Newsflash. I don’t work as a photographer. Haven’t for a long time. However, I’m still intrigued by the idea of being a working photographer in 2019. Why? Because so much has changed. You often hear horror stories these days. The photography world is ending. Things are grim. I put vaseline on my lens and now it’s on my sensor. You know, end of days shit. But just recently I ran into a photographer from Los Angeles, someone I’ve known for twenty years, and when I asked him how things were going he replied, “I’m turning work down.” “I’m booked six months out, going gangbusters.”
Once I got up off the floor we had a hug and a short cry and I told him how happy I was to hear this. Being at PSPF I realized there are more than a few photographers doing well, but you see there is more to the game today than ever before. Photographers are on the hook to be more, to do more and to for lack of a better description-have their shit together. Seriously, have their shit together. The days of dressing like slobs, not being social, being unorganized, not working with contracts, not following up, putting stupid things on social…these days are effectively OVER if you want to play in big girl world of modern photography.
I’ve been preaching for the last ten years, “Be more than a photographer,” and I think the market today not only asks this but demands it. You must predict, think ahead, be prepared and come to the table with flushed out ideas and strategies. And, you better have a damn good track record.
Earlier today I met someone I really like, someone I wish I would have known years ago. Catherine Force, a New Zealand based agent. Not only is she cool, fun, personable but she also shared all kinds of details about how a working photographer needs to operate. (She also said something that validated one of my common rants, which is that many personal projects being shown around are just not good enough. Many are shallow and done too quickly to impress people who know what they are looking for.) Now, she happened to present in regard to working in the Asian market, something I will probably never do but I was still intrigued by the alluring sense of the complexity involved in modern photography, much of which has little to do with imagery and more to do with logistics and psychology. And this brings me to my second point.
Psychology is a huge part of the game now. Huge. Whether it’s finding a personal psychological connection to find context for your career or doing extensive research to understand the mindmap of your clientele. (This is magnified when working in foreign lands.) I’ve spoken about this over the past few days, but I do believe there is a larger conversation to be had here, one that has almost NO play in the modern industry. This is an opportunity in my mind.
The afternoon featured a totally LOADED panel, Photographers on Photography with Nadav Kander, Roger Ballen, Maggie Steber, Melvin Sokolsky, and Ruddy Roy. I’ve seen all of these people present before, even interviewed one, but what was interesting about this particular panel was their task of showing their influences. Case in point; Nadav Kander listed these folks. Vija Celmins, Frances Bacon, Sugimoto, Jeff Wall, and Gerhard Richter.
So, I must now leave the air-conditioned confines of this splendid hotel room and return to the guts of the festival. There is more to be done. There is work to be seen including Nadav Kander and Duane Michals. Jesus, talk about a one-two punch. I must also prep for my class which begins tomorrow. A two-day foray into the quagmire of modern publishing, and I use “quagmire” in the most flattering of ways. Wish me luck.