When someone told us it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, we decided that we’d dedicate our lives to teaching people something new in just 10 minutes. Today we’re talking with Italian born and Mexico City based photojournalist and street photographer, Alex Coghe.
Via his website, Alex documents his work, offers one-to-one portfolio readings, and sells and gives away his prints. Can talking with fans one on one improve your own skills? Does everything look awesome in black and white? We asked Alex a few questions to get the benefit of his many years of experience.
Your website describes you as a “photojournalist based in Mexico city.” Can you elaborate on that any further? What is an average day for you like?
There is nothing more than this to explain what I am. I am a photojournalist, working freelance most of the times, although sometimes I collaborate with photo agencies. I don’t forget, however, the second part of the term. I am a journalist, working as a correspondent from Mexico, writing articles about politics and lifestyle in Mexico.
If I were to describe a typical day you’d get scared: there’s a lot of work. But the most important thing is remembering to go to take pictures! Hahahahaha!
Thankfully now I have a manager, so I can dedicate myself completely to my projects.
Your website is visually striking. Is that a result of your artistic background? A desire to stand out online? Or perhaps a combination of both?
It is the result of the great work of my friend and webmaster. We worked together to build the website. There was one thing I knew for sure: I wanted the site to be red and white! I have a desire to stand out online. I am always one out from the pack. It is a natural path for me.
Obviously the use of images is integral to your site and its success, and your background lets you use them well. Are there any other sites out there that you feel use images in an interesting way?
I don’t love to talk so much about the work of others. That said, I think many times there is not a good balance between pictures and content. Many times there are more interesting blogs on Tumblr. But one good good example is Yanidel.net.
When it comes to marketing yourself, which aspect of social media have you found works best for promoting you and your work?
I believe in ideas. I don’t think some application in particular can help to promote you better than your work, your ideas. This is a big difference that many people don’t understand. You can emulate someone, you also get to steal the style. This will not lead you to success.
If you are a mediocre photographer you can also make the most beautiful site in the world, but the images will not lie. Nowadays we can read blogs with articles that are a meatloaf of copied content from other sites. You can fool the less thoughtful, but not the attentive audience. If you say you are a photographer, you have to prove it. If you are a writer, you should have the talent.
Any fool can install a plugin. But the idea, the talent, the approach makes the difference.
You offer quite a few free downloads via your site. Has anything in particular proven popular? If so, did you take anything from it?
I strongly believe in knowledge sharing. I bring only what little I know, but right or wrong it is something. My first eBook, Street Photography, is downloadable for free. There are many grammar errors in it, but it is a genuine product. English is my third language but I knew I had to use this language to reach more people. Then someone attacked me for this eBook, for my bad English.
And that someone in twelve years has not learned a word of the language spoken in the country that has hosted him, so you know this is just the price of success.
What has happened to this free book is a success that is confirmed every day. I can monitor it through the statistics on my blog, but also through others confirmations. This ebook is being corrected now. If even for a single person it has been helpful, I am glad.
In relation to the previous question, would you advise this course of action to other content creators as a way of promoting oneself?
I would clarify that I made this for my will to share my knowledge. Of course there is also a part of self promotion involved, but it is not the focus. My marketing strategy can work for me, but I don’t know if it is the same for others. By the way, if you asked me if proposing stuff for free is a good thing, I would say yes.
It’s noted that you also do photowalks and portfolio readings. Has this personal interaction affected the way you engage with others online?
Workshops more than portfolio readings, so far, and I think a one-on-one workshop is the best way for my students. I am giving also workshops in Mexico, and recently I have given two in Italy. But the best formula is me and a student. It is something more personal and more dedicated. I love to teach, because it’s a great opportunity for me and my students. I learn a lot from my students. It is a interchange. It is always an opportunity for growth.
In regards to the photowalks, has anything you’ve seen or been told by a client on one of these walks took you by surprise or been noteworthy?
Many times I am surprised by my students. The last one was a Mexican girl, really talented. She has a important project and we will present this through my blog. I’m happy for this.
Have you learned anything from how people who perhaps don’t have your level of expertise approach street photography on these walks? Has it affected how you in turn teach or discuss the subject with others?
As I said, I consider my workshops an interchange between me and my students. It is not a one-way thing. I can learn something also from absolute beginners. My teaching technique changes, evolves and for this I must thank overall my students.
Your site includes an ongoing street photography manifesto in which you’ve expressed that you’re looking for input from readers. What has the response been to this? Would you recommend crowd-sourcing information from readers and fans to others?
I hope someone saw the irony on that post. I am not interested to give guidelines or rules; do what you want if it works for you. But maybe it was a response to too much confusion that exists in many people claiming to do street photography. I am sure just about a thing: You can’t call it street photography if it is not candid.
You can check out Alex’s photography for yourself on his website, read his words on his blog, and see how Tumblr looks when it’s done properly.