The problem with photographers is...

November 10, 2013  •  5 Comments

Rocks on the surface in the fogRocks on the surface in the fog

Rocks on the surface in the fog. Eagle Lake, Acadia.

It's not just photographers but since I'm coming at this as a photographer then I'll speak to photographers, but it's anybody who pursues a craft passionately and this goes for sports and music and a whole slew of other stuff as well. Almost everybody at some point always says they want to be a master and go pro, be the king of the hill, your name next to the definition of the thing in the Wikipedia. As if that will guarantee to be somehow remembered and revered. And it's because we're constantly being sold to- but hey: we love it! We love the next big thing- the next super massive megapixel lowlight super fast fps 5k waterproof miniature low calorie wifi enabled retro and good for the environment awesome piece of kit, or new software, or new technique. I read the blogs everyday trying to keep up with the crazy innovations- and really it's absolutely incredible. To remember that my first outboard "hard drive" in 1980 when I was 8 years old was a cassette tape that connected to my Texas Instruments Ti-99 computer that ran Basic, had 4k's of ram, and a modem that you would put the telephone onto to connect to whatever it connected to back then- is a ridiculous thing to consider. Long live Moore's Law and long live innovation! But- I actually am trying to get to a point here: there's a point when we can forget that it's not all about the stuff and the advancements and the techniques and classes and blogs about all that stuff- it's about what we can do, and doing it. You know, just do it- as it were. Just make your work.

But the thing that gets me riled the most, and this is nothing new- it's been going on in all kinds of different pursuits forever- are all the blogs and tutorials and new equipments and social media commentaries that make it seem that if you are not a "pro" then you're not living up to your potential. It's one thing to have a burning drive to always be getting better and wanting to achieve to be a master of your medium, to be inspired to create great work. But the only people who make the best work are not limited to say the "Canon Explorers of Light" or the guys who have those blue vests on the sidelines of the football games shooting with 300mm telephotos. The best work is made by people who have just got it. And to get it, in this guys opinion, you're not going to be all full of delusions of grandeur. You're not going to be possessed by equipments, you're not going to be comparing, you are going to be content. We have to arrive at a place of bliss in our craft where technique is a foregone conclusion, using our cameras like we breathe- you don't think about it you just do it until you take a moment to actually notice that you're breathing. Same thing with developing- you might not know where you're going to take the image when you start to work on it, but ideally the process is a natural evolution of realizing what it is that you're seeing, and to get to the finished edit is as natural as one foot in front of the other while walking. There's as little need to worry about your walking technique after you've gotten that down as much as there is to worry about your post processing style. If you're comfortable developing your images then why compare yourself to that guy who has gotten hundreds more "likes" on their picture than a similar one you made. Just keep making the work because you like to. Remember why you started doing this in the first place. Sometimes I'll remember my different reasons for becoming a photographer, from wanting to share with my Mom and Dad this amazing place that I was with as much detail and visceral sensation of "feels like you are right there in the scene". Or another reason was that I wanted an outlet for creativity that I could pursue on my own time and that I was entirely responsible for the success or failure of- and one that I could control from start to finish- from photograph to print. One that I could put my name on as a solo venture, not part of a team, and have that satisfaction of making a thing as best I could. But I've always had a day job. I started photography as a hobby, didn't go to school for it- I went to school to be a jazz musician, and I'm not a jazz musician anymore, but I love being a photographer. I always pursued picture making with as much passion as I could muster for it and always have had a voracious appetite for learning it and new techniques and mastering the equipment and softwares etc, but I'm willing to guess that if I had to do it for a living my idea of it would be completely different. I only photograph for pleasure and if I don't want to go make any pictures I won't! I think I'm kind of coming at this blog post in another way where I haven't been making much new work for the last couple weeks and ordinarily I'll start to have a kind of a panic at a time like this thinking that the mojo is slow and or low or that some personal quota isn't being met or something. But more the opposite- I feel really content with my work this year and have been spending lots of time just going through the catalog and working on older images and things and planning the next shots instead of just frantically going out and reshooting the same thing over and over. It's become more obvious to me that it's a lot easier to photograph in a new area that is fresh on my eyes than the one I'm so familiar with on this island here, so I'm looking at maps more. Anyways- where was I: keep your day job and just try to achieve your own bliss with your work and then you'll more likely be remembered. Here's a sports analogy (which isn't something I know much about but hear me out) college football games are often super exciting and thrilling to watch because those young guys are giving it their all in order to get noticed by the NFL scouts on the sidelines, not to mention that they are not all destroyed from years of professional injuries etc. Then the pros are sometimes maybe more calculated and finessed in their playing out there, except for playoff season when anything goes. Anyways- when we are coming up as photographers we initially photograph everything: from bugs to bushes, to railroad tracks with a guy with a guitar walking down them and portraits in front of brick walls. Hopefully you'll do your best to stay away from HDR and pick good friends, but there will always be some embarrassing side trips along the way. But the way does not have to be a destination of becoming a pro. Good for you if you really want to do that, I mean it! And I wish you all the best of success, and I'm sure those of you who do endeavor to make your living off photography will do the best you can do and make the rest of us of the photographers collective proud as a whole= you'd better: it's up too you! But I just want to make pictures that I like and that I want to make, on my own time and to my own satisfaction. Maybe I'll have a couple beers while developing them and maybe I'll finish them quick or maybe I'll take a few days at it, nobody's telling me otherwise so I do what I want! And I think that my work reflects that= I think that it's pretty good and has a confidence of 'I do what I want!'  It took a long time to get there, really after photographing for 13 almost 14 years now it's just been the last year or two that I have achieved this kind of personal bliss of finally knowing what I want my images to look like.

Bottom line is: don't let em guilt you into thinking that you should be something or other- just do because you want to and you like to do and you will get better everyday at doing just that. Just an opinion. What do you folks think?

Great survey. I'm sure you're getting a great response.
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Steve Serdikoff(non-registered)
You're on the money Nate! Great read. I've expressed a similar sentiment on my blog here:
Sandra P(non-registered)
really great read, Nate ;)

You make a lot of great points and I'm so happy that you have found your bliss and doing it your way!
Kevin Boyle(non-registered)
Great read Nate. Funny… I got told by a "professional" at a gallery opening we were both showing at that what I do (landscapes) is easier than what she did (staged portrait scenes) and when I answered her "are you a full time photographer" question with a no, she actually turned around and walked away.

I have found, and I'm sure you have as well, when you personally love an image that you have captured, it comes through to the viewer. The same way food cooked with love somehow tastes better.

You have a real knack with words as well as photos, Nate.

PS - I too had a Ti-99 with a dot-matrix printer! Sweet-ass machine.
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