Over the years, I’ve joked frequently with my best friend Marc and my brother about things that are cocky in life. We sort of have this ongoing dialog pointing out cocky things and cocky people in the world, which is pretty cocky of us. They’ve also given me a lot of s**t since I became a photographer a decade ago.
They point out how cocky our industry is and poke fun at me for my share of cocky moments, like having an army of scarfs, my bio picture, and much, much more. Typically you think of athletes or celebrities as being cocky, and of course chefs, but don’t discount photographers.
I figured it was about time to address these cocky aspects of photography. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules, so I’ve pointed them out. If I offend you here, please don’t take me seriously — I’m just a silly dude saying silly things, and this post is just for fun. If you are guilty of 3 or more of these things, consider yourself a cocky photographer.
So, without further ado, here is the cocky list:
#1. Writing an article about what’s cocky in photography is the ultimate in cockiness.
#2. Calling yourself a photographer and TV personality (even if you have been on TV, who cares). Even more cocky, photojournalists correcting people when they call them a photojournalist by saying they prefer to be called a witness.
#3. One-named photographers. The first one that comes to mind is Platon. His work is amazing and it’s obviously far superior to anything I’ve done, but one name on your byline is cocky. He obviously is a regular reader of my writing, so I hope he takes this light-heartedly. Less cocky, but still, cocky is going by a 3 letter initial such as JBM.
Exception: If you only have one name on your original birth certificate I will allow the one name usage. So if that’s the case, Platon, my sincerest apologies.
#4. Making a rectangle with your fingers while going around framing things and nodding to yourself while biting your lower lip, basically showing that you found the shot.
Exception: Not a chance there is an exception, it’s cocky no matter what.
#5. You show a friend — or better yet your client — your camera’s LCD screen and nod to basically say that you nailed the shot.
#6. Having a blog about your blog. I’m not sure if this exists yet, but when it does happen it will be extremely cocky.
#7. Having the title of your blog involve something that implies that you excel in the photography occupation. The Shadow Chaser, Moment Hunter, Eye For Light, The Optician, The Lightstalker, etc.
#8. Scarves are cocky. Cockier is calling them by their local name such as a Krama (Khmer Scarf).
#9. Having your bio picture where you are posing with your camera in action shot or non-action, still cocky. We get it, we are on your website already and the giant picture portfolio lets us know you are a photographer.
Exception: If your specialty thing is some weird gadget camera or large format and that is what you are best known for I will allow it.
#10. Unsolicited singing and acoustic guitar playing at parties, bars, café’s, get togethers, etc. If you want to perform please do so in the proper environment and post it clearly that you will be performing so I can decide if I want to attend, don’t just bust out in song. I realize this has nothing to do with photography but I had to add it because it’s extremely cocky and annoying and if I change one person my work here is done.
Exception: You were at one point in your life paid to perform musically.
#11. Email signatures that are so long that they require their own separate email.
Here is sample of what not to have:
Justin Mott | Photographer
Vietnam +84 97 2383 071
Current location: Hanoi, Vietnam but I was in Tanzania last week and then I went to Thailand oh did I mention I stopped in Japan for a shoot and next week I’m off again to San Francisco/Alaska.
Represented by: Redux Pictures
Contact Marcel Saba for assignments
New York, New York 212-253-0399
#12. Nonchalantly throwing out a thread about flack jackets just to let people know you are going to a war zone.
#13. Having your assistant use your Billingham bag so it gets the worn out look. While I’m on that note, Billingham is pretty cocky by itself but their bag called The Packington is the ultimate and hands down champ of cockiest bag name.
#14. Gaffer tape all over your camera. It was once cool but now overdone especially when you’re a photographer shooting in extremely safe situations like a fashion photographer in a studio.
Exception: If you had your gear stolen off your neck or someone attempted to do so, tape her up. Friend and photography Brian Frank and myself had four dudes try to steal our gear in Caracas, Venezuela, but we fought them off and nothing was stolen. Telling that story is extremely cocky, and so is the fact I worked that story in as much as possible in social circles. If you shoot in the suburbs of Wyoming, you don’t need gaffer tape on your camera.
#15. Behind the Scenes videos. I’m not saying I don’t watch them and that I don’t create them, but in theory they are pretty cocky. You’re basically saying that no one could figure out how you got a shot without seeing how you did it. This all coming from a guy (myself) that has a section of his blog called “How I Got The Shot”.
Exception: Chase Jarvis, he does BTS well and is worthy.
#16. Floating the term “magic hour” out there too much.
#17. Wearing a vintage camera to a photography exhibition. Cockier, wearing a vintage camera to your own exhibition. I may or may not have done this at one point in my life and I’m not proud of my 27-year-old self for doing so.
Exception: If you shot the work being exhibited with that vintage camera, wear that bling.
#17. Photographers that need to tell you that they ONLY shoot film within the first 10 minutes of the conversation and scoff at the idea of shooting digital. It’s cool to only shoot film and much respect to you, but it’s the looking down on digital that is cocky.
Exception: You are over 60 years old.
#18. Leica. Great cameras, but the brand is pretty cocky with their little velvet boxes and limited edition models and such.
#19. Wearing a shooting glove.
Exception: Wearing the Shutter Finger Sock, custom fitted for your shooting finger that I’m currently finishing up my patent on.
#20. Mentioning on social media that you are in a village where they have never seen Western people and how amazed and intrigued with you they were. Get over yourself.
#21. Automated email responses are fine but be careful about being too long winded and detailed. An example might be something like:
Sorry if I am unable to respond right away, for the next 3 weeks I will be a remote location in the the mountains away from civilization basically saving the world with my camera and my stories. The area is so remote they won’t have any communications systems, blah blah blah.
My rule is that at any point during that 3 weeks if you post something on social media you must personally apologize to all the people that received your automated response.
I would love to hear any rebuttals or missed exceptions to this list and if you convince me perhaps I’ll make the necessary changes. I’d also like to hear additions as well. I am definitely guilty of a few things on this list, so again… any readers out there who get angry at things: please don’t take me seriously!
About the author: Justin Mott is photographer and founder of Mott Visuals, a boutique photography and film production studio based in Thailand and Vietnam serving all of Asia and beyond. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Since arriving in Vietnam over a decade ago, Mott has established himself as one of the best-known and well respected photographers in Southeast Asia. He has shot over 100 assignments for the New York Times while a collection of his work in Vietnam has been featured on the BBC. Additional major editorial clients include TIME, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian among many others. Mott is also familiar to TV viewers as host and resident judge of History Channel’s hit photography reality series Photo Face-Off now entering their 4th Season. Visit his website here. For more tips and articles from Justin please visit askmott.com and follow Justin on all social media outlets with the handle @AskMOTT. This article was also published here.