In my career I’ve worked various jobs for different sized organizations. I’ve worked for a mom & pop shop to a major global corporation and everything in between; office politics were always a part of the day to day. Whether it was management with questionable credentials or outright hiring family members, nepotism and cronyism are such a part of the business world that you’re bound to come across it at some point or another and the Photography world isn’t any different.
Earlier this week, Brooklyn Beckham, spawn of former Spice Girl turned designer, Victoria Beckham and football star, David Beckham, announced the release date of his first Photobook published by Penguin. It wasn’t long before the Internet was up in arms about how “unfair” and “unjust” it was that Brooklyn was “given” a book. It was yet another toll in the death knell of Photography as an art form – after all, Brooklyn has no formal training; he hasn’t paid his dues like every photographer that’s come before him. The Internet in it’s collective wisdom had decided that this one of the worst cases of nepotism in the history of modern art. Truth be told; we’re all full of shit.
As of this post, Brooklyn Beckham as over 10 million followers on Instagram – which is to be expected of a celebrity account. His followers (from my quick 5 minute glance of his page) are engaged and though mostly not art critics, many can appreciate his interpretation of Photography. While Brooklyn may not have a day’s worth of formal training under his belt he not only practices the craft but has managed to carve out an audience for the images that he’s creating. Would he had gotten his Burberry spread had his parents not been the internationally known Beckhams? Probably not, but he still needed to take the opportunity.
And that’s what we’re really talking about here; we’re not upset that Beckham has a book but he got an opportunity. Consider this: his being born of rich and famous parents has garnered him various opportunities that those of us who weren’t born with such privilege might never see. It’s a privilege that many Photographers abuse when we look at new Photographers of non-famous backgrounds; denying them the opportunities to professional practice their craft because they’re not a part of inner circles. Friends, we’re not mad at nepotism, we’re mad at privilege.
How many times have we overlooked privilege when it’s benefitted us? As long as it’s been good to us, we’re likely to turn a blind eye. Too often we allow our own conceit to trick us into believing we’ve earned every opportunity presented. It’s never about the connections that some of us were born with or the financial circumstances that allow us to pursue the work that we do. Before passing judgement let’s try to remember the last time we’ve extended an opportunity to someone just getting started in this industry. Maybe, just maybe, the next generation of photographers will be discovered based on talent alone.
If you’re looking for a photo book with black and white images of daily life but Brooklyn Beckham isn’t quite your speed; consider picking up A Beautiful Ghetto by Devin Allen. A Beautiful Ghetto beautifully displays the spirit of Baltimore through the stories of its residents, their struggles and the beauty of their resistance against racism in America. Allen’s work has been featured in on the cover of Time, New York Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and may other print and online publications.