Monthly Archives April 2004

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I was overjoyed to be asked by KelbyOne to be this week’s Guest Blogger! Kelby Training/KelbyOne has been a fantastic help to me over the years, and it has always inspired me to improve, setting a benchmark for where I would like to be in the future.

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This got me thinking about the past five years and where I began, where I hoped I would be by now and where I see myself going from here. Reflecting on your career history makes you stop and think about past achievements, failures and what you can do to keep pushing ahead to reach your next goals.

If like me you always want to achieve more, sometimes you pass over the goals you reach because you have already set new ones. I always said five years ago that as soon as I became a published photographer I would feel like a success, except, my work got published and I still wasn’t happy and felt that I could improve.

It seemed that as soon as one goal was met, it was already surpassed with a new one – a harder one – to continue to push myself and to try and stay in the forefront of people’s minds.

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Recently, I was approached to be sponsored by a brand but I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted, so I turned it down. “Is she crazy?” I hear you ask… Maybe! The fact was, even though they have great products, their business goals didn’t match with mine and I could see there being conflicting interests later on down the line. I could have said yes, and who knows where this may have led? But my instincts were telling me to hold off and continue under my own name, not someone else’s.

After nearly six years in the industry, I am at a point now where I can choose what opportunities I feel will be best suited to me individually and my personal development and growth, and that is exactly what we should all be doing.

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We all have our own journeys and each path we take is our individual decision and shapes our future accordingly.  We have all been guilty of taking below average offers because we thought that was all we were worth at the time. When you first start out, there is a necessity to do unpaid work to gain valuable experience – but the key is to not let it stay that way!

Thankfully, we all improve quickly thanks to technological advances in equipment and software, but especially with online learning platforms such as KelbyOne and seminars and hands-on workshops.

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You should be able to see the improvement in your work, even if it might take you longer to see it than others.  A great way to track progress is to keep a separate portfolio of your best 5-10 images each year and just explain a little next to it why you chose those images. They don’t have to be the ones that you were paid for or that someone else liked – this is for YOUR own development.

I found that once I looked back and saw how far I had come, it gave me a sense of self-success, a feeling I hadn’t stopped and appreciated before.

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We all get down days, and in this industry there are many. This is why we need to stop and look at our own achievements, however small they might seem at the time, and notice our own incredible abilities and self-worth.

Plans and goals are important to make but I got so wrapped up in trying to always achieve the next goal that I forgot about just enjoying the here and now and really taking it all in.

Photography is horrendously competitive and can be exhausting at times to maintain, especially keeping up with social media too. Your online presence (both website and social media) is incredibly important and that is an area I am working on improving this year.

My next goal will be offering workshops in Beauty and Fashion Photography after my ‘test’ workshop days went wonderfully well. Teaching is something that has always interested me but has taken a little time for me to feel confident and ready – now that I am, I am excited what the future will bring!

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Lastly, please remember that we shouldn’t measure ourselves against others; we should only measure against where we were, where we are and feel excited about where we will be next.

So take a moment today, look at your amazing portfolio of work and remember, we all are continuously learning on our own individual journeys- just make sure you enjoy every moment of yours!

You can see more of Sian’s work at SianRobertson.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Throughout my journey to impoverished countries all over the world, one trait has reigned true: warmth. No matter what stressful situation or unknown location we find ourselves, there is always good people we meet among the madness. The old saying goes “A few bad apples spoil the bunch” and I find that to be very true, especially in places that have been riddled with war for decades. Good people are everywhere, even in the darkest of corners of the earth. These good people are responsible for uplifting others and guaranteeing awareness of the problems that many face, every day.

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When I was first offered the opportunity to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia I was really unaware of the problems and issues that plague the city and the country as a whole. On the minimal available information I had been given, it was tough to surround my brain around our mission. There is so little knowledge, I was forced to dive deeper and I only scratched the surface of what I would eventually come to find.

It all started with my friends at Nadus Films and their “Give A Story” grant project. We give a grant to those world-wide foundations that need it most. The grant provides the opportunity to document, capture and provide the right tools, so these initiatives can raise awareness and gain traction for further funding. Our project in Ethiopia focused on a foundation titled “Youth Impact” which provides shelter, food and a solid path for homeless children located in the city of Addis Ababa.

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Due to famine and communist civil war, nearly 60% of Ethiopia, Africa is under the age of 18 and of that demographic nearly 100,000 children are completely homeless and suffer from tremendous injustice. Poverty, addiction, prostitution and disease. Some children, just 6 years of age roaming the streets of the city. There is an extreme lack of leadership, parents and grandparents. It is a country of youth.

I knew the project would involve children who have struggled. Children who have stories and I wanted to tell their story the only way I know how, through imagery. I decided to form a portrait series of homeless street children as well as people that have grown through the Impact program. I wanted to bring the aesthetic of my portrait work blended with a journalistic mood. That style involved creating a custom 3×4 canvas solely designed from the ground up for this series.

Upon arrival at the Youth Impact shelter the initial mood wasn’t shock, but difficulty. The shelter was small, similar to a one floor ranch-style two bedroom home. The front yard was piled with random rusted debris and the back porch was a concrete dorm with open doors and ropes covered in wet clothing. The shelter is completely surrounded by a 10-foot concrete wall which was embedded with shards of glass; an inferior barbwire.

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We didn’t have a system to rig the beautiful 3×4 canvas, so we grabbed what we could from the pile of wreckage on the alley-way next to the Youth Impact shelter, a cracked wooden ladder and trashed twin bed frame. Using a Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp, attached to the backdrop draped over Manfrotto 2983 Adjustable Background Holder Crossbar, we linked the clamp to another Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp and attached it to the debris. Using a combination of Gaff Tape and Zip Ties we secured the bottom of the backdrop to avoid kick up from wind.

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The light setup was simple; a Profoto B2 Location Kit attached to a Manfrotto 026 Swivel Umbrella Adapter which we attached to a Manfrotto 680B Compact Monopod for complete mobility. The Profoto B2 head is modified with a 46” Photo Softlighter II, the softest source of modification I’ve ever used. Luckily, I had two trusted assistants who spoke enough broken English to understand my instructions of feathering the light and keeping the strobe consistently directional opposite the sun.

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Youth Impact has blazed a trail for dozens of successful business men, architects, carpenters and artists. Once homeless, now-adults had been saved through the Youth Impact initiative. I wanted to capture not only the current children living through the shelter, but also these blossoming people who had so much to owe to their mentors. It was a humbling experience to photograph this community that has so much to say, but no voice. Hopefully, this series provides that voice that they so yearn to have.

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Behailu Kassanhun – Orphan, joined Youth Impact, he has since graduated with a College degree and teaches Architecture.

 

 

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Amanual Haile – Orphan, joined Youth Impact at the age of 12, he has since graduated College.
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Genet Fantanhun – Orphan, joined Youth Impact at the age of 14, she has since graduated College and is currently a Elementary School Teacher.

 

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Kidist Tesfaye – Orphan, joined Youth Impact, she has since graduated College and is currently serving at a local hospital as a nurse.

 

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Yemisrach Tesfaye – Orphan, joined Youth Impact at the age of 12, she has since graduated College and is currently serving at a local hospital as a nurse.
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Dawet Daneyl – Runaway, joined Youth Impact from the streets of Addis Ababa, he left his home in Ghana to find work in Addis Ababa.

 

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Mubarek Abedela – Runaway, joined Youth Impact at the age of 16 from the streets of Addis Ababa, he left his home to find better work.

 

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Sebesebea Akalu – Runaway, joined Youth Impact from the streets of Addis Ababa, he left his farm in Ghana to find a better life in Addis Ababa, which resulted in homelessness for over 4 years.

 

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Habetamu Fentetahun – Runaway, joined Youth Impact from the streets of Addis Ababa, he left his farm in Dessie to find a work in Addis Ababa, which resulted in homelessness for 2 years.
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Alem Kere Tiehay – Runaway, joined Youth Impact from a tough life on the streets of Addis Ababa. He has been jailed 8 times for alcohol related crimes. He left his farm in Ghana for Addis Ababa.

 

 

 

It was a true honor to hear the stories behind these young adults, who have so much to offer but, nearly had zero foundation to create a life. Fortunately, Youth Impact has provided a reachable dream and given the ladder of victory. Built upon a dark past, they are the future of Ethiopia.

You can see more of Clay’s work at ClayCookPhotography.com, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

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