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.
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.