Creative: Photography Advice

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Selfie alert…

I was on an audio roll, so I recorded this post after I wrote it out in long form.(Makes no sense.) I love audio. You might not but I’m going to continue to do these needless things. Maybe more actually. Keep on keeping on. Take chances. And yes, this post might rub a few people the wrong way. But, I think it needs to be said. Am planning a “counter” post about the actual creative part of photography.


Comments 19

  1. So. Much. Awesome.

    Somehow this ties in with the Southpark episode about Facebook that I watched as I faded towards sleep last night in a small crappy hotel somewhere in middle America. Not that Southpark had anything to do with photography. It’s the social media aspect that you mention.

    I also just finished a bunch of essays by Todd Hido on the plane home. Many parallels.

    Getting home this afternoon, the polaroid back for my Mamiya 645 had arrived while I was gone. That made me happy. Now to find film. Finding it local will be next to impossible but CameraFilmPhoto has some, along with some other stocks I’d like to have, and I am more than willing to wait.

    That’s the love part you mentioned. The waiting.

    Waiting for film. Waiting for developing. Waiting for all those chemicals to work their magic on the paper. Waiting and watching. Watching the print appear from nothing. That’s where I fell in love.

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      For me it was being at the right place at the wrong time and making pictures of a serious event unfolding. Not knowing what I was doing but doing it anyway and then understanding what it meant to actually be a witness with skills. It’s also a curse. Todd Hido is a very interesting guy. Love his work and process. I’m in Santa Fe right now and the morning light is just coming up after a night of storms and it’s enough to make me want to cry.

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      It’s strange to me that photographers will talk about these things in private, or in small groups, but in public they fall back to the playing along character. I feel creatives need to be better, more risk taking. Always, forever.

  2. Now you got my wondering …. is it oke to complement you with this post? If so …. well done. If not ……

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      No need to compliment, but thank you for taking the time to respond. Just my opinion, little more.

  3. “That’s it people, that’s my post.” ? Like you’ve just said something meaningless and trivial? You’ve somehow collected, analysed, debated, summed up and found a solution to a HUGE issue at least I have been having over the last three years (so it has to be relevent to others too, has to be). You managed this in a 5 min audio piece which is now my go to clip to remind me WTF I am trying do and why the heck I destroy myself to do it.
    Somehow yet again you’ve been my drill instructor and counsellor in one fell swoop.

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      Hey, I’m not worried about you. Smart, focused and talented. The hard part is figuring out what you truly want to do. The carrot is out there, just go get it. As for me, well, I’m waiting for the storm.

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  4. As usual you hit the nail in the head …
    I love photography. Learned late. I started to understand the technical part when film was vanishing from my life and learned it shooting digital (just to give a time/space reference). Copied many. Learned from that too. Tried to figure out my own style, not sure if I found anything or I will ever find it. So far I’m happy with what I’ve been shooting lately. Fully satisfied? Is it anyone ever? (fuck, this part sounds terrible … well English is my second language, so that should do).
    The business part of the industry … never learned. “Me no comprende”. Time ago I gave up on the dream of being a working photographer. I really miss the days when I was actually one (for a short part of my life). Think of it every day tho. I guess that is what dreams are.
    The social media aspect of it … ridiculous. I get more likes in a picture I have taken of my last purchase (Leica M4-2) than in a photo that I worked for it and that I’m proud of. This is the world we live in.
    Funny enough, now that my daily job (an incredibly non glamorous blue collar job) takes so many hours of my day and I’m always stressed out, I decided to take a step back in time, and not only get back to shoot film but to learn how to develop it myself. And, at least in part, is because I think all this social media frenziness about posting non stop, etc. keeps us focus in the surface of photography … And yes! We forget what brought us to it in the first place. In my case beautiful women, portraits and documentary images. Weird mixture I know. I blame it in this weekly magazine that my dad still buying were 98% of the magazine is current events, reports on semi-current events and documentary articles. And the other 2% some beautiful woman always partially dressed, LOL.
    Anyway, I’m writing too much and no one cares for this brick anyway. I guess I was chatty today.

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      There is a big difference between loving photography and working full time as a photographer. Something changes. At least for 99% of people, and the 1% who says nothing changed is the hipster crowd who would never admit anything outside of rainbows, unicorns and sickness media. And yes, if I post about gear it gets 50x the traffic as a post about actual photography. One reason I don’t spend much time around photography these days.

  5. You are right. Something changes. It’s not the same at all photographing what you like than what you have to. Is not the same preasure doing it for fun than to put food on the table. Doing it because you have to, not because you want to, takes all the “magic” out of everything.
    Still with all that, I miss it. And if I could afford living how I live right now (not that I’m wealthy or anything) doing photography instead of my actual job I’d change in a heartbeat.

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      I think it will only become more difficult. Better to find other means and just enjoy photography on the side.

    2. You really believe that? Because that really bums me out.

      This is the only job I’ve had where I woke up stoked to go to work. Where everything about it just come naturally. It’s not a struggle. I don’t think. I just do and it happens. Someone I met awhile ago in Telluride called it genetic competency. I like the idea of that.

      What I do now is a struggle. I live on airplanes. It’s stressful, frustrating and has me constantly angry. It does not come naturally.

      Photography never made me angry.

      Yes, this is a difficult industry in which to make a living. Yes, it is going through massive changes. But, it isn’t the only one.

      Making a living as an artist has always been a fringe activity. It always will be.

      I know, without a doubt, that there are still niches available. It’s just a matter of having the time and resources to find them. Unfortunately for me, those are two things that I do not have enough of but, I’m trying to like hell to get more.

      I do think that the days of being a generalist in this industry are long gone. To get a foothold, you need to specialize and make sure you only promote that specialty. Being able to shoot other things is a fantastic outlet. It gives you a new way of approaching problems in the specialty. In the past, for me, that was shooting for Surfer and shooting weddings. Taking a few days during the week to chase swells and put cameras, along with myself, it places they shouldn’t be always gave me a new outlook on how to handle the next wedding.

      Having some ability with motion is also key these days.

      I’m trying to change that in myself as I’ve always been a jack of all trades, master of none. It’s difficult. Not the actual photography side but the business side of it. Social media has wreaked havoc in that area.

      I’ve flipped from full time to part time so many times, I’ve lost count. I’m now working very carefully at making it full time yet again. I’ve lost cars, houses and one point, all of my gear but I keep getting back up. Masochistic? Maybe. But I love this. It’s what I was built to do. At some point, I’ll find the magic combination.

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      Yes, I believe it. Only because of what I’ve seen and heard on a weekly basis over the last six years. We have two generations of photographer who don’t know a sustainable industry. A few weeks ago I was with one of the most original photographers I know who said “I’m out.” I get calls and emails on a regular basis from photographers asking me how I got out of the industry and if I can help them do the same. When I speak at schools and things like “usage fees” and I’m met with blank stares. Replaced by flat rate, work-for-hire scenarios which after a while begin to seem like they are normal. Younger and younger people in positions of power, because they are affordable, who have budget as number one task. Commercial fees reduced to social media fees. Photography itself is fine. There is probably far too much of it being thrown around, but the act itself is still much the same. What’s changed is what it means, and that has decimated what was once a relatively good way of earning one’s keep.

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      Weddings and portraits are another world entirely. You don’t really need to be a photographer to get work in those fields. Anyone can do it. No barrier to entry. I see it every time I go near the beach at sunset. The great untrained masses taking money from those who don’t know what a good photograph is. It works for a lot of people. But I can’t remember the last time I saw an original photograph in that genre. Back in the early 2000’s there were a few people roaming those fields who made truly recognizable imagery. I’m assuming some of those folks are still around. The rest, the tens of thousands of snappers, all look the same.

    5. Your viewpoint is, as it always has been, very valuable.

      I do see the signs. Don’t get me wrong about that. I watched a number of people slowly close up shop in SoCal after I was long gone. There is a reason why I stopped shooting for Surfer and gave up the weddings/portraits. Your comment of usage fees rings very loud and true.

      The same issues you see on the beach in the evenings, I see here while wandering downtown or out in the mountains. It makes me cringe. So many root causes that it’s pointless to list them all. CreativeLive comes to mind…

      The closure of Brooks and Hallmark did not come as a surprise to me.

      The local ASMP meetings are a mish mash of those who are doing very well to those who want to leave completely.

      Still, I look around and see people who are producing very compelling work. Alexia Sinclair comes to mind. As does Benjamin Von Wong and Zhang Jingna. Yes, they are doing productions on a massive scale but, they are beautifully done. Completely different from anything that I’ve ever tried to create. I am trying though because, why not?

      Do I have any idea how those three make a living or afford to shoot in the locations they do? Nope. Not all. Would I like to know? Most definitely.

      Then I go back and look at the work of Fan Ho, or more recent images by people like Markus Andersen and Andre Wagner, and you, and I wonder. Why has that level of image making disappeared? More importantly, why does it seem as though it’s no longer of interest?

      Even the recent work showing up at VII appears to be lacking. Would love to know how Nachtwey feels about the agency he helped create. Or even how some of the original members (Ron Haviv, Gary Knight, Ed Kashi, etc) feel about how it has migrated over the years.

      Still, I think that the industry will roll over. At least that’s my hope. Somewhere down the road, the value of a great photograph will come back as will the value of the person who created it. In the meantime, I am going to keep studying. Pushing my envelope. Working on creating work that matters. Not caring about the interwebz and just focusing. It’s all I can do. When the timing is right again, the pieces will fall into place. Hopefully, I won’t be dead by the time they do.

      Time to go ride…

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      One of my favorite lines of all time is in Platoon when “King” asks “Taylor” why he’s in Nam. “I volunteered,” he answers. “You WHAT?” “Ya, I volunteered, you believe that?” “I figured why should all the poor kids have to go?” Then King says “What we got here is a crusader.” You are FAR more optimistic than me. I would love nothing more than the industry finding its footing once again, but I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell. But, you could be right. And that’s all that matters. Photography is about attention. You need attention for it to work and one of the main issues is lack of attention, even when something is good. So there is less stress to produce good because there is little attention even when it is…..

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