5 Lessons Vince McMahon Can Teach You About Street Photography

If you don’t know by now you should know by now I love street photography as much as I do pro wrestling or what it’s called today aka Sports Entertainment. I have a deep respect and appreciation for WWE’s CEO Vince McMahon who is the mastermind in making wrestling what it is today on a global scale. The ole’ man is 70 years old and can outwork any millennial today and that is why Vince is where he is at STILL today. There are many things you can learn from Vince McMahon  that can help you become a better street photographer.

WWE Monday Night Raw In Las Vegas

 

Workaholic

You gotta outwork your opponents, your rivals, your colleagues if you want to be a step above. Vince rarely gets any sleep and is very hands on and ingrained in every process of the business from producing the Live events, to talent relations, to sales and overall branding of the company. The needle still moves at the helm of Vince’s approval. Even though WWE is a monopoly in the world of sports entertainment, Vince is still not satisfied and that I have a lot of respect for.

So in your street photography approach, don’t get complacent. Out work everyone by challenging yourself in your photography, push limits, and shoot all day when you can (the street photography gods will reward you).

Be A Creator

The world we live in today is about creating engaging content at an expedient rate.  Vince McMahon and the WWE was doing this for decades and all wrestling fans take it for granted (RAW is the longest running drama on TV). If there’s one thing I’ve personally took to heart from Vince is to be a creator. Create content, create stories that’ll move people and have them talking forever, create personalities that people wish they could be or act out in public.

In this day and age, you can’t just take photos and be satisfied with that. The internet and social media is flooded with street photographs and if you want to stand out you need to provide something above and beyond. If you want to let your photos do the talking that’s fine as well but it’ll probably only reach within the street photography community and nothing more than that. You can’t just be a good photographer anymore, you need to provide something on top of that, maybe it’s being a great photographer and educator through your workshops, or a great photographer with an interesting personality so perhaps vlogging is the way to go. Whatever the case may be…taking photos and posting them is not good enough. Just like being a great wrestling technician in today’s world is not good enough, you need to be able to connect with the audience and so do you as a street photographer. You are unique. Figure out what makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Do What’s Best For Business

Always do what’s best for business as Vince would say. If it makes money and if it’s what the people want then give it to them. Put your ego to the side and make something happen and everyone can walk away happy. Working with crazy personalities with the day to day grind on the athletes, Vince has had many falling outs (and lawsuits). However, at the end of the day if the deal is right regardless of what happened in the past, put it off to the side and make it work if it’s best for you and your company.

For you as a street photographer, always do what’s best for you. Now you may just be a casual shooter and not necessarily a business but do what’s going to propel you as a street photographer.  Take workshops. Buy photo books. Network. Travel. Be spontaneous. And at the end of the day leave your ego at the door.

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Innovate 

Back in the 1970’s wrestling felt “Real”, it looked “Real”. And no one really knew. Then came the 1980’s when Vince fully inherited WWE after the passing of his father. Vince had a vision and wanted to make wrestling more on a global scale, back in the 1970s it was just in small territories, down in the south, up in New York, in Japan, etc, so the exposure wasn’t all there. Vince had a different vision for wrestling and saw it more as entertainment, creating lively and colorful characters that resonated with kids ultimately changed the direction of wrestling forever.

Then came the 1990’s. Culture was different, Music was different. Many things have changed in society and wrestling had to evolve as well…which was the birth of the Attitude Era (the most popular era in wrestling). Then the mid-2000s was the Ruthless Aggression Era. Through these waves of changes Vince was able to sustain it all and adapt, innovate and reinvent the wheel.

In your street photography, if you’re used to shooting up close Bruce Gilden style then try go a bit wider and incorporate lines and geometry like Henri Cartier Bresson. Always experiment with different focal lengths, subjects, and how you post-process your photos.

Grab The Brass Ring

Vince is always preaching to his superstars to grab the brass ring. Take charge and be the leader that company can rely on. The Hulk Hogan’s, The Rock’s, The Stone Cold’s, The John Cena’s….Guys that can carry the company into a promising future.

Although street photography has spiked in popularity within the past several years..it’s still a fairly a new subject matter that most of the general public do not know about. There’s still a window of opportunity to influence the genre through your work and/or be the street photographer advocate similar to what Eric Kim has been for the genre.

Keep in mind everything has been done at least once before, however, if you can grab a piece from this photographer and a piece from that photographer and really mold it into your old by adding your final touch you will have something that will breathe for a long time.

Conclusion

If you need to empower yourself go subscribe to the WWE Network for only $9.99. Jokes aside, I hope this article can help you move your street photography forward.

Lessons “Shinsuke Nakamura” Can Teach Us About Photography

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Continuing of my wrestling and photography analogy blogs. This time it’s on WWE’s rock star Shinsuke Nakamura. Shinsuke recently got called up from NXT to the main roster of SmackDown Live. He’s one of my favorite wrestlings on the roster, he has a unique personality, he takes his craft seriously, he knows what his character is, and he’s somewhat of a underdog. I was worried that his success in NXT wouldn’t carry over onto the main roster but the fans both loyal fan base and those that are new to “The King of Strong Style’ have really embraced his arrival. WWE and the creative team has done a good job thus far, by being somewhat careful with the way they book and build Nakamura but also push his limits and ease him into the spotlight (doing promos on Live TV, his English is decent at best but he makes it work). Here are some lessons Shinsuke Nakamura can teach us about photography.

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Let your work do the talking

Nakamura’s is not known for his english for obvious reasons. He’s from Osaka, Japan, and have been wrestling in Japan for much of his career until WWE signed him early of last year. Generally in the US, if a wrestler doesn’t have mic skills or isn’t able to connect or interact with the audience their success rate is zero to none. Nakamura’s over the top personality and natural oozing charisma instantly connects with fans. He’s mastered the art of body language.

Gamble on Yourself

Shinsuke was at the top of New Japan Wrestling, making waves and headlines all around the world. However, he needed a new challenge and heading over to the US to NXT was a leap of faith. Traditionally, international wrestlers, especially ones that have an accent usually gets buried in WWE. By adding a stereotypical gimmick and end up on the consecutive losing ends each week. Despite all those pre-historic factors, the only way Shinsuke would know is if he took that chance. Showing that he has a lot of confidence and faith within himself to make it work in the WWE. Be bold!

Similar with your photography, take chances, try new techniques, travel somewhere you’ve never been before, somewhere that doesn’t speak your native tongue. Have faith in your own abilities.

Seek Inspiration

Seek inspiration outside of your profession. Shinsuke idolizes Michael Jackson, on how he’s a perfectionist and treats everything from the singing, to the moonwalk, to the wardrobe, as an artform. Shinsuke is the same, from the drawn out charismatic entrance, The vibrant red leather jacket and pants. The long hair with one side shaven off. To the facial expressions, the smile, the stare, all the way down to his in ring ability.

By seeking other artists or other inspiration outside of photography it may open doors for you the next time you go out and shoot. Perhaps it may inspire you to create a body of work that evokes the same emotion as a musician or painter. It is always good to learn about other crafts and philosophies. If Steve Jobs inspires you because he is an innovative creator then find out how you can be an innovative street photographer. If Peyton Manning inspires you because of his relentless preparation and efforts then apply that same relentlessness in your street photography. Shoot the streets from dusk to dawn, research on your lunch breaks, weekends, wake up an hour early, do whatever it takes.

Be Different

Don’t be the norm, don’t do the norm, don’t follow the herd of sheeps. Stay away, be different, you are unique! Regardless of what anyone says about you, you are special. People will always have an opinion of you and your photographs! If their feedback is not constructive then let their voices or words go through one ear and out the other. Be you and follow your heart. Lots of people love Nakamura’s personality, style, wardrobe, everything about him. He is very much different than anything we have seen in WWE…EVER! However, some people dislike him as well. They don’t understand him or why people are so enthused about him. They aren’t able to relate. He can’t speak English. He is annoying. He is predictable. So on and so forth.

Don’t worry about the facebook likes, amount of instagram followers, the stats, the competitions, or if Bruce Gilden said your photo is trash. If you like the photo, defend it, stand by it, don’t crumble due to others. If the photo speaks to your heart, your soul, and resonates with you, defend it.

Lessons Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Can Teach You About Photography

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I enjoyed writing the post on “Lessons Stone Cold Steve Austin Can Teach You About Photography”, and will continue this wrestling and photography blog series.

This second wrestling/photography post (IDK what to call it) is on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (I know him as The Rock). The Rock was at the peak when he and Stone Cold Steve Austin were wrestling together in the Attitude Era, when wrestling was at it’s best because there were competing companies (now WWE is a monopoly).

It took The Rock a while to connect with the audience and rise up to the top. I believe all of us can really learn a thing or two from him, he is the highest paid actor in Hollywood per 2016. Here is my analysis.

Rocky Maivia

Be Yourself

When The Rock debuted in 1996 in Madison Square Garden at Survivor Series, he debuted as Rocky Maivia. A combination of his father’s first name “Rocky Johnson” and his grandfather’s last name, “High Chief Peter Maivia”. Debuting on one of the major pay per views of the year, in New York City, and helping his team win the match, was a strong indication that the company (WWE & Vince McMahon) thought very highly of him. The Rock is a second generation superstar and former collegiate football player. He had all the athletic tools and capabilities to be a successful sports entertainer.

His persona as Rocky Maivia, was a happy go lucky guy, who just…well happy to be in the business and nothing more. Fans got bored of watching this happy go lucky guy week after week and fans started booing Rocky Maivia. The WWE officials took Dwayne off the wrestling schedule for a month or so and rebooted his character. He joined a predominately black stable (wrestling gang/group) “The Nation of Domination”. He re-introduced himself as “The Rock” and instead of a happy go lucky guy, he insulted fans, he spoke from the heart, the resentment from the boos fed his fire to tell all the fans in the arena to shut your mouth (You can watch The Rock’s debut somewhere on youtube). It was definitely a turning point in The Rock’s career.

With your photography I do believe you need to shoot who you are. Don’t try to be another photographer, we all have peoplr or photographers we admire and try to follow or emulate them but if you are able to add your own touch or find your style…you will a stand out on your own. The Rock was able to turn a regular elbow drop by adding his own signature to it, and even adding a new name “The People’s Elbow”. He turned something so common and made it so great. The best street photographers are able to make something out of nothing or turn a mundane scene into an interesting photo.

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Be Entertaining

The Rock was one of the most entertaining superstars the industry has ever seen. And that opened up opportunities for him in Hollywood which he recently became the highest grossing actor in 2016. Anytime The Rock surprisingly appears at a WWE event, it reignites the fans especially once they hear his music hits. His segments are never boring, it’ll keep you smiling, laughing and wanting more the entire time. I truly believe he could talk and entertain for hours, and it could be on anything. He has a special talent by connecting with the audience. By not making it a I or Me conflict but a “We” thing, we are in this together, we did it…The People’s Champ. He was able to turn a raising eye-brown and make it an iconic signature of his. He would make up his own vocabulary and phrases, “Know your Role and Shut Your Mouth, Smackdown Hotel,  If/Do You Smell What the Rock is Cookin, etc”. He knew how to let the fans be part of the program, basically he was a genius and he did it in entertaining fashion and by being himself.

Check out this video of The Rock’s Funny Moments.

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With your photography make it fun. Recognize those comical, strange, surreal, interesting, crazy, gritty, moments. Have your photos evoke an emotion from your viewer. If your photos lack emotion, if it doesn’t move you with humor, or it doesn’t make you happy, sad, mad, hopeful, or curious, then it probably is not a good photo and will leave other people that view them just as confused or uninterested with it.

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Work Hard

In 1995, he had $7 in his wallet, that’s all. By 1996, before he even made his debut in WWE, The Rock was wrestling at carnivals, flea markets, high school gyms for $40 a night. He definitely had a humbling beginning, nothing came easy. Till this day, he works out like a mad man and is so discipline with his diet. At age 45, he is in the best shape of his life. He is at the highest mountain there is to climb being the biggest Hollywood star. But he’s not content, The Rock continues to work hard and out work everyone else. His early struggle (not being drafted by an NFL team, wrestling for $40 a night, the boos early on in WWE) has instilled a work ethnic that you can’t teach.

For me, these past two months I’ve been pretty blessed with my photography. I had a group exhibit at the Street Sans Frontieres in Paris from May 12-14, 2017 for my Rafael Trejos Series. Then I get an email the other day saying that I’m one of the 52 finalist in the 2nd annual StreetFoto San Francisco International Photography Festival. A lot of luck involved to be a part of these group exhibitions but you also need to position yourself for the opportunity. You have to put yourself out there (create a website, Instagram account), take risk (traveling to Cuba to make photos), and outwork everyone else (shoot relentlessly, study photo books, read blogs, read or look at anything that inspires you) and apply it to your photography.

champion rock

Always Help Others

The Rock understood that he wouldn’t be where he’s at without the help of his fellow superstars. The Rock never had any issues putting another talent over (letting them win the match). In the wrestling industry, some wrestlers let their ego get the best of them. This was never an issue with The Rock based on what his peers have said in various interviews. In fact, I think elevating others eventually helped with his character and helped the business in its entirety. The Rock was able to make the fans cheer for ManKind AKA Mick Foley. Who early on in his WWE career, was a freak heel (bad guy). They formed a dynamic duo, The Rock and Sock connection. One of the most entertaining teams ever!

He also put over Y2J AKA Chris Jericho. Jericho debuted in WWE by interrupting The Rock during a in-ring promo. That was probably one of the best debut’s in WWE history. Helping Y2J establish himself quickly into the WWE scene, it create a very interesting feud (Jericho was one of the very few wrestlers that could go head to head with The Rock both on the mic and in the ring).

The Rock never let his ego get in the way, his persona was never bigger than the business. Still today, he comes back from time to time and appears randomly even with his busy schedule.

So no matter how famous or successful you get, remember that you didn’t do it alone. There is always help along the way. Give back to the people who helped you and were always loyal to you. Help the younger generations, help those that seek advice about your photography and maybe you’ll learn something new too along the way.

Do someone a favor and tell them to pass it on.

Thanks for reading, keep shooting.

Thanks,
Tim

Lessons Stone Cold Steve Austin Can Teach You About Photography

I’m a big pro wrestling fan (WWE), ever since I could remember. My older brothers grew up watching wrestling dating back to HulkaMania era, to the Attitude Era, into the Ruthless Aggression Era, and now. I love the story telling through the physical athletic performance that these pro wrestlers put on (or how Vince wants us to say “Sports Entertainers). I love the story telling through the microphone, the drama they tell through their physical punishment (men’s soap opera). It’s also sentimental for me…when my dad moved over the states after the Vietnam war, he tuned into boxing matches of Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee movies, and wrestling, to learn English. Ali, Lee, and wrestling specifically Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, all were a joy to watch and listen to whether you understood any English or not. They all had something in common…Charisma.

One of my favorite wrestlers growing up was Stone Cold Steve Austin. He was fun, had a don’t give a shit attitude, beer drinking, always came up with catchy phrases (What? Austin 3:16, Give Me a Hell Yeah!) and had lots of charisma. I appreciated him more when I researched how he got to the top of the ladder, perhaps becoming the biggest superstar of all time. Austin’s journey was not a smooth one but he kept pushing…here’s how we can apply it to our own photographic journey.

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Be Real

The Stone Cold persona would not have connected with the audience if Steve Austin himself didn’t insert a good portion of his personality into the character. What you saw on screen with Stone Cold, I’m sure that was how he was off screen or close to it (if not more credit to him for selling it so good). If Steve’s character were a clown or similar to Doink the Clown, I don’t think it would have worked. You need to be vested in the character and Steve did just that with the Stone Cold character, especially after getting fired from WCW (more on that later), Steve came into the WWE with a “I don’t give a damn” attitude that resonated with a lot of disobedient teenage fans. Whether it was going to work by being himself or not, he had a no lose mentality.

A lot of us fear of failing and pursue things with the intent of playing not to lose rather than playing to win. We need to photograph for ourselves and take risk, try new things, embed our character…our personality into our photos. What is our photos saying? What is it saying about society, or about yourself? Or is it just a photo of just people. A lot of this will take time and may organically evolve on it’s own as you keep shooting and studying the masters or photographers you greatly admire.

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Add Your Own Touch

Part of claiming your own unique style is adding your own touch. In photography, everything’s been done before, however, not everything has been captured through your eyes. Like in wrestling, every move has been done in the industry. Even Stone Cold’s infamous finisher, the “Stone Cold Stunner” (photo above) was used by some other wrestler (ECW’s Mickey Whipwreck). I would say Stone Cold’s version was a lot better even though its the same finish, his version had more impact behind it, and his opponents would most often sell the move a lot more (making the effects from the finisher look more dramatic, painful)..The Rock was the best at selling the stunner.

So if you’re preventing yourself from shooting the streets by thinking that you can’t be innovative…your wrong. Study the photographers you admire and why you enjoy their photographs. If you like Bruce Gilden’s up close, in your face style, then by all means try and shoot that way. Or maybe instead of shooting at a low angle, aim higher, fill the frame with 75% of their face instead of 100%. Aim your flash gun at a different angle, up your flash power, lower your flash power. Experiment! Experiment! Experiment! That’s the only way you’ll find what style of image caters and is unique to you (I don’t even have a unique style, I like everything!).

Evolve

Your photography should evolve for the best overtime. Your taste and in what you like or dislike on a photo will change over time. I started off shooting only in B&W simply because that’s what I thought street photography was. I look back at my old photos and really have a hard time viewing them. The B&W seems too force and artificially imposed without reason. I think B&W just like Color works on a photo if it helps with the image, if it helps elevate the content. Don’t just turn a photo B&W just cause, search for a reason within the image, find the reason, if your reason is “Well I think it looks better in B&W”, then it probably means that your photo is weak.

Your intentions will evolve overtime as well. When I started off I wanted to make badass photos like Vivian Maier who I highly admire. I wanted to make intimate portraits and captivate those special moments out in the public setting. Then a few years in (2010-2012) I asked myself “WTH am I doing”. I knew in the back of my mind I wanted to produce and capture those surreal moments but lacked reason behind it.

I got off my ass in 2015 and went shooting again. The same thoughts passed through my mind, fast forward today (2017) and I realize for me it’s not about capturing special moments that I enjoy most. It’s really just getting off my ass, taking a walk, burn some calories, absorb some vitamin d, appreciate the “NOW” moment, get away from my phone or social media and enjoy the day. Appreciate life. Getting good photos is the bonus, seeing the surreal, comical, interesting moments, is the bonus to all of it.

Steve Austin started off in WCW as part of the tag team, The Hollywood Blondes. He was a big brass athletic guy with long blonde hair. Very very talented and should have moved up the ranks if it wasn’t for backstage politics.

He got a call one day from his boss telling him that he was fired. Left unemployed, the lit a fire up Steve”s ass in which he used as motivation. Which brings me to my next point.

Have Something to Prove

Have a chip on your shoulder. Find it within you or Something that you may experience to give you that extra motivation. Prove people wrong but most importantly do it for yourself. Test yourself, test authority, break the rules…these will only lead you to be more innovative in your work.

Austin’s character was anti-authority, who didn’t give a damn about anything. It was refreshing to see instead of your usually good guy/bad guy, he was an anti-hero. Someone that we could relate to with our everyday lives, someone that we wanted to be like. Austin would give the Stunner to his boss (Vince McMahon) and they started feuding. The  story line worked, it was innovative, it resonated with the audience (I mean who doesn’t want to give their boss a Stone Cold Stunner). And the fans embraced it.

Sometimes you can’t be too forceful or even if you put all your eggs or marketing budget into one idea or basket it does not mean it’ll blossom. The best things happen in it’s purest form, evolves organically, and happens with reason. Continue to look up to your idols, your parents, teachers, super heroes, photographers, athletes, business entrepreneurs, and ask yourself what is it about them that I really admire, look into their story, and apply to your photographic journey and everyday lifestyle.

Thanks for stopping by!

Keep shooting,

Tim