I am not a “self-taught” photographer

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“Meet my friend Saurabh, he’s an amazing photographer from India and his work has been published in various reputed newspapers and journals worldwide like NatGeo, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, etc. Astonishingly, he’s a self-taught photographer and very passionate about his work”

Recently, I was touring Europe to meet some friends and this was a kind of introduction I got in their social circle. Even, in India this is a common way friends and family introduce me to someone.

Isn’t using ‘self-taught’ has become cliche in creative fields? Actually, it has become more like a marketing thing to promote yourself these days, even to an extend that artists with a proper college degree have started calling themselves as ‘self-taught’ to look cool on their social media profile/s.

The word ‘self-taught’ strikes me to think about some of the great inventors like Wright Brothers. In Dayton Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright were working on their own airplane. Only they didn’t have a lot of money. They didn’t have a team of world-class talent — not a single person on the team had a college education let alone an advanced degree. They didn’t have the best materials. Heck, they were operating out of a bicycle shop. But they had passion to experiment and to do everything from scratch and to make their dream into reality. On December 17, 1903 the Wright brothers took man into flight for the first time.

Today, we are living in a very convenient world where learning anything to everything has become very easy and on the go. Thanks to all the wonderful educators out there who spend hours to create DIY blogs and youtube tutorials. There’s no more rocket science if you’re willing to learn. Well true it’s kind of self driven study and one needs to be motivated all the time but isn’t that true for all kinds of education? I don’t remember learning anything new from attending my MBA lectures then also I learnt a lot researching on YouTube and Google. I don’t call myself a self-taught MBA then why should I call myself self-taught photographer. I think calling yourself a self-taught photographer means that you bought a camera and straight away practiced on it without learning from all that content available out there. Also, it shows how dis-grateful you’re to your photography mentors!

So everytime, I got introduced as a ‘self-taught’ photographer, I intervened and say that I am not a ‘self-taught’ photographer and am learning photography everyday by watching YouTube tutorials and researching about great photography projects and great photographers and studying from powerful photographs. Thanks to all the brilliant photographers and educators who are not afraid to share their knowledge and spend huge amount of time to create such easy to understand learning content.

Today is the World Teachers’ Day and I feel grateful to all the wonderful people who have shared their knowledge with me both in person and in the virtual world. Here’s a list of people from whom I’ve been learning all about photography. They all are truly my gurus of photography. Happy Teacher’s Day 🙂

  • Ted Forbes — He runs a youtube channel called ‘Art of Photography’, where he shares a great insights about photography beyond the golden triangle. Especially, I love his artist series where he interviews photographers.
  • Chase Jarvis — Well he does a lot of things besides being a great photographer. I learn a lot from various interviews he has done for ‘30 Days of Genius’. Also he has given me my favourite photography quote ever “The best camera is the one that’s with you”
  • Aaron Nace — He’s my go-to man to learn all about photoshop and lightroom via his youtube channel Phlearn.
  • Ian Norman — Everything I know about astro-photography is through his blog Lonely Speck.
  • Babak Tafreshi—His instagram account is my source of all the latest news about night sky and about importance of preserving the dark sky.
  • Eric Kim — He introduced me to composition in photography. I love his opinions and find his way to teach photography very honest via his blogs.
  • Steve McCurry — My daily inspiration for some powerful photography.
  • Martin Schoeller — The idea of my on-going long term project #WidowsOfVrindavan came from his portrait project ‘Homeless’.
  • Sanjay Narayan — He’s a Delhi based commercial photographer. I assisted him for couple of times and I’ve never met a photographer as honest as him. He taught me a very important lesson about photography that it changes with every inch.
  • Jimmy Nelson — I have learnt a lot from his work on tribes and how he connects with people without even knowing their local language.
  • David Alan Harvey — If you dream to create your own photobook someday then just follow his insta stories and I’m sure you would end up making one soon.
  • Chris Burkard — He’s a true story teller and I learn a lot from his travel and behind the scene stories about making photographs plus he shares a lot about his personal life too.
  • Serge Ramelli — He’s the master of post processing. I mostly follow his LR workflow.

About the Author

Saurabh Narang is a multi-award-winning photographer and a creative consultant. Over the years, he has worked with fortune 500 companies, filmmakers, and renowned NGOs in different parts of the world. He has also been published and exhibited globally. find his work at his website and Instagram. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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