It’s a dicy issue to talk about. But there comes a time when you have to move on with whatever mentoring relationship you have with someone you respect and admire. Knowing that “right” timing is very key to your growth as an artist or individual.
When I got back from America and decided to venture professionally into photography, I met a few potential mentors. One will still remain a mentor till this day: Kelechi Amadi-Obi. Though known by a few to have his own issues or “weaknesses”, Kelechi is someone who has built a brand you will consider successful. Though some will argue that he has been “over-celebrated”, one thing that stands him out from some other top photographers is his desire to share his knowledge wholeheartedly with any hungry soul. Coupled with the fact that he has a track record very few Nigerian photographers can compete with, this has made him a photographer many enthusiasts and young professionals will love to be like “when they grow up”.
That being said, I’ve known a few people who believe that he’s not all that. One apprentice even confessed to me that the last day she worked with Kelechi was the day she witnessed him take pictures of NAKED women. “How can he engage in such an ungodly act”, she exclaimed. That was something the apprentice could not comprehend as “right” in her christian mindset. Truth is it isn’t something my christian mind can comprehend either. As a minority in my family, I have the privilege of being surrounded by 3 beautiful female beings; I do not need to see any more naked textures of a lady outside my family. My mind is just too creative to remain stable after my eyes have feasted on………..
That being said (or should it be “that being written”), relating with a mentor like Kelechi for me can be likened to eating shark fish; you need to sort out the bones and eat the delicious flesh. Very few people I know are picky enough to consider it too much trouble to eat most fishes or meat because of too much bones. In some cases, the bones are even digested after the main meal.
Relating with a lot of my mentors has been a continuous & deliberate act of focusing on their strengths instead of digesting their weaknesses. However, you can choose to be like my cousin who does not like eating chicken at all because of the stress of going through the bones. You can choose to dislike a mentor once you discover he/she has a weakness that your stomach can’t seem to digest. When such a reality dawns on you, it is expedient for you to quietly “FIRE” the mentor rather than have the weakness torment your relationship.
By “FIRE”, I’m referring to a way by which you will quietly close the door on the relationship instead of “SLAMMING” the door. You never can tell when you might need to go back through that same door. Besides, relating with mentors should also bring to your reality that they’re also as human as you are and sometimes with more flaws than people know. It is better to quietly end the relationship than to be an agent that specializes in marketing the weaknesses of others. What you sow, you will reap.
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like for those that look up to me afar off and when they finally join eloPhotos as interns, they realize that I have serious issues I still struggle with. They know my weaknesses and still decide to stay their full tenure. Can’t they see that I can be a workaholic who sometimes forgets that he’s married with 3 ladies to cater for. Can’t they see that I have a weakness of spending my last N1k to watch a movie called ELYSIUM even though I’ve watched it twice already. Can’t they see that although I studied Accounting in an American University, I still can’t make my balance sheets balance. They see all these and still choose to stay.
If the knowledge of your mentors’ weakness becomes too much for your soul to bear, its time to make a decision that might help save your soul. It’s time to become a distant fan and not a close protegee. I’ve had to become an admirer to at least 5 of the people I once considered mentors. For me the deal breaker is when the weakness is a major character flaw that I consider inexcusable (e.g. lying, cheating, adultery, etc). It’s just hard to see that person as someone I’ll like to be like when I grow up.
Severing the relationship can be painful but slamming the door on the relationship can cause more harm than good. When you get to the crossroad where all you see constantly is that person’s weakness, perhaps you should consider prayerfully FIRING the person. Its way better than bad-mouthing the person in front of others.
Perhaps I might be wrong on my stance. Perhaps I might be right. It’s your call to decide if this mentor of yours will FOREVER be your “role-model”. Or what would you do if you discover that your mentor of integrity confessed to embezzling bank funds entrusted to his care? What will you do?
Your Photography Mentor in need of a BlackBerry Q10,
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