that. You know, is this okay? And I'm like, yeah, you know, this is totally informally this, this works out for whatever reasons.
[01:18:58] But I think that having someone [01:19:00] acknowledge what it is that they're receiving from me and to show some gratitude, it makes me want to be like, okay, this is really comfortable because they, they are grateful for, for what it is that they're receiving. And I think we've already talked about. You know, with Susie being really grateful and respectful of what Susan's giving to her and Susie, what you've mentioned works really well for you, like the men mentees that you have that understand what it is that they're receiving.
[01:19:24] Like to, to get that feedback every time I get a thank you, it makes me wanna do more. So thank yous go really, really far. I think, does anyone else have anything to add to this? Oh, yeah. So I know that conditions are different now because we don't have like, big events and stuff going on, but I do, I do wanna say that like, when I was starting out, especially I, I'm super, I was like super shy and kind of intimidated and overwhelmed by the world and that even like how to connect with it.
[01:19:57] Why would anyone want me in this world? [01:20:00] was a, was like something that was going through my head a lot. Like there's a lot of people who wanna be doing what I'm doing. Why would this person I wanna talk to actually like, wanna invest in me out of all those people? And, and those were insecurities that were swirling in my head, coupled with shyness.
[01:20:18] And so I had to figure out sort of the mechanisms for, for dealing with that. That felt comfortable for me. So for me it was Finding ways in which it felt like I'd been given permission to be there. So whether it was, I, you know, I had a couple scholarships that I received, and so I felt like, okay, I'm here in a specific role for this thing and, and so it's okay to be like talking to people about these things.
[01:20:47] And I didn't wanna be like someone who seemed super needy and just wanted to take or be like, Hey, publish my stuff. And then the other thing would be like volunteering or if [01:21:00] I always felt more comfortable when I felt like I had a job to do and that I could be of service to the people that I was trying to connect with.
[01:21:07] And so that became a very comfortable place and it allowed me to start to get to know people in without any like, ask really attached to it. Everything just felt way more organic. And then things like portfolio reviews, which you can, I mean, you can still do plenty of those now, but it's like as soon as you kind of like have created a space for a relationship that was within, like parameters that everyone was on, like had expectations and was on the same playing field, and then you can just kind of see what kinds of natural dynamics end up happening.
[01:21:42] That sort of opens the door to feel like it's, it's okay to like, you know, reach out again or ask a question here or there, or like see if someone has a need for something and offer to provide that for that person. You know, like finding [01:22:00] those ways to, to just feel like it was you weren't gonna be potentially putting someone out by reaching out to them, which for me was a huge.
[01:22:10] Hu, hugely helpful tool just for me, like mentally and, and, and sort of with my personality. And now I feel comfortable in so many environments. Like it's really nice. I love it. But that was definitely important when I was starting out. Yeah. I wanna mention something and I, you know, everyone can probably chime in on that at some point, but one of the reasons why I asked the question of Morgan, of what would happen for you if Jen asked you for advice and then didn't implement it, like, what would, as a mentor, what that look like?
[01:22:41] Because it gets at the point that like Jen is an exceptional mentee because she listens. She doesn't get defensive. She actually goes and implements. And so I think that with portfolio reviews as Susie and Susan kind of showed, that's a great way to start a, a relationship and look at what it's blossomed into for them.
[01:22:59] But [01:23:00] I think a really important thing With going the portfolio review route, it, it's really important for you to be open and to be listening to what that person is providing you in terms of feedback. And I know that on my end I've been providing portfolio reviews to people who, when I'm. Kind of assessing an image or I'm explaining to them why it's not working quite right and how we can change things up.
[01:23:26] There's this need to like justify it and they jump in and cut me off and get like, it's maybe not even defensive, but they have to explain to me every detail about why it is this way. And I'm like, I don't care why it's this way. I'm letting you know why it doesn't work and how we can move forward from there.
[01:23:40] And you're, you're paying me to spend time justifying your work. And I think that there's a better way to go about this. And that's not someone that I'm gonna ever want to mentor. But then I've worked with other people who come into it and they're listening and then they create a conversation around it and they're thinking about, oh, well if I wanted to do that, like what are ways I could go [01:24:00] about kind of making that frame happen?
[01:24:01] And we, and we talk about it and it becomes this collaborative thing that's someone I'm gonna mentor and probably they don't even have to ask. That's something that is, that would develop into a mentorship really easily. So I think that the breaking the ice, like Morgan said, that mechanism for breaking the ice with someone and starting a relationship through a portfolio review.
[01:24:19] Is brilliant and the way that you conduct yourself inside of that portfolio review can be an important way to, to build what turns into a mentorship. The other thing too is in addition to the portfolio reviews, there are, and I know you mentioned, you know, paying a consultant fee, right? But there are ways, like if you can't find someone who is willing to mentor you without a fee, there are portfolio development classes you can take where you can get private coaching on your portfolio.
[01:24:53] And those are good resources if you have the budget for that. They can be obviously expensive if you don't have the [01:25:00] budget, but if you do have the budget, I think those kind of things can be useful while you're looking. Someone to mentor you for, for free of charge because the, the long term sort of mentorships, free of charge can be difficult to, to cultivate.
[01:25:15] So I think portfolio review is a great suggestion. And then also there's, you know, portfolio development, coaching, that kind of thing that certain people offer as well that might help lead to something.
[01:25:28] Any other thoughts on, on this topic on how to find a mentor or how to kind of, I don't know, discover someone to work along? I wanted to add also that I think being sought out of as a mentor to me also means that the person who's a potential mentee has done some research and they have something, a project that maybe aligned with the kind of work I do or the kind of work I've mentored and has [01:26:00] really specific has.
[01:26:03] Identified how they want to be helped. That's already a, a great first step. You know, when I do portfolio reviews, I always ask what do you wanna get out of these 20 minutes, hour? Do you wanna get image to image feedback? Do you want story development feedback? Do you want career advice? As much as I can give that, what are you hoping to get out of this?
[01:26:25] So I have a frame and I know this person is not coming to me just saying, yeah, I just want you to publish my pictures, because we know that's not the way it's gonna happen. But I really like it when the person has a game plan and, and approaches me and says, okay, I know you do this, this, and this and that, and I'm really looking for help and expertise.
[01:26:45] I'm stuck. I, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna hear how I can move this forward in this project, the way I shoot conservation photography, you know, Projects about community activism, [01:27:00] whichever. That to me is a great first step to sort of acknowledge here's, you know, and, and that doesn't mean you needy, it just means that I have a clear sense of how, what this person wants, and now I know how I can potentially help that person and how much time, energy, or resources I can actually allocate to meet that need that has been spelled out to me.
[01:27:23] If that makes sense. Absolutely. I wanna actually wrap up with a comment from Christine. She says, this is such a wonderful discussion. The kindness and generosity evident in your relationships on both sides is truly encouraging and feels paradigm shifting, honestly, which is lovely and kind of, I think summarizes the whole reason why I wanted to put on this event and why I'm so grateful for all of the panelists for showing up and, and talking and being really honest about what this looks like for you because I, I think inside of conservation photography, one of the beautiful things about this field is [01:28:00] that we all have the, a bigger overarching goal that we all share.
[01:28:05] And so it makes this a very welcoming, collaborative field in general. And I think that having mentor-mentee relationships in all different forms helps to kind of illustrate that and epitomize it and to keep that moving forward. So, Thank you guys so much for being here. I appreciate you all so much and thank you all for the attendees who came and watched and were part of this as well, asking questions and kind of just soaking this in.
[01:28:33] I really appreciate you and you're wonderful. You. Aww, thank you. Thank you. Bye.
Get all the good things delivered!
How-to action plans, expert interviews, behind-the-scenes insights & more delivered weekly.