The Business Of Photography

Image by Stephen BrayFor many photography is a path of service. It’s not service to a master, or business owner, it’s a way to contribute to the planet, or reveal the beauty contained in the universe. Wisdom and compassion may both arise when believing this.

Think of the Mr. Carson the butler in Downton Abbey. How carefully he balances the needs of the masters and other members of staff. He is firm, human, and compassionate when keeping the household on track. He helps people develop their awareness within the limits of his role.

It’s similar when you are a business owner. Business is all about relationships. Without experiencing wisdom and compassion these will appear as hollow profit-governed mechanics and manipulations. True relating means finding aspects of yourself in others, recognizing them for what they are, and liberating them from enslaving wants and needs, by recognizing their source, and thus creating something of lasting satisfaction.

Business practices and tasks vary. To become better at business requires a commitment to self-discovery. When you perform at your best, both with respect to the services you provide and the ways you deliver, you begin to experience the joy of living. This has the power to influence others, perhaps even helping liberation to find them.

This doesn’t always mean offering services and products for free. Nor does it mean that you must extend long lines of credit. Indeed it’s not good to let others become indebted because resentment and guile frequently aise in the face of unpaid bills.


Compassion sometimes means having the faith that people ultimately pay up, but sometimes you may not directly reap the reward of your labour. If someone can save enough time, or make sufficient money, using what you provide they are able to afford your services but even then not all will remunerate you for your time and effort. Learn from such experiences and move on.

Whenever possible you use the data, information, and knowledge, you have about your customer in order to wisely overcome the limited self-belief that gives rise to their problems.

Many in business don’t think like this. They develop products and services that meet peoples wants simply because that seems the easiest way to make a profit.

Whilst there’s some merit in that approach, it leaves out two important elements. These are your customer and you.

Rather than relating to people directly, profit driven business people relate simply to mass problems. There’s less merit in doing business in this way because it disconnects your customer and you from your essential natures, which are essentially both one, and also at the core of living. Experience becomes reduced to abstract analysing abstract statistics, rather than experiencing the fullness of life.


Wisdom, is far more than a way to engage with the world. True wisdom is self-wisdom. Self-wisdom is the ability to understand your essential nature. To see, hear, and feel your connection to others, and the world and know it as one unbroken experience appearing as if in time and space, is thought by many to be ultimate wisdom.

According to the Dalai Lama compassion is the wish for another to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness. It’s a simple definition, and it doesn’t matter who first thought of it. When this mantra finds itself within you, and you, in turn, experience the grace to let it work its magic through all levels of your business, then you may become a successful artist.

By enjoying our thoughts, others, society at large, and our natural environment we become larger people. The world seems to live within us, rather than we within it. The people we meet reflect aspects of our totality. We meet them with an open embrace, but if they seem to attack us, or attempt to take us by surprise we are ready. We anticipate their move, and let their strength become their tipping point.

Then, with a smile on our faces, we take them by the hand and place them once more upon their feet, where they feel not so much thrown, but rather restored to their dignity.

How do you live like this?

Express Your Original Face

You remember.

You remember your original face. The one you had before you were born into a land of other people’s dreams, ideas, complaints and conditions.

That original, clear, unbroken, wholeness is still there. How could it not be so? It’s simply that generations of, well meaning, relatives and teachers have said you must disregard it. That was their way, but did it make them happy?

Wisdom and compassion are powerful and universal. They make lives complete. They continue to fulfill, even experiencing extreme conditions such as concentration camps, prisons, or places where people endure other kinds of torture.

Experience The Beloved

A business is a wonderful opportunity to experience miracles. It’s also a challenging discipline through which you can discover your true nature as you solve problems without succumbing to anxiety, hatred, jealousy, greed, or creating something purely for profit that might only bring misery into your life.

Sebastião Salgado: The Silent Drama of Photography.


Leo Burnett, Effective Advertising From Chicago

Leo Burnett is the name of a world wide advertising agency. It was started by him in August 1935. There was him and a staff of eight, and they were based in the lobby of Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel. His staff were seated round a card table.

It was a remarkable decision because Burnett was already in his forties and had never been in business on his own account previously.

Leo Burnett founded a style of advertising that came to be known as the Chicago School. David Ogilvy claims that the only other agency outside of Chicago to understand the School was Ogilvy and Mather.

The Chicago School identifies with the American Mid-West. It saw the cowboy as symbolic of American values. Indeed it was the Burnett Agency who put together the iconic Marlborough Man, a series of advertisements that both established the brand, and ran in various forms for 25 years.

Burnett was well qualified to run an agency, having trained in journalism and been a copy-chief for ten years, as well as previously working in the advertising department of Cadillac.

As he got older, Burnett got better and better. Why was this so?

Quite simply he as passionate about advertising as my daughter is about riding horses. The whole business, the words, the graphics, the concepts, the clients, and the results, engaged him fully.

In terms of the creative process he is remembered for saying these three things:

  1. ‘There is an inerrant drama in every product. Our No. 1 job is to dig for it and capitalize on it.’
  2. ‘When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.’
  3.  ‘Steep yourself in your subject, work like hell, and love honor and obey your hunches.’

Leo Burnett stated:

“During the 36 years I have been in the agency business I have always been naively guided by the principle that if we do not believe in the products we advertise strongly enough to use them ourselves, we are not completely honest with ourselves in advertising them to others.”


Some may criticize Burnett and his agency for being associated with advertising smoking for so long after the effects of smoking on health came into medical knowledge. Burnett was a smoker who came from a different generation to advertisers of today. His legacy remains with the company he started. Like Ogilvy and Mather, Leo Burnett, (the contemporary agency), use his signature as their logo. In doing so they are standing behind his belief in simple, sometimes vernacular, language with homely archetypal graphics.

The mission of today’s Leo Burnett agency is:

‘To be the world’s best creator of ideas that truly move people . . . bar none.

Together with our partners we strive to put a meaningful purpose at the center of our clients’ brands, to transform the way people think, feel and ultimately behave.’

It might well be the stated aspiration of a great artist, rather than the founder of an advertising agency.

When Leo Burnett died at aged 80 his agency was twentieth largest in size across the world. Today it is number eleven, and number eight in the U.S.A. The headquarters remains in Chicago.


A Tribute to Art Director Henry Wolf

Whenever people ask who is the greatest influence on my graphic thinking without hesitation I reply Henry Wolf. The image above featured on the invitation to  ‘Trees and Sky‘, an exhibition of photographs by Michael Eldridge and I in 2010.

Born on May 23, 1925 in Austria he fled his country of birth with his parents to avoid the persecution of Jews in Hitler’s Germany.

After a period of military service, with American forces, Wolf became art director of Esquire in 1952. Later he worked for Harpers Bazaar, Show, and the advertising agency McCann Erickson.

Wolf’s images all share a surreal style. They benefit from being made to today’s computer enhanced technology. Today, though, I have no doubt Wolf’s studio would be equipped with the latest digital equipment.

I produced this image, somewhat, in Wolf’s style. It was used as the background to the opening invitation to the Trees and Sky Exhibition hosted at Netsel Marina Gallery in 2010.

In 1971 Henry Wolf Productions, his studio devoted to photography, film and design was launched.  In a speech titled “What’s Wrong With Magazines”, (reproduced in Print magazine in 1965), he insisted, “A magazine should not only reflect a trend; it should help start it.” Today, no doubt, he would say the same for material prepared for tablets and other web based graphic devices.

Wolf died on February 14, 2005.

Wolf was a master of what he called Visual Thinking, which he defined as ‘methods for making images memorable’. He identifies seventeen of these in his book. I used two of them here. Can you deduce what they are?


Photography and Awareness

Each person must find his or her own path. Nonetheless,
seek guidance from wise and compassionate people and
listen to them earnestly. This will help you find the best
way to proceed – now and in the future.

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa.

Photograph by Stephen Bray

 When I began photography I had no idea that it could have a spiritual dimension. It was magical, of course, because it seemed a way to represent reality without the effort of drawing, or painting. Later, it became a way to meet girls, travel, and inform others.

But photography, particularly in this digital age is also a way to receive instant feedback about who you are when you know how to read the signs.

Most photographers are unable to deliberately pursue this course, because it requires surrender rather than attempted mastery.

Frustration arises when the white impression of a hair appears as an otherwise perfectly crafted image emerges on paper in the developing tray. More commonly, in these digital days, similar emotions arise when it seems impossible to correct an error made at the time of exposure using the latest image editing software.

These difficulties are information coming back from the eternity from which our self-identity has appeared. They point to a lack of self-knowledge as much as those errors in image-making. Often faults, such as the hair, or the poorly exposed digital file, may be traced back to preoccupations with our illusory selves as we prepared the darkroom, or made settings upon our cameras.

Sometimes disappointment rises to the point of anger, or desperation. In a way, this is good because it focuses our attention upon the dream of separation. It’s not the darkroom, chemicals, or camera that is at odds with creation but us, in the form of our self-image.

The very best photographers know how to get out of the way of their creativity and simply allow pictures to come. As a result their camera becomes like a ‘third-eye’ through which they see clearly. Experience hones technical skills, which now seem automatic. They know that their images are as much about them as the imaginary outer world that seems to present itself to be objectively recorded.

A few go so far as inject this insight into their work by including themselves as figures within the frame, but it’s not necessary to do so in order to learn from your photography.

As this journal develops I will share some insights into the work of notable photographers, as well as display my own work and write about the way of photography.

I hope you will enjoy what you find here.

An Interview with Photographer Stephen Bray


Reflections on the ‘Trees and Sky Exhibition’, Marmaris 28th May ~ 10th June, 2010.

Some time in February 2010, before we thought of creating our Trees and Sky Exhibition, I asked Michael Eldridge if he thought a photographic image might have the ability to heal?

I was thinking of how, so I am informed, the traditional shamanic doctor-priests of Tibet would sometimes prescribe mandalas that were prepared to heal people of their afflictions.

In a troubled age of self-worship, acquisition, and horror, which often presses photography into its service, Michael and I attempted to assemble a collection of ‘honest’ images that convey the basic beauty and simplicity of life.

I hoped that some of these may have an ability to heal.

There is no doubt in my mind that whilst each image in ‘Trees and Sky’ can stand alone the collection benefits from coming from both of us.

Children came here in groups and we helped them to make photographs and see in new ways.

People who once made photographs using film love our exhibition. It reconnects them to a world prior to digital editing software. All of our images have benefited, somewhat, from digital enhancement, but nothing was attempted that could not previously have been achieved using chemical processes.

Painters remark on the framing of the images. They like our use of colour, tone and perspective. For them our photographs are not about photography but about capturing the essence of the scene, just as they attempt with brush or pallet knife.

People who only know digital photography are more critical. The images lack a surreal quality, they claim. Hungry for more pizazz they fail to examine the photographs as new information and allow them to do their work. Instead they attempt to understand them as a tableaux of digital techniques. Of course this can only lead to disappointment because they fail to relate to the images because they have deconstructed them in an attempt to fit them into what can be achieved technically.

For Michael and I life is already a fabulous dream. It doesn’t require digital enhancement. It is sufficient simply as it is and our photographs bear witness to our experiences. No hurry, no pressure, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired. That’s all!

I’ve no doubt that some people have started to heal as a result of looking at our pictures. Many have immersed themselves within them before talking of a family illness or some other trauma with which an image enabled them to connect.

Others, unfortunately, live in a deep trance in which they are identified with all the ballyhoo of a high pressure, fashionista, consumer lifestyle. It will take more than one exhibition to awaken them.

The pictures, so simple in their subject matter and technique, subtly point to archetypes we all can recognise if we give ourselves the time to disengage from the frenetic pace of today’s cyber-lifestyle and once again appreciate the obvious.


Children’s Photography Workshops.

I’ve been running some children’s photography workshops in conjunction with TEMA, which is The Turkish Foundation For Combating Soil Erosion, and is dedicated to preserving the Country’s woodland.

Classes from local schools attend. First they visit the gallery and look at the large images that Michael and I made near his home in Italy, and mine here in Turkey.

Then we talk about them.

The children are quick to pick up that the pictures are different from the ones their parents take because the pictures in their family albums are mainly of people.

They like the images in the gallery which they think of as ‘nature photographs’.

Later we conduct some simple perception experiments by focussing on our forefinger and noting that the background has become fuzzy. Some children even report that the background seems to move further away, which is an accurate description of their perception because our eyes focus in a different way to cameras.

The real task starts when the children make a simple viewfinder with their hands and fingers and begin to find subjects they may wish to photograph.

Toward the end of the workshop I help them to select a subject and we take a picture of it with my camera.

The photograph is then printed on a sheet of high quality digital photographic paper using archival quality inks. It has a wide border so all the class can sign their print.

Here are some examples of the images made during the workshops.


Here are three of the images we made at the ‘Trees and Sky’ Children’s Workshops.


When The Guards Like It You Know It’s As Good As It Gets!

In June 2007 I visited Istanbul Modern to see an exhibition of photographs by Andreas Gursky. These super-large digital collages were a great success here in Turkey.

How do I know?

Quite simply because I noted that the security guards at the gallery were carefully examining each one and talking together about what they saw.

Believe me a security guard is unlikely to have a degree in fine art. On the other hand those guarding galleries have probably seen everything from large nudes to abstract daubs.

When they start to relate to work I know it to be good.

Imagine my delight then when Mücahit Kazancıoğlu one of the guards at Netsel Marina paid us some visits and enthused about our work.

“I always used to carry my camera with me”, he said. “Now I will begin to carry it again.”

“Who knows maybe one day I’ll be a fine-art photographer too?”


A Small Miracle At The Trees And Sky Exhibition

Cloudscape by Michael Eldridge from Trees and Sky

This is one of Michael’s images from Italy. It is predominantly a cloudscape. The blue is a lapis lazuli, deep and saturated. The pinks and reds blend perfectly. What more might be asked?

A doctor came to the gallery today. He came with a midwife. The sun was setting bringing with it a coolness when people in these parts venture out and explore.

I looked at Michael’s picture. The sun was reflecting on  it masked with a natural gobo.

It seemed in some way that heaven had opened and God’s face was visible for those with eyes to see.

Variation on an image by Michael Eldridge, from Trees and Sky.

A ‘gobo’ is a cut out mask used by photographers to create shadows of a specific shape in studio contrived images.


Michael Eldridge Shares His Message At The Opening of ‘Trees and Sky’

Stephen Bray, Irem Bray, Michael Eldridge ~ Trees and Sky, photo Jobey A Butt.

Stephen Bray, Irem Bray (translating) and Michael Eldridge at the opening ceremony for Trees and Sky at Netsel Gallery, Marmaris, Turkey. (Photo courtesy of Jobey A. Butt.)

“The purpose of this exhibition is very simple. It is our attempt to help people reconnect with their environment and the planet.

“I would like each of you every morning to really look at a tree, to examine it closely, and to also see what’s up there in the sky.

“It’s really that simple”

Michael went on to express his appreciation of all the love he had received since coming to Turkey, as well as the practical support accompanying it from artisans who had done much to ‘fix’ last minute glitches, often with no more than a moment’s notice.


Michael Eldridge and Stephen Bray Discuss Trees and Sky on Marmaris Radio Park FM

Stephen Bray and Michael Eldridge under the banner for their Trees and Sky show at Netsel Gallery Marmaris

Stephen Bray and Michael Eldridge under the huge banner at Netsel Gallery, Marmaris.

“Only one day to go and we’ve only put up the banner”, said Michael Eldridge.

“Inşallah Michael”, I replied, “All will be cool!”

“It’s all these interviews and radio shows wot’s causing the delays”, Michael retorted.

“Ah but you said some way fab stuff on Park FM Marmais today Mike”, said Stephen.

Do you agree?

Stephen Bray with Michael Eldridge outside Netsel Gallery. Marmaris, Turkey.

Not much work getting done. Too much foolin’ around, but lots of fun, just as life should be!