Earlier today I was thinking about just how much a few individuals have positively influenced me, photographically, from the time I first started doing photography. I really started getting into photography seriously in about 1996 when I was 14. At that time, I had just moved to a different state, didn't know anybody, and was pretty much fumbling around in the dark without much direction to my photographic education. Not long after that, though, I took a landscape photography workshop with Ian Adams and subsequently became friends with him. He was my mentor all through high school, and did so much to encourage my growth that I wonder where I would be without his influence. I think there were times his encouragement was about the only thing outside of my own determination keeping me from just giving up on photography.
There are a handful of photographers here on the LF forum who have also made a decidedly positive impact on my personal and technical growth as a photographer. What's more, this forum in general has been a great resource and source of encouragement since I first came here, which I think must have been about January, 1997.
But the point I'm driving at is that, to someone who is just starting out or is unsure of his place in photography, being mentored or even just encouraged by someone with more experience can make all the difference in the world. A few words of encouragement or a pearl of knowledge here and there, given without expectation to a student, as it were, can easily make the difference in whether someone continues an active pursuit of photography or whether that same person just abandons it altogether. Likewise, one unqualified negative remark is all it takes to bitterly kill off someone's interest for life.
I know I've been helped immensely by individuals who, for whatever reason, decided they wanted to encourage or educate me in some way. Maybe that's why, when I come across a situation where I feel someone is being unfairly discouraged from something like photography in which they've taken a genuine interest, I'm somewhat apt to take their side and defend them doggedly as a matter of principle. But I digress - there's a question coming here, I swear. Given the possible positive effect of mentoring someone, I have to wonder sometimes why one doesn't see more of it. Perhaps it is in decline? But then, was it ever that common?
Really, there's two things here. First, what I'd like to hear from the forum members are any thoughts or personal experiences involving mentoring younger photographers or being mentored by someone older and wiser. Second, I would like to challenge some of you out there to consider, next time the opportunity presents itself, personally helping out someone who's just getting started. You never know the diference you might make.