The week after anti bullying week, both my daughters experienced incidents of bullying at school. They are aged 7 and 4 and that Friday, we sat down at the kitchen table and discussed bullying and what we can do about it. Now they are both fairly feisty and have handled this situation well, but halfway through telling telling them ways I think they can stop this, I realised that actually they never will.
We were all looking at this as a playground issue and thinking that outside of school it doesn’t exist but of course, sadly it does. I can’t give them a magic formula that means they will never face this again because I know for a fact that they will. I am a grown up and it still happens to me. My friend Nikky who is very fabulous, very self assured and very successful in LA was there and said yes, thinking about it this also happens to her. There is a guy in her building trying to bully her right now. So I told my little girls that bullying is something that people will try to do to you your whole life and the only thing you can control is how you react to it.
Almost 50% of children in school experience a form of bullying at some point and it seems it follows some of us to our careers. While the girls are dealing with unkind words and hitting or pushing, in my working life, I far too frequently have to deal with bullying tactics too. It started with narky little comments in social media or on my blog. I am lucky that I get mostly positive, supportive comments and they are always welcome as is constructive criticism. This stuff was more unpleasant and aggressive than just the odd negative remark. It seemed to escalate in accordance with how much recognition I received and I guess that goes hand in hand with more people knowing about you.
I really don’t understand this need that some people have to tell people that they do not like them or their work. And I think online it can be made even worse because the perpetrator can hide behind an anonymous blog comment or an ambiguous tweet. Personally I find it perfectly simple to avoid looking at photographers that I don’t like and certainly I don’t have time to make a point of telling them I don’t like them or their work. If I went into a shop and I didn’t see anything I liked, I would never feel the need to go back and I certainly wouldn’t waste my time writing to the owner to tell telling them that I didn’t like them. I was raised with good manners and it’s just not something I concern myself with.
The worst for me was straight after one of the Photography Farms. I felt I had put my heart and soul into the shoot and was super proud of all the team and how the whole thing came together. I certainly don’t expect the Farm shoots to be everyone’s cup of tea and that is fine with me. However one photographer took it upon himself to discuss the shoot in a very negative manner on twitter and in forums and then his associates decided to leave a number of unconstructive, negative and quite mean comments where the shoot had been published. When it came in a flurry like that it did feel quite aggressive and it was hard not to take it personally. The Farm is a big group effort with some great people involved and the girl who had modelled for us did such an amazing job. My natural instinct was to defend the whole thing but in the end, I decided to just not react to it at all. Bullies thrive on being given attention and when they get a reaction from you, it simply fuels the fire. The group that came at me, quickly got bored and moved onto another photographer. They did react in public and it turned into a big public ‘thing’ which just doesn’t look good in anyone’s social media feed.
I believe in just not giving bullies a voice and you know what, weirdly it is a compliment if you get them coming at you at all. I grew up in Northern Ireland with mixed religion parents. My brother and I were the only kids in a huge Protestant school with a Catholic surname and some kids did try to bully us. Looking back, it’s now plainly obvious that these kids were threatened by who I was and that’s why they lashed out. It made them feel bigger and better about themselves and their own lives. Anyone who feels the need to bring you down secretly perceives you to be higher than them. That is their problem, not yours.
When I saw the little boy who has been punching my youngest and calling her names, it was pretty obvious that he actually really likes her and wants to get her attention by any means. Isn’t that what little boys do!? Maybe those mean photographers actually wish they had a Photography Farm like me? On a much bigger scale, I love this fabulous take on handling internet haters via Gala Darling - Beyonce Doesn’t Care About Internet Haters You Shouldn’t Either. Now if anyone asks me how to handle any negativity, I tell them to imagine you are Beyonce walking down that beach with Jay-Z and to not give them a second thought.
About the Author
Lisa Devlin is a wedding photographer from Brighton and a regular contributor to The Green Room. She hosts the 3-day long Photography Farm on a regular basis. The next Farm will be taking place from the 19th-21st March (with guest speaker & stylist yours truly!)
Lisa has also just launched a 5-day non-residential ‘Farm Week‘ which will take place this January with an awesome timetable of talks and master-classes from some of the industry’s finest including Kirsty Mitchell, Brooke Davis and the girls from The Blogcademy! Registration is now open at http://photographyfarm.co.uk. For enquiries or bookings email Lisa on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01273231047.