Influences, influences, in flew influences and out flew the self.
I started by reading magazines and photo annuals, latching on to every word that I devoured (a neat trick, if difficult in practice). I then moved to an inplant photo unit in an industrial giant, where part of the deal was that I go to night school and study photography there. After a while, I realised that the people 'teaching' were just run-of-the-mill snappers working in local studios by day...
Meanwhile, back in the day job, I learned a hell of a lot about hand printing black/white both in bulk and as one-offs; I learned how to process colour and produce colour prints from negs, inter-negs and transparencies.
The night that a 'lecturer' told me that were his photographs anything like David Bailey's, he would quit the job, was the last night I went to night school. The studios where those 'teachers' worked eventually went down. I did not, thank God, until much much later on when I was able to take it financially. It was exactly the same in my last job as an employee: the 'boss' once told me I wouldn't last six months on my own. I didn't last six months with him. I resigned and went out on my own. Some years later, I bumped into him at a Sam Haskins show; he asked me how I was doing, and I mentioned I was just back from a calendar shoot in the Bahamas and about to go to... he turned away.
The point I think I see lying behind all this is that you have to start somewhere; you might as well start by looking around you at what works. And what works is what is getting published, not on the friggin’ web, which is a depository for all the junk people know not what else with which to do; look at the printed stuff, at films, at television shows that are not reality tv. As I get older, I tend to feel that even photo galleries are probably more misleading to the novice than helpful, other than in one vital way: the need for networking becomes obvious if it had not been before.
From all of that you will deduce two invaluable things: what really interests you; what might earn you a living.
(This means nothing – I imagine – to anyone not thinking of photography as a job, a way of life.)
Then, when you guess you might know not only who you are but also what you are about, you have a base from which to go forth and conquer the world. Or to die in the fight which surely awaits you.
If a photo career is the last thing on your mind, just do as you please. You have total freedom, and money is not really any obstacle because you do not need pro gear to make nice pictures; you just need eyes that see.