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.
i couldn't agree more
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.
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?
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.
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.
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..
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.
Everywhere I've seen it advertised here in the UK its already half price before launch, shows how much confidence they have in it!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 ?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
clients are buying into his how many insta followers ?
the fact our world seems bent on selfies and narcissism it's no wonder clients are using him as they do anything/anyone they can to sell which is fine
just like good looking people or famous people in ads ! heck even in cartoons they have to use famous actors voices
its not HIM that is the issue its the audience that created this !!!!
agree with someone above let him be a fake name and see what happens :)
but again why if you can leverage what he has we all would be doing the same thing !!!!
most are jealous I reckon
when you look around you see stuff that is freaking amazing from people who will never get that break into the spotlight and some that get it handed who are good or bad and wonder why
drive through a intersection and get hit from a car running a red ? that is your answer sometimes things happen in life
people win the lottery people get hit by a car crossing the street ?
life goes on :)
more power to him and everyone :) !
Just chiming in, I have not seen his work, nor do I care if he is a Beckham and that is the only reason he gets hired. I certainly dont slight him for that, I do slight the studio/client.
That said, it does come off as a bit pretentious by releasing a Photography book AND doing a book signing at the age of 18 when no actual "paying dues to the industry" has been done. I would feel extremely uncomfortable and completely vulnerable in that situation.
The only person that would do that is either someone who A. is purposefully looking to get the extreme critique and use it for personal growth and future projects....or B. Extremely Narcissistic and not really in touch with the world. "Everyone just LOVES ME...here is a book I signed for you!"
Personally for me the signing part is just the worst. You wanna release a BOOK as a first project without getting out there with other real world jobs for clients.....go for it, I guess.....but a book signing? I mean really that is 100% cashing in on the name.....if he changed his name to Mike Photographer, no one in the world would go to that book signing of a new amateur 18 year old photographer....unless their work was absolutely stunning and in which case they would still need to be propped up by some famous/industry names telling the world to look at this person.
There is nothing wrong with people getting hired on name recognition only, but it is up to those people to understand the gravity and responsibility that comes with that. I read a great article about Kevin Durant helping shoot on the sidelines of the Super Bowl (https://www.theplayerstribune.com/kevin-durant-super-bowl-50-photography/) of course he only got that chance because he is Kevin Durant...however, the article shows that he used it not as a launching point for his photography career, but as a moment to LEARN and stand with PROS and understand the nuance....which I think he got (according to the article). Also, he didn't show up to that shoot with a Leica or a Medium format Hassleblad just because he could afford one and he is famous.....but a Canon 70D....a guy like that can buy 10 Canon 1DX's all day....and notice he is using a prosumer level camera, because he is not just holding a shiny thing for the world to notice him with. Im not saying Brooklyn using a hasselblad is a problem either if that is the tool required for what he is doing. More looking at you John Mayer and your damn leica!
Everyone needs some space to breathe; new and well established artists included. I find support is always better than criticism. I wish him the best and hope that he knocks us over with his images.
I think that doesn't matter who you are, you have to grow in the field, making boring things and wait until you're ready. For what I see, he's not ready. I think a lot of people have the same impression, that's why there is a lot of debate on what he has done.
His work is average at best. I feel fine saying that as no matter how average he is, he will be more successful than most of us will ever dream to be. Not because of what he does, but who he is. He may be able to shake that off and establish himself, and I really hope he does. However at 18 he has a long way to go. That only comes with experience.
In an ideal world the most talented person will get famous and will have succes.
But we all know that in every business, including this one, it is the people that do that business the best that will get succes, and not the people with the best images.
In every city and country, there are photographers with limited talent and mediocre pictures that are very succesfull because they are good at promoting themselves and have a talent to communicate with clients. They will deliver an acceptable quality that satisfies their clients.
Using celebrity/fame to promote yourself rather than experience and hard work can get you the top job in America. We could call Backham the Trump of photography.
There are thousands and thousands, if not millions of talented people that never become famous because they don't have the exposure. Having talent is not enough in itself.
Classy post and such a nice change from the endless negativity and begrudgery that's all too common on the internet. Of course his name will help him get started on his photography career but unlike the offspring of many successful people who themselves become "successful" simply by working for mummy or daddy's company, young Beckham will need to be good to succeed as the quality of his work will be the ultimate arbiter. I wish him well.
yep. just gotta know someone. talent doesn't matter sometimes.
Considering this young man is clearly very keen, he wants to learn and it's not about the money, with his parents connections I'm surprised he's not working as an assistant to someone like Testino or Leibovitz. Make tea, sweep floors, soak in the experience...
I agree, especially the part about influence and his name being a click-magnet. There are tons of celebrity kids venturing into photography, the other one I know off the top of my head is Christie Brinkley's daughter Sailor who is going to college for it. I read somewhere her first shoot was with a very large publication that most young photographers would only ever dream of getting their foot in the door with. At the end of the day, it's not about the photography work itself but about the influence and promotion the celebrity photographers can do for a given brand. Ten thousand followers from Brooklyn's Insta account after he posts a photo tagging a company or publication is worth a lot more than hiring someone more experienced to shoot for them.
If you look on Insta or twitter the advertising module is teenage girls posting products that brands send them for free and getting 100,000+ likes on mediocre photography. It hasn't been about the actual photography in ages. Not since social media blew up.
In regards to photojournalism versus advertising: at the end of the day a telling image is a telling image no matter how much money or connections the photographer has. It's the way we see. It definitely sucks to have to work 10x harder than someone who is just given all of the proper connections but then again I'm sure there are people who had to work harder than I did to get what I worked for. Nothing is ever "fair".
Who can forget the flack of criticism from other photographers when Princess Kate was given honorary lifetime membership by the Royal Photographic Society in recognition of her talent.
Gonna just leave this one here.. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/lostinshowbiz/2017/jun/29/not-b...
In his case, there's no need to call nepotism, it is clear he is genuinely passionate about photography, regardless of if he is good or not. We all know the benefits of connections, we all have sought for it, and used it to get further, so the problem isn't nepotism.... the problem is when the person isn't even in the photo industry, nor has any intention to be, they were simply handed an opportunity because they are famous e.g. Kendall Jenner - I understand why people had a lot to say about she being allowed to shoot the cover of a well known magazine, despite no demonstration on her part that she is passionate about photography or remotely interested. But Brooklyn's case is totally different..... give him a break!