How to Protect Yourself From Toxic Photographers

Most photographers are generous with their knowledge and supportive of others. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Here’s why a toxic minority gives all photographers a bad name and how to deal with them.

We have come across them all. In the comment section of an article, on an Internet forum, in photo clubs or at work, toxic photographers are an unwelcome reality.

Much of the toxic behavior we see online is often racist, sexist or homophobic, and sometimes ageism also comes into play. For all reasonable people, this kind of behavior is always unwelcome. Unfortunately, there are those who have attitudes that should never have been acceptable and certainly not now in the 21st century. For example, articles on this site highlighting misogyny within the industry always generate a bunch of trolling comments. Fstoppers gets good at eradicating it. Still, it’s a difficult balance between allowing discussion of opposing viewpoints and taking away a platform from hate mongers. The same annoyance occurs in many online groups, especially those where moderators and administrators do not object.

But it’s not just prejudice against people with recognized protected statuses that photographers face. Anyone can be a victim of meanness, and it’s not just online.

The following examples all happened, but I’ve changed the names and situations slightly to protect the victims. I’m sure many readers will recognize at least one of these circumstances that happened to them or someone they know.

A few years ago, Mo, a novice photographer, mentioned to me that he had asked online for tips on how to photograph a local event he regularly attends. He wanted to take his camera for the first time and then share the images with the people he met there. In the camera forum where Mo had posted the question, he was met with an angry tirade from two professional photographers saying that if he were to ask that question, he shouldn’t photograph the event. Mo was not doing it professionally, but only to help others. He came to me and I showed him the simple things he could do to get better shots, which he did. These angry pros are still lurking in the forum and pounce on newbies with simple questions.

At a photography club not far from my house, the president, a professional photographer named Tony, always judged the photos. Ali was a top notch member and photographer. Ali wanted to start earning money from their work, but never won the competitions. Consequently, Ali’s confidence was shaken by constantly being passed over for the top spot. Ali’s friend, Pete, who was winning regularly, noticed this happening.

One month, they each entered their photos in the contest. But, this time, their entrees bore each other’s names. Pete’s entry from Ali’s photo won. Pete and Ali have both left the club. Now Ali is a successful professional photographer. Tony lost his presidency at the AGM and disappeared into obscurity.

At another club, Gordon judges photos during competitions. He is a competent photographer, but constantly belittles the work of contestants. Recently, Gordon destroyed a young boy’s confidence with a harsh and unfair review of his work. Therefore, the boy stopped taking pictures and the club is losing members.

Jo is a fabulous photographer and works in the studio. Amber, the studio’s business manager, doesn’t thank Jo for her work, never encourages her, and constantly makes fun of her in front of others. Amber repeatedly told Jo that she was no good. Even when Amber’s instructions were wrong, she blamed Jo for her own mistakes. The bullying even led to the director undermining Jo for a long time at the owner of the studio, and then defeating her. This led Jo to suffer from depression.

Luckily, a client noticed Jo’s work and offered her a job at a photo agency. In the meantime, the studio’s reputation has plummeted and it is now struggling to recruit or retain staff. Their bad reputation also caused them to lose customers.

Tam was a member of an online photography forum. As soon as Tam gave advice, posted a photo, or helped someone, longtime band member Steph would disagree, make sarcastic comments, or simply rephrase the advice Tam had already said. Steph then took credit for coming up with solutions that Tam had already given. Everyone knew it was happening, but no one did anything. Tam is gone and now helps photographers elsewhere. Steph is now an admin of the group and goes after the other victims. Since then, more established members have also left this toxic forum.

Daniel is a professional photographer with an exaggerated idea of ​​his worth. He goes after others online, especially those who are more successful than him. Claiming superior knowledge as a result of his long career, Daniel delights in belittling the authors of photographic articles. Uninvited, he also offers shoddy reviews of others’ photographs. He’s subtle about it and careful not to choose the same person or website all the time. However, Daniel doesn’t realize that others in the industry are making fun of him. He also loses job opportunities because of his behavior.

We’ve all come across situations like this and people who are only happy if they make other people’s lives miserable. We’ve also read comments from those who gush bile and think they’re essential members of a community because they’re often the loudest and that way they stand out. Because they dominate the environment in which they operate, it bolsters their ego and their already inflated and delusional sense of self-esteem.

So what can we do to eradicate this horrible behavior? The good news is that, as you can see from the examples above, Newton’s third law seems to come into play: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. So when they mistreat others, it amounts to biting them in another way.

It should also be noted that, despite their noise, they are in the minority. For example, the articles here have thousands or tens of thousands of readers. Someone could write a long acidic comment. However, they may represent 0.005% or less of that article’s readership. They might get a handful of likes to their comment, but those supporters are still a tiny minority compared to the friendliest people in the world.

But there are still victims of abuse. Despite the way the world almost always treats perpetrators, these victims need support. Unfortunately, most people hide and do not defend the victims. But if you do, it can make a huge difference. If you are in a position where you have a responsibility to stop this abuse, then please act on that responsibility.

If you see people being attacked, do whatever you can to support them. Be nice to them. Whether privately or publicly in an online comment, a few words of support can make a huge difference. Then report it. Who you talk to will depend on the situation, whether it’s a senior manager, a team of internet forum administrators, or even the police. Standing up to bullies and showing that their behavior is unacceptable in a civilized society is the only way to defeat them.

If you are a victim of this kind of abuse, report it too. Otherwise, tell a friend. If you need help, ask for it. But, in the end, sometimes the only thing you can do is walk away and find nicer people around you.

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