Stop the Hate Towards Brooklyn Beckham Simply Because Nepotism Exists

Stop the Hate Towards Brooklyn Beckham Simply Because Nepotism Exists

There's something I've always loved about the photography community and in the age of the internet, it's nearly a unique quality: we give constructive feedback and rarely tear in to a photographer unprovoked. It is a welcoming environment that cultivates growth, for the most part. One particular area in which all previously mentioned qualities are magnified many times over, is young photographers. Their successes are fawned over and their mistakes excused, as they should be. Unless, of course, you're called Brooklyn Beckham.

The vitriolic barrage of distaste towards an 18-year-old photographer this week has been repugnant if I'm being kind and patently unacceptable if I'm not. Brooklyn Beckham, first born to the English titans of fame, Victoria and David Beckham, announced he is releasing a photography book. The young man has had a long-standing passion towards photography and admits he much prefers being the view-finder side of the camera as opposed to the lens side. He takes his camera every where he goes and is enjoying the foetal stages of being an artist. However, through no fault of his own, this photographer still of an age that qualifies for the Youth category of the World Photography Organisation awards has been torn limb from limb along with his work; work that is almost certainly very early in his career. You would be hard pushed to find a photographer in the prime or twilight of their career that would proudly display their earliest work.

My passion ❤

A post shared by bb (@brooklynbeckham) on

I've identified numerous strands to this abuse, but I'll start with the thoughtlessness that underpins it all. A lion's share of the negativity stems from the understandable aversion to nepotism. This much I can empathize with. The problem, however, lies in the unwitting conflation of the nepotism that Brooklyn Beckham may have benefited from, and the human being himself and his work. By all means criticize the publishing house for choosing to print Beckham's book over seasoned and highly talented photographers of lesser known families. By all means criticize the people involved in cashing in on Beckham's fame via his passion. By all means criticize the myriad outlets that will promote and praise the work without proper enquiry simply because his name alone is a click magnet. What I can't abide is the criticism of an 18-year-old photographer and his work simply because he has taken the incredible opportunities his family name affords him.

We have all, at some juncture in our lives, been treated favorably because of who we know, albeit unanimously to a lesser degree. But when any person is in pursuit of their passion or ambition, they aren't likely to turn down opportunities that arise regardless of from whence they came. Beckham was offered a campaign for Burberry last year in which he came under much of the same rancorous denigration by furious opponents of nepotism and their mistaken amalgamations of his preferential treatment with the young photographer and his work. Again, Beckham's images were scrutinized for impurities or mistakes and every facet of his photo shoot process (that could be deduced from the few behind-the-scenes images that were posted) were shaken for scraps and the consequently pounced upon.

This young man has had the greatest of fortunes being born in to a family of considerable means and influence (although I suspect it has many downsides too). It is probably fair to say he has seen regular instances of nepotism to varying degrees and is likely to continue seeing them. That "unfair" treatment is cause for concern (although I'd argue inevitable in the social media era where following is worth more than gold, but that's another article) and there's a debate to be had there. What isn't warranted, is a very young artist starting on a long journey in our beloved profession having to withstand criticism that battle-hardened photographers three times his age would struggle to weather. To those who are flicking through his book and mocking the images without a hint of constructive criticism or compassion, show some class and wage war on nepotism, not a young man's passion and its fruits. You almost certainly wouldn't treat an unknown photographer of the same age in this way and this bizarre form of inverse nepotism does nothing to remedy the real problem and bears no positive outcome that I can find.

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49 Comments

i couldn't agree more

jean pierre (pete) guaron's picture

I was raised on the basis that if you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments, Robert. There are (as one might expect, I guess, these days) one or two trolls out there, who jump down other people's throats and spray vitriolic comments around the place, but mostly we can ignore them. However unpleasant they are.

But this outburst takes on a rather different aspect. What I've seen so far is an unrestrained outburst of very unpleasant remarks, targeting a young person who is just starting out in his adult life. People treated like that have committed suicide, for less. This sort of outburst is not to be tolerated.

Robert Nurse's picture

Nepotism only last but so long. I've not seen Beckham's work. But, if he's good, if his imagery is compelling, the slight of "nepotism" won't apply, will it?

David Tothill's picture

what an impossible situation this undoubtedly privileged young man is in. But, someone has got to sit him down and explain, no matter which of his talents he choses to follow, if he is serious, he will have to adopt a nom de plume, pseudonym or nickname. Then lets see how fast and famous his work becomes, or go the Linda McCartney route and never be sure if you are there because of your work or name.

Michael Comeau's picture

He's not landing work because of nepotism.

He's landing work because he delivers results.

All the articles and bitching and moaning about him magnify the exposure on the commercial photographs he creates.

That's what the brands want -- IMPRESSIONS.

And Brooklyn is providing them.

It's about math. Not art.

And the young people that follow Brooklyn on Instagram -- they don't care about any of this stuff.

Gabriele Zanon's picture

I agree! I think in many cases photography is one of the few fields where meritocracy can be applied but, not in this case: this time is only about money and numbers, Brooklyn has the numbers, and he can sell a lot more than talented photographers..

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Robert, maybe as a Brit you are used to underqualified people becoming prominent celebrities for little more than their DNA. We in America have our Kardashians and of course one of them (Kylie, Karlie, Koolio?) is now a published photographer.
With enough money and support anyone can become a published photographer, or put out an album which will be appreciated by the fans/followers. But "What I see" will be on the 75% off remainder table in 6 months.
When Brook tires of photography and looks for another son of rich guy passion it might be car or yacht racing.

Sam Hood's picture

Everywhere I've seen it advertised here in the UK its already half price before launch, shows how much confidence they have in it!

Eduardo Francés's picture

Bravo Robert great article!!! I agree with you 100%!!!

Great read. I agree 100% except with your very first sentence:

"There's something I've always loved about the photography community and in the age of the internet, it's nearly a unique quality: we give constructive feedback and rarely tear in to a photographer unprovoked"

That is actually rubbish. I find the opposite is quite true and why I rarely these days follow photo sites and forums.

Anonymous's picture

If your only exposure to "the photography community" is blogs, of course that will be your experience. But that has nothing to do with photography and everything with the psychological effects of the internet. The written word, formed by inexperienced authors, and with no context, is easily misunderstood. The resulting replies take it to another level and the composite quickly becomes something that doesn't fairly represent any of the contributing individuals.

Robert K Baggs's picture

That's a shame. I think huge portions of the internet is pretty toxic, but I've taken solace in the photography community more than once. Don't give up on the communities, just keep trying new ones.

In related news. . . the world isn't fair.

Look, famous/wealthy people just have some advantages that your average Joe doesn't. It's always been that way. In a perfect world, that wouldn't happen.

As others have said, your name will get you in the door, but 99% of the time, your work, regardless of which field, is going to be what keeps the door open.

William Howell's picture

Robert your article was an interesting read, but you are doing Brooklyn a disservice.

Here’s how you are doing a disservice, he does need criticism, trollish or not. It builds intestinal fortitude and this criticism makes for a compelling back story:

Imagine forty years from now, a seasoned Brooklyn is publishing his sixth picture book and the reviews of said book are awesome. As he is being interviewed by the press to promote his sixth book, he has this back story of nay sayers and how he got to be where he is only because of his parents... and then he says how much he loved his mom and dad, and they did indeed give him opportunities, but he picked up the mantle and ran with it, now a bonafide success in his own right!

Robert K Baggs's picture

I wholeheartedly agree, but with a caveat. There has to be a distinction between constructive and worthless criticism and for the most part, what he has received is the latter. Yes he will need fortitude and he can't just wallow in a sea of adulation, but at just 18, the way in which he becomes hardened is important I think. Having your photography openly and brutally ridiculed in the most public ways is a real baptism of fire, don't you agree?

William Howell's picture

I do agree, if you have nothing to add to the conversation don't comment.

J. Chiu's picture

smh

just because it isnt technically right does not mean its sh1t. Art work is subjective are the critics photographers or just critics. the lad states that one of his images is out of focus (blurry) but he likes it. years ago i visited an art gallery in London, one room contained brown lumps spread around the room i said it looks as if our dog had been in there. this insalation had been done by a famous artist. my point is not everybody will appreciate all the work anybody does.

Gabriele Zanon's picture

I don't agree with the article: Michael said right, is all about numbers. I'm not against the little beckam, I would have done the same thing! Who doesn't want to shoot with an Hasselblad? Who says "NO" if a big brand asks to shoot his campaign? (maybe when i was 18 yeas old.. maybe!) Who doesn't want to publish his photo book and sell a lot? No one, I think!

Maybe he one day he will shoot amazing photos, and i'll be happy for him if it happens but, for me, the quality of his work is not good enough... for now.

you are spot on. if his name wasn't becker he would never be where he is. the work that has been displayed is……well…….no comment. it's blurry because he likes it ? the pic is blurry and no in an artistic way. i could care less who his parents are, if his work is good then it's good, if it sucks then it sucks. easy as that. he is just another rich kid who got a nice camera and now is a photog. maybe he will get a turntable and call himself a dj like paris hilton does ?

Robert K Baggs's picture

Unless I'm wildly misreading what you just said, Gabriele, you said you don't agree with my article but then went on to mostly agree. Brooklyn isn't to blame for nepotism and shouldn't be subject to abuse because Penguin (etc.) are cashing in on the fact that he has a passion. He's doing what any of us would have done in his position. I've tried not to comment on the work he did because I don't think it's relevant to my point so I'll just leave that part out.

Gabriele Zanon's picture

Sorry for the typo! :D I mostly agree you're right!

Photographers and all other people who have a "bit" of envy about what he has done, should be angry with the ones who promote and push him.

Photography, in most cases, is a meritocratic work and who has done a lot of study, made the assistant for years before picking up a camera for his own works should be where the little Beckham is. Unfortunately in this moment numbers are more important than the hard work and talent.

For me he doesn't fully understand what there is behind him. he's 18, he can't fully understand. He has opportunities that one in a million has, simply luck!

I'm just sorry for him, because one day he will realize that people used him only for making some money.

The guy seems to be passionate about photography and he has been lucky enough to have to famous parents, although that is probably a mixed blessing.
Some publisher saw probably cash in the combination of his name and his photography. Good for him.
I have no opinion about his pictures. It must be hard to be this famous for being the kid of famous parents.
I have seen fine art photography pictures that looked like real shit and the critics love them while I only saw badly exposed, badly framed, badly developed and ugly pictures.

Leigh Miller's picture

Photographers sell very little as compared to celebrities/famous people. Models learned that over the past 20 years as more covers went to actors/actresses....it's always about the bottom line.

Nina Myers's picture

Thank you for saying what needs to be said. Some people here, even FS contributors, can be quite toxic as I found out in the other article's comment section.

Greg Buser's picture

In a world full of things to be outraged over, why would anyone waste time with this?

Despite this plea being very passionate, it doesn’t convince.

First, you state very clearly that “you would be hard pushed to find a photographer in the prime or twilight of their career that would proudly display their earliest work.” Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Mr Beckham does. He publishes and shamelessly promotes this book.
Secondly, yes, we can criticize his publisher, the book stores and everybody else involved in making money, but don’t forget that this book is happening because he gave his consent. He is not the innocent naïve kid that is not involved in all of this. Had he not at least agreed, if not pushed, the book would have never happened.

And then the reality is that as soon as you publish an oeuvre, irrespective of whether you are a photographer, an author, a painter or any other form of an artist, you are subject to criticism. It would be ludicrous to suggest that certain works or creators should not be judged and criticized because of their name and age. This is a rather dangerous road to follow.

Mr Beckham will make money from something that appears to be lacking depth and strength, both artistically and in terms of pure skills. He will make money for no other reason than his celebrity name. That is a slap in the face of any skilled artist, but in this day and age, it happens over and over again…

Well, his mother was a singer in a popband and his father was a footballer/ underwear model. Both make heaps of cash and so he obviously inherited the talent to make money. That is a real talent in any case which I sorely lack.

Robert K Baggs's picture

I'm sorry to hear that, so I'll try and convince you again!

Your first point: Think about what you're saying there. I say photographers wouldn't publish their earliest work *in retrospect*, Brooklyn doesn't have that luxury. This work is the best work he's ever done because he's only 18, so he's promoting the book he's made.

Second point: I agree, he isn't just a passenger in the process, but he is a guy who enjoys photography and has been offered an opportunity and I find it hard to believe his motivations were money, like the publishers.

Third point: I touched on this in an above comment. It all comes down to constructive criticism rather than worthless bashing of his work. I don't think at 18 you're particularly well equipped for the latter and it's never welcome either way.

Thank you for your comment, I appreciate any thoughtful discussion!

Adam T's picture

I only wish his photos were so good that there would be no question about talent.

As for the nepotism, I, unfortunately, think it is the single most destructive force in the photography industry, far greater then robot photogs and apps. Eventually, all the brands will just hire mediocre sons and daughters of famous people to gain instant edging in the market, why hire a person when you can get a brand.