At least once a week someone asked my advice about photography, about turning professional or how to get work published, but the questions, 90% of the time, revolve around equipment – “What cameras do I need to turn professional?” and “I want to get into portrait photography, but I can’t afford the same lens you use”.
Years ago, when I was just starting out in photography, I would buy a lot of magazines. A lot. I’d flick through them and the first thing I would do is find out what gear professional photographers were using at the time – cameras, lenses, film…even bags! I made the mistake then, the same one that people make now, in believing that if I used the same gear as David Bailey or Sebastião Salgado then my photos would be ‘as good’ as theirs, which is of course ridiculous. In fact, when I was in my late 20’s I used exactly the same Leica M6 and 35mm lens at Sebastião Salgado, did my photographs look anything like his? No, they did not, because I didn’t see things the same, I still don’t.
So my advice is always pretty much the same – ‘good portrait and documentary photography has very little to do with equipment and technique. Spend a year learning how to use your camera, whatever camera it is, and then devote the rest of your life to learning about people’.