Professional Photography State of The Union

I don't know how many of you track with matters on professional photography, be it art, photojournalism, wedding, portrait, commercial, fashion, event, whatever. I certainly do you see I am interested because I used to produce images for commercial purposes. I am glad I decided to get out when I did. I got out for all the right reasons, meaning I got in for all the wrong reasons. The biggest thing that I did not understand is that I loved photographing things I was interested in and passionate about - not just anything. I really didn't understand this because I never worked at making images of things I wasn't interested in or passionate about. In other words I loved making images of things that I would do even if I weren't getting paid. How different can making images of things you don't give a hoot about be?

Well, much to my chagrin, way way different. I got to the point where I would not and did not ever pick up a camera if I wasn't getting paid. Worse yet I had got to the point where I divorced myself from my image making. I had acquired enough skill to make just about any image (in my commercial field) that anyone else wanted me to make. You see - that's what happens, you make images other people want - not yours. That's why you will find not one commercial image of mine on line anywhere. They are not mine - they are other peoples. Sure I made them but it was more a process of "okay what do you want it to look like, come on come on, hurry up just tell me, okay show me, okay a little like that and sprinkle in some of this, got it" Okay here you go, now give me my check. I had turned a love of making photographs that I wanted to make into a deep jaded cynical business of getting paid to make images that other people wanted. Not a good place to be.

That brings us to the state of the union. Professional photographers of all type bemoan the lack of ability to make a living with a camera. I divide these into two categories - the ones I feel sorry for and the ones I don't. Of course I feel the pain of any person who's livelihood is disrupted to the point where they must do something else. That's not what I am talking about, I'm not a heartless bastard. I would say that the vast majority of those people that can't make a living with a camera are in the same exact boat as any other type of "worker". Just a matter of market forces. Grow up what makes you so special compared to everyone else that has had to adjust to a changing market or market elimination over the ages. Look at all the "professions" that have been decimated and do not really exist any more. You see I know a lot of photographers - I would say a good majority of them are not and have not made a living by making the images they want to make of subjects they want to shoot. There is nothing really different from them than that of say a telegraph operator. Yep you are obsolete, sorry, move on.

Then there are those that I do feel really sorry for on one hand and on the other hand I kind- a have mixed feelings about. These are the very very few photographers that actually happened to make a living as a byproduct of shooting subjects that they really cared a lot about. In other words they would do what they do anyway and just happened to get paid for it. These people I do feel really sorry for more deeply than the previous category. Why? Because they are some of the people that no matter what you do serve as a model for true role models for most human endeavors. Those  very very few in any profession that are truly at one with the universe and love their "job" because it really is much more than just a way to pay the bills, or get rich, it is their life's work.

On the other hand - how many actually can say that they are that stinking luck to really be doing their life's work every day? So I guess they are in the same boat as the rest of humanity as well, so I guess they should stop whining - find a market or get a couple of other jobs to support what they care about doing.

I guess I am philosophically thinking about this because this summer is really the first time I can really say that I am out of my photographic funk. It took a while and a lot of real soul searching to get my head strait but I am actually slowly, cautiously reemerging photographically. No big leaps of enthusiasm, no epic projects, just dipping my toe in. You see I have a real issue with overcommitting and then not quitting the game until I win. No matter how painful. I guess that is a remnant of my upbringing. While on this journey out of my own personal photographic wasteland and cynicism I have had the opportunity to help some fellow photographers re-invet their market and all of that there has been a common theme. "Why are you doing this?" If the answer has been - to make money it is doomed. The few photographers that I have developed ongoing business relationships with were able to answer that question very differently and gave them a much better idea of how to evolve the business side of their "life's work".

Sorry for the philosophy to you gear-heads out there. I do promise I will keep it balanced with a health dose of gear, how-to, and touchy-feely. Maybe next week will be gear week, all gear, all the time. We all love gear don't we.


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