I once spent a night with Brooklyn’s mother in the Coco Chanel suite in the Ritz Paris. She wore that year’s couture outfits Matthew Rolston took the pictures and I art directed the shoot and kept the room service bill within reasonable parameters. Brooklyn was just a twinkle in David’s eye and fashion design was not on Victoria’s agenda, today he is eighteen years old and a budding/emerging/arrived professional photographer. Or is he?
This week Brooklyn has had a collection of his photographs published in a book titled what I see by the prestigious publisher Penguin for the sum of £8.50 per copy. Last year there was much discussion over the fact that the young photographer was commissioned by the luxury fashion brand Burberry to shoot a campaign for them. The inevitable accusations of nepotism filled and fill the internet and social media platforms concerning both these high-profile ‘successes’ for such an inexperienced but well connected photographer.
The images created for the campaign and featured in the book alongside the accompanying picture captions have been widely ridiculed and dismissed as technically weak. The highly-regarded photographer Nick Knight has offered his support for the young Beckham on his personal Instagram account and has been attacked for doing so. There is no doubt that people are angry!
There is no doubt that Brooklyn needs some advice and some help. Accusations of nepotism are one thing but not being able to back up those opportunities with strong work and intelligent writing is another. However, his images and ability to express himself in words is no worse than many photography students his age but it is also no better. Which leads me to wonder who is approving the work that is being submitted. Any photographer who has studied the medium seriously will I’m sure speak of mentor’s and teachers who have pushed, cajoled and inspired them to produce their very best work and given honest, frank and informed feedback to help them understand what constitutes successful work.
Perhaps, controversially I feel a little sorry for Brooklyn. He is young, privileged and being misled and badly advised. He’s not very good and needs help from the people who are using his name as a marketing tool to sell product. I’m sure that many of us can name photographers currently working in the commissioned environment who are totally reliant on their assistants, digi-techs, lighting assistants and post-production teams to achieve their images – I know I can! – so why isn’t someone helping-out Brooklyn? Penguin produce beautifully designed book covers so why does Brooklyn’s look so weak? And let’s not even start on discussing the lack of capital letters, poor grammar of the title and vacousness of those previously mentioned captions. Are these Brooklyn’s choices? If so he needs to listen to people who may know a little more than he does and those around him need to make him listen.
Brooklyn doesn’t need to be commissioned to shoot campaigns or have his snaps published in a book. He needs to go to school and learn his trade if he is serious about it, just as his father did with football. That may mean signing up for a three-year degree or learning on the job starting out as a third assistant lifting kit bags and painting infinity curves until he goes snow blind. Either way he would be able to gain the learning and understanding that are essential to practicing photography as a career and gain some respect from fellow photographers.
I’d be happy to help him with this, but I get the impression that his career path is already being set out for him. Brooklyn Beckham is not a professional photographer and what I see is not a photo book for the ‘photographic community’, it is for ‘his community’ just as a David Cassidy, Take That, Boy Zone or Justin Bieber annual is a book of photos for the fan. Brooklyn’s low priced visual diary is for those who follow him for that period in their lives when he matters to them not as a photographer but as a crush, a role model, an aspirational figure or whatever else they see in him. And that’s fine! Just so long as he isn’t confused about his role in the deal.
If he is, Brooklyn you know where to contact me…
Grant Scott is the founder/curator of the United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Editorial and Advertising Photography at the University of Gloucestershire, a working photographer, and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Focal Press 2014) and The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Focal Press 2015). His next book #New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2018.
© Grant Scott 2017