Feedback is Your Friend

This isn’t the first, or second, or even third time I’ve sat for reviews with editors at National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, The New York Times, CNN Travel, and dozens more. My nerves would have you think otherwise; it’s barely 10-degrees outside and I’ve nearly sweated through my shirt.

Feedback is Your Friend
A burrowing owl rests its eyes near the nest while the other takes a turn at watching out for predators who pose a threat. Photo by Annalise Kaylor.

“To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. To be late is unacceptable.”

Throughout my career in high school theater and music programs, this was the mantra drilled into my brain. When Mr. Marczak tells you that rehearsal begins at 7:30am, you better be ready to go at least fifteen minutes early.  Those who are not ready, those who do not take their commitment to the time of their classmates and the production seriously, would find their participation level involuntarily changing.

No person learned this lesson harder than Tricia, a friend of mine who was late once to rehearsal for the school play and found herself handing off the lead role of the musical to another student - me.  Kudos to Tricia, though. She showed up early for every rehearsal from that day forward, despite being downgraded to the non-speaking background role of “Townsperson Five.”

Cold air plunging in and out of my lungs, I finally walk up to the main door at the Corcoran School of Arts and Design. A glance at my watch tells me I’m a solid 30 minutes early for my portfolio reviews.  Once inside, I can see that I’m not the only person who had a Mr. Marczak in their lives. There are at least 35 other photographers who have arrived early for their reviews, too.

My annual pilgrimage to Washington D.C. each spring to meet with photo editors and have my portfolio reviewed is as essential to my photography career as my camera. It’s one part of a larger ongoing feedback loop that helps me look at my photography more objectively, continue to refine my photographic style, push my visual storytelling to new levels, and become a better, more thoughtful wildlife photographer overall.