Into the scene

Brook Ready on what it takes to be an up-and-coming photography assistant In the three and a half years I have been assisting in Auckland I have seen a lot of new faces come and go but only a small core seem to have permanently established themselves as full-time assistants. Because of this it s nearly as important to get to know this network of  busy  assistants as it is the photographers themselves. We pass work around when we re unable to do the jobs ourselves. Joining associations such as the AIPA as well as working or hanging out at hire studios is a great way of meeting photographers and other assistants alike. The main reason for this relatively quick turnover of new assistants, I believe, is an underestimation of the actual work involved in top-flight photography. Assisting is the most effective culling process for the industry, quickly ousting those who are unsure or in two minds about photography as a realistic career choice. Too many times I have seen new assistants (mainly students) given the opportunity to work on a professional shoot quickly realise the amount of work and hours involved and lose interest. This and sitting around texting on their phone is not the way to get rehired by any photographer. New Zealand s assisting scene is not the easiest industry to get into; being relatively small many photographers have their regular or favoured assistants they work with. The only way in is persistence. The offer of coming along to help on shoots, calling them enough times that they know you won t go away and waiting for that one opportunity when the regular assistant can t make it are all key means to entry. And phone, don t email, otherwise you re just one of many. If you have studied photography that s fantastic but don t expect doors to fly open for you, it s not qualifications that make a great assistant. I sometimes worked for free helping on a photographer s portfolio shoot —I d do a good job and they would get me in on the next paid job to thank me for my effort, and then most times I was in with a chance for more work. It also gave me the time to learn how to use the equipment in a more relaxed environment than on an actual shoot. Learn photography software, stay relatively fit, keep on top of your financial situation (you re a business now) and always keep shooting in your own time. Whilst this may all seem like what you have to give to get into assisting, don t forget your self worth. Don t work for free for long periods, you may only be carrying things around or holding a reflector but the extra man (or woman) power is invaluable and so is your time. Photographers should feed and water you whilst youon the job, use down time to get to know the photographer and learn from them. Lastly —absorb like a sponge. We are lucky enough to be working with world-class photographers here in New Zealand, so make the most of it. Expect long hours, travel, to carry lots of heavy gear and meet some amazing people. Enjoy.

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