Interview With Photography Mentor Geoff Ang [NSFW]

Interview With Photography Mentor Geoff Ang [NSFW]

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Photography is a lot of fun, but it can also be a very lonely journey filled with worry and self-doubt. It is important to surround yourself with other like-minded artists and people who inspire you and that you can learn from.

Such a person for me is Geoff Ang. I got to meet him a year ago and decided to go through a mentoring program with him called, "2.0." Through his mentoring, I feel like I have progressed so much more than I would have on my own.

Up front, I’ll say that I don't mean for this to sound like a sales pitch. I went through a mentorship program with Ang, and it was (and continues to be) a really great experience for my photography career! I hope this article gives you some insight into who Ang is and what his approach is. This just about my sincere appreciation for the mentorship I received.

Ang is a Singapore-based photographer who shoots regionally around Asia. He has been shooting for the last 29 years and specializes in advertising, beauty, fashion, and fitness photography. He is also a brand ambassador for Profoto, Leica, and Phase One.

A year ago he started Raw, a community for photographers. He founded this community out of frustration, looking at the amount of people wanting to be photographers, and realizing these photographers often where hobbyist who left their day jobs to pursue their dream of photography only to be confronted by the harsh realities of the professional photography world; and they end up having to undercut the market with lower rates only to give up and return to their day jobs and leave the mess for the professionals to clean up.

He knows he cannot stop these people from coming into this amazing career, but he believes in helping them stay in it longer and that together everyone can be a better photographer and thrive in this ever-changing scene.

So in his small way, he wants to effect change and educate and help these photographers to be the best version of themselves.

When asked why he wanted to start mentoring other photographers, Ang said:

Ever since I started GeoffStudio in 1997, I have been mentoring photographers, be it young photographers or my assistants who want to learn from me and crave a career for themselves. In the days before digital photography, the craft of photography was a steep one, one that needed an certain amount of skill to be able to get things right in-camera; and the ability to learn photography is nothing like today with the access of YouTube and the Internet. Learning was best done with a master whom you apprentice for and pick up the trade the long and hard way. Today, photographers learn mostly online in a very impersonal way, and they lose that intimacy and front-row feeling of learning."

Through the years of being a known photographer in Asia, he has gotten lots of emails from photographers who ask him for advice and to critique their work, and often they are all lost and seem to think that he has the receipt for his success. And so he started to break down his career and what made him succeed and created a program to help photographers to have a better chance of making it in this world, because he often feels that most photographers are their own worst critique as they are emotionally attached to their own image, but they may mean nothing to an art buyer. He wants to build complete photographers — ones that are competent both in the hard and the soft skills. And so with that, his 2.0, the photographer’s coach, program was born.

Ang's own father was his mentor, and it was tough love at its toughest. His work was never good enough, and he constantly had to prove himself, which proved useful when it came to facing how brutal the real world of photography is. One has to be able to deal with constant rejection and not let that pull them down. To him, seeking out a mentor is important, as you’ll be able to have constant reliably good feedback. “You may spend 10,000 hours at something, but if you are doing it wrong for those 10,000 hours, you won’t be improving," Ang said. "You need constant feedback from someone who has the right set of skills and experience to adjust and tweak what you have done to better the next image. From there, slowly but surely you will improve.”

He also mentions that aspiring photographers are usually surrounded by loved ones who will always say how great they are even though the truth of the matter is sometimes that they just are not. He believes that the right mentor would be one that understands hard love and is honest and truthful. This allows their mentored to start their journey on being the right kind of photographer for both the market and the photographer him- or herself.

Finding a mentor is not always easy, though. “Look for someone who you admire and want to be like, make sure your mentor is someone who is willing to teach and is not stingy with education,” Ang advises. If you find someone you like, just reach out and ask. After all, no one ever got hurt from asking. Show that you are hungry and committed, as commitment is an integral part of any mentorship. For Ang personally, he needs to see that someone is committed to the path they have chosen and wants to succeed before he is willing to take them on. He also prefers if they have at least a decent body of work for him to be able to work and tweak with for them to evolve and grow.

As a mentor, he believes in not holding back and sharing everything. As an ambassador, he actively educates and shares his technical experience, but he also recently started touching on the subject of being a photographer. There are plenty of articles out there on lighting, composition, and camera techniques, but the aspect of the psychology and psyche of the photographer is what fascinates him. He truly believes that even if you are a technically strong photographer, if you do not possess the right attitude or emotional intelligence, you are not complete as a photographer. In his 2.0 program, he starts with an interview to assess the photographer to see if he or she is in the right stage of his or her career, followed by a long questionnaire to not only allow him or her to get to know them, but for the photographers to also understand themselves better by articulating on paper.

They will then go through an intensive portfolio review with him to smooth out kinks in their works and themselves, and those two need to be aligned to further push them into a new version of themselves. He will also "mindmap" their career and run many different exercises that Ang created to let them see what they have not seen about themselves. Lighting and retouching will also be a subject he will touch upon to provide mentees with better fundamentals so they can thrive in any condition put forward to them. However, he takes extra measures to make sure that they learn in a way that gives them a strong understanding of fundamentals so they will be able to inject themselves and their style into what they learn and not be caught in the typical mentor-mentee relationship where they end up being a similar version of their mentor.

A majority of the time, Ang's mentees go to him when they have reached a roadblock in their photography. According to him, he is like a doctor seeing patients at the worst day of their lives. Understanding that he has his work cut out for him, he also sees massive potential for change. After his sessions, he hopes that his mentees get a renewed sense of confidence and believe in themselves and that they are able to achieve what they hope for.

Personally, after going through the course with Ang, I find the most useful part of the whole program is having the 24/7 access to him for any sort of advice, whether it’s for a job or passion project. His has given advice that has helped me in approaching my projects both technical and emotionally. As he would say, rather than spending thousands of dollars on the new camera or lens that won’t necessarily improve your pictures, finding a good mentor is akin to spending money on the photographer who takes the pictures.

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5 Comments

olivier borgognon's picture

Blimey ! talking about my master and friend... So amazing to read about Geoff here !

Geoff Ang's picture

:)))) thank you, fellow master,​ Oilvier

Alex Lancashire's picture

It is great to read about real artists. Great work.

Shavonne Wong's picture

thank you! (:

Alex Lancashire's picture

Love your work. Most of mine is silly video for You Tube ( https://youtu.be/YveDNbH-UTU

) I aspire to be as good as artists like yourself.