Crossroads, Pt. 1: Purpose and Principle
Today's post is rather personal. I'm at a crossroads in my photography business: I have a conflict in the principle of making money as a photography business, and my purpose in being a photographer.
I love photography. I love the stories in the images, and behind the images taken. I thrive on both. The two are distinctly different most of the time, and I find them both fascinating. I started my photography business for the same reason I started a jewelry business many years ago. I wanted to take something I love doing, and hopefully make money at it. In the jewelry business, I hit burnout, and I hit it at a time when the economy was tanking rapidly, and I shut it down. I haven't returned to jewelry since. And that's a shame, because I was damned good at it.
Five years into my photography business, and I see myself hitting the burnout stage. The thing is, I've loved photography since I was a child, and I don't want to lose that love. This time, I recognize the signs, and know I must make a change that puts me more in alignment with my desired purpose.
People start businesses because they are good at something, and see a need or just love doing a particular thing so much, they want to make money at it. This is true with artists. Artists love to create and express themselves, and what better Utopia than to get paid to create and express yourself?
The problem is once The Man starts paying you, The Man dictates what you do. And the The Man is always right, even when he's not. This point is especially true in photography, and more so today with the advent of social media and personal branding.
Imagery has always been powerful, since cave people learned to use rocks, bark, and plant extracts tocreate drawings and record events in their lives. When photography was invented, that was a game changer in recording humanity's achievements, events, foibles and tragedies, and in cementing society's classes. The haves versus the have nots. Imagery became not just a means to record history, but a powerful tool to influence, titillate, validate, and even destroy.
With the advent and escalation of social media in our lives, photography is now a split-second consumable product. We scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and a number of web sites daily, consuming images and just as rapidly forgetting them. Think about your day yesterday; did you scroll through a web site or social media app, look at dozens of images, and can you remember single one of them today? Can you remember who the photographer was? My guess is probably not. I can remember a couple of photos from yesterday's perusal, but not many.
Yet outside of cell phone photos, those images are created by photographers, who spend a lot of time learning their craft, spend time setting up for a shoot, spend time at the shoot, and spend time after the shoot editing the photos. This is all just so the hungry audience can digest images and move on from one to the next, in the hopes that perhaps the right person will notice their photograph and they'll get that magical phone call so many of us hear about.
I look at the last year, and specifically the last three months, and I can see why my burnout has been approaching. I shoot events, and those who know me by now and why I'm there will rush tome asking me to photograph them with this person or that person, so they can appear in publication or on-line and be seen with those perceived to be important. I shoot someone for a specific editorial and later get asked if they can have the photos for free to use elsewhere for their marketing purposes; yet they fail to understand that just as they expect to get paid for their work, I, too, expect to get paid for mine. I get asked to make people look far younger than their years, fix perceived physical flaws that will exist when someone meets them in person, and I watch people place filters on top of my work so they feel more secure in who they are as they post my work on social media. I've had an incredibly financially successful 12 months, but I'm incredibly dissatisfied with the aftermath.
It's a dog-eat-dog world, and I see myself getting sucked into it.
But I love photography, and I can't get sucked in. I want to be more than just a split-second glance.
Therefore, I have to make the change. I have to change my direction, I have to change my purpose to the one that satisfies my creative soul, and I have to be willing change principles to do so.
Next part: what will the change be?