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Sunday, 30 August 2015


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I think the reason is that successful photography, whether commercial, artistic or editorial, is 95% marketing and 5% photography.

We live in a time where people are famous just for being alive. It only seems reasonable that those of us who can actually "do" something, even recreational, should get a tiny share, too.

Me? I'm hoping to become an unknown nanny, spending my precious me-time with a twin-lens reflex. But when I die, boy, I'll show them! They'll be fighting over those pictures until all the lawyers in the land retire as wealthy photography collectors.

Spot on. I started in photography 45 years ago because I loved jewel like contraptions and a fine camera (from the 70's) is a quintessential jewel like mechanical contraption. The pictures it produces were always secondary to adoration of the machine. I cannot say honestly I never aspired to some measure of recognition but I realized early on that I'm not an artist or businessman or promoter, three essential things for making this hobby pay for itself. This same love for mechanical things is probably one of the main reasons I never could quite be happy with digital cameras and I'm quite sure I'm not alone in this feeling. Us old dogs with stinky developer stained fingers are a useless demographic to modern camera companies.

Interesting Mike, since I graduated from college I have supported myself from woodworking and furniture finishing. I am far from famous, but I eat regularly which in much of the world is rich. I am often asked why I don't commercialize my photography. The simple answer it is too much work. I am quite aware of what it takes to run one business, the time and energy to double that load isn't in me. Tha Internet is a true blessing though. I can upload a couple of images a week to my 500px page, 500px.com/TerryLetton. and on average 1000 people will look at it and a substantial number will leave wonderful compliments, deserved or not. That is pretty much the pay I can get from photography, the rest is the pleasure of creation.

It's fun to press the shutter button--always has been. I love it when everything comes together and a picture turns out well.

I earned an okay living taking pictures. The desire for fame or fortune never really crossed my mind. Working for myself meant everything. I value independence over wealth and notoriety.

Photography has been a significant part of my life since around the age of 14. Now that I have had to retire, due to health, photography is now even a bigger part of my life. How lucky I am.

Taking pictures has been and still is my calling. I've always identified with teachers, firefighters, social workers, and librarians.

I don't think this is an original sin of photographers only; it seems to be a notion that's in the cultural water. Back when I was a volunteer photographer for SPCA adoptable animals, I got good enough over time that people would constantly tell me "you should do this for a living!" Having a good job already and being fairly aware of the other skills I'd need to cultivate, I had no interest. Maybe it's the American Dream, or modern celebrity culture, but I can see how photographers get sucked into it too.

"You may raise money enough to tunnel a mountain, but you cannot raise money enough to hire a man who is minding _his own_ business. An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not. The inefficient offer their inefficiency to the highest bidder, and are forever expecting to be put into office. One would suppose that they were rarely disappointed." (Thoreau, _Life Without Principle_)

Incidentally, Emerson criticized Thoreau — in his obituary, no less — because "instead of engineering for all America, he was the captain of a huckleberry-party."

A tiny number of people around the world become famous by accident - by witnessing some terrible crime or unique event, or by escaping death in some way . . . this kind of fame does not last. To become famous as a photographer you have to be very good at what you do, work extremely hard at all aspects of your profession, and above all you must really, really want to be famous.

You've highlighted why I refuse to charge money for photography anymore. I enjoy it too much to risk getting paid for it.

I used to have fun with photography but then a photographic writer/host/pundit I admire pointed out that all the pictures I take are "clichés"! :) :) :)

When your hobby becomes your job, it stops being fun and becomes work.

It's the "demand" part of supply and demand that gets you every time. It means filling a brief, preparing quotes, working to deadlines, invoicing, marketing, credit control and accounts. It may also involve payroll, employment law, office rent, etc.

Work has other rewards, and some elements of a job can be enjoyable, but for the most part, success depends on how well you manage the grind.

Photography is an addiction like so many others whose practitioners are forever chasing the initial high prompted by their first "good" image. Occasionally encouraged and enabled by society (by people such as yourself), we hopelessly continue to spend inordinate amounts of time and money in pursuit of that illusory first high. Those addicted will claim they can control the process and that it allows them to experience reality in way others cannot fathom. Delusional expectations are not uncommon.

After reading the examples of recreational activities, all of a sudden I started imagining what a knitting championship would be like. Women would sit at opposite corners of a ring and knit the hell out of those needles under the experienced eye of a referee and the vigorous cheers of the crowd. The world title would be won by a 73-old woman from Cincinnati who knitted a 75 ft. sweater in just five minutes.

Of course, the arguments over the best needles would be endless, though in most part restricted to two major brands.

Also, this article got me in the mood to listen to Morrissey's "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful". (Don't we all?)


Hear, hear!

Wonder if there's also a "rock star" and "pro athlete" delusion.

The overwhelming majority of people who devote their life to music don't make any serious money at it. And even those who rise to attention with some sort of "hit" rarely make much money for long.

This is even more true of most athletes in most sports.

The spectacular exceptions are just that - spectacular exceptions.

There are fields where a large fraction of the skilled practioners do very well. To my knowlege they are all very hard work.

Thank you, Mike.

A lot of us who are photojournalists get paid to lead a wonderful life. We spend time with incredible people that few have access to and travel to places that few visit, And, since it is in the nature of news to cover the tragic, we get to witness human beings stripped of all artifice in disasters, wars and times of loss. But it was never about us; it is about what is in front of us. I am amazed at those among us who shout, “LOOK AT ME!!”. We have the privilege of seeing the real thing while many others only got to see our pictures. But it was never about us.

I think it is more those who used to be able to make a living at it that no longer can.

Algorithms are writing much of the sports stories and a lot of the financial news you read online. Probably won't be long before they can write photography blogs, as well.

Spot on, Mike! The same thing applies to most professions, I think, but most certainly to any of 'the arts'. My first of three distinct careers was acting. As one of sixteen students accepted annually into Canada's National Theatre School (and one of ten to graduate, if I recall correctly) it would appear that I was not without talent. After five years in the profession I was a decent journeyman actor — theatres got their money's worth out of me, my performances were reliable and occasionally very good. But after ten years a few of my classmates had established international reputations and were finding 'success' in Toronto and New York and Los Angeles on stage and television and film. What abilities did they have that I didn't? Self-promotion — both the skill and the desire to achieve recognition.

Though from time to time I might reflexively ask, "Why not me?" the fact of the matter was that they and I had each found the success we pursued: I was earning a living, working regularly for small, regional theatres, usually doing plays that I thought were important —a sizeable, contented fish in a small pond— maintaining a solid partnership with my spouse, and adding a little to people's lives through my performances. Doing what I wanted to do in the places I wanted to do it, I was truly happy … as long as I didn't spend too much time longing for the kind of success I didn't actually want.

Getting attention is one thing. Getting Paid is entirely different.Having artistic aptitude is a blessing & a curse. The blessing is our heightened level of appreciation for well done images. The curse is we fall in love with our own work and do not understand why others are not clamoring to buy it.
Photographs are viewed by the average person as nothing special. Everyone is capable of producing them. The "perception" is that it does not require special skills or talent.
Take a look at what the "successful" among us have discovered. They are selling Us information. How To books, workshops, seminars. It is part of multiple streams of income along with selling some pictures.
Want to sell some images ? Ever thought of marketing shots of your local favorite restaurants,bars,cafes ? Home is where the heart is. Marketing is figuring out what people will buy, not trying to sell your favorite thing to shoot. Personal work is just that, personal. If you are really lucky the personal intersects with the emotions of the public.
If you're looking for something that sells, it's portraits - done for hire.
Mundane ? Possibly. A lot of the Greats did that to get started.
Observations, not condemnations.

I never thought the world owed me money for photography but I did decide it would be fun to try and get some anyway. I'm fortunate that I can afford to have very low expectations. If I make £150 of sales at an art fair I'm delighted. And that's what gives me a way to "redact", to make it gratifying. There's nothing more concrete and finished than having your wares on display for people to judge and possibly put their hands in their pockets.

Never try to earn a living doing someone else's hobby.

Oh my. What a great piece Mike.
You put into one concise article a lot of various thoughts that have been banging around in my head a long time.
But I would go one step further. Many people ask my why I don't promote myself, "why don't I see your work in galleries?"
I enter photos in competition with my local camera club, and what ribbons I've won there mean something to me because they are an acknowledgement by my friends. That means something to me.
But mostly, since I was twelve, photography has been a joyful, personal pursuit. I just love it for the enjoyment of doing it, and like music, photographs are time machines to powerfully return me to certain times in my life.
I love everything about photography, the machinery (cameras, lenses, etc.) and the product, beautiful (or brutal) slices of life.
I have no idea how to promote myself, or if my work is even worth promoting, as my friends think.
But I do have photography friends who anguish over the fact they don't get as many facebook likes as another friend does for their photographs.
Oy vey! I hope I never get to that point.
I've been having a blast in obscurity for forty years now, I don't want to get to the point where my sad little ego is bruised because people aren't knocking on my door wanting prints even though I haven't tried to encourage them to.

Like in any other business, your work is only worth as much as it generates ( and usually just a tiny fraction of that - the bulk needs to pay the enterprise risk). As far as I know, nowadays there are only two kinds of photography that generate substantial value: advertising (including fashion) and scandalistic shots of celebrities (paparazzi job). The reporters and documentary photographers have been replaced by bystanders with iPhones. The so called fine art photography falls under the label of modern art, and modern art is 99% organised scam, so unless you can persuade someone to buy your print at an auction for an exaggerated price, you are bound to remain unknown.
But "true art" in photography still exists. It dwells mainly in the eyes of the (few) beholders who can recognise it, but seldom have the means to buy it at outsized price tags. One needs to come to terms with that. At best, if you are really good, you can hope to become the Lartigue of the 21st century, once you are old and have long ago forgotten your cameras in favour of some bill paying job.

You said it already a few days ago.

"Have Fun With Any Camera"

I do get recognition, from family, friends, acquaintances and the occasional stranger going through my books of images. Neither fame nor fortune has seemed likely.

About a majority of those who go through my work encourage me to publish as 'real' books, a few very vehemently. It's my sense that as soon as I try to make it a business, it would no longer be fun.

I am occasionally surprised at how serious I am about taking pictures and processing them into images I like. I also wonder if that phase of my life might pass one day. Either way is OK.

Amateur Ice Skating is as close as I can come to Amateur Photography. Both are extremely expensive, with little chance of advancement.

I worked with a man who's daughter wanted to be an Olympic Ice Skater. For 12 plus years there were paid coaches, and lots of skates-&-costumes. My co-worker and his wife drove her to practice twice a day. And in the end she got a job skating in the chorus of an Ice Show. Sorta like the guy who has thousands and thousands of dollars invested (?) in cameras and lenses and can't buy a "like" on the fora.

Mike said:"... nor imagine how someone who's good at knitting might become well known for it." Maybe with a blog, like yours, or through writing books. My son's S.O. is into knitting/crocheting and it's a big hobby for many women—maybe bigger than photography is for men.

To me, there is an essential difference between on the one hand activities like long distance walking, reading, bird watching etc., and photography and occasionally writing on the other. It's not the fame or the money I would want to acquire, but I do want to communicate what I have made. I want my pictures or texts to be seen or read by other people than only myself. If I were the only one to see my pictures, the loop would be depressingly narrow. Like when you have experienced a really intense life event or adventure and there would be no one to share your story with.
Which brings me to my second point: to me photography is not a hobby, nor is it always fun (sometimes it is very intense and hard work). But I love it, and it is an essential part of my way in life.

Well that article hit home! I have been around a while to, but feel a little different (or thought I did). I have always felt that I take a reasonable photo every now and then, but not consistantly enough to be full time as a photog. Digital has increased my work volume, so the last few years have given me an itch that needs scratching and I think you have addressed that. Volume and longevity do not equal automatic success.

Maybe a lot of photographers think that, but there's no good reason to. They're simply deluded; no way to help that.

If you want some renown as a photographer, there are two ways to get there: 1) cultivate the fame gatekeepers, that is, the people who operate major museum programs, and who get to designate who is an "artist" and who isn't; and 2) Get astride a major distribution network, which is difficult.

A very large number of the most famous photographers of the 20th century got there through Alfred Stieglitz, and later, the programs at the Museum of Modern Art and the Newhalls. People like Ansel Adams assiduously cultivated those people.

The other way to become famous is through the mass media -- David Douglas Duncan and Robert Capa and others through Life, Look, and so on. Currently, that way is through the Internet.

Most famous North American photographer at the moment, in terms of being widely known and maybe even recognized on the street? Probably Michael Reichmann of the Luminous Landscape. He's an extremely able photographer, but it's not the photography that made him famous, it's the fact that he got astride the major distribution system of the day.

I'll take a stab at why amateur/hobbyist photographers crave the validation that would presumably come from having one's work recognized and (better yet) finding people willing to pay for it.

The majority of actual professional photographers in the U.S. shoot weddings and high school seniors. I have immense respect for anyone who can wrangle moody teens and hyper-stressed bridezillas, and still create a really nice set of photographs from a one-time, unrepeatable event. (I talked shop with the pro who photographed my daughter's wedding; but I made *very* sure not to get in her way or make her work more difficult.) But that's not the common cultural image of a 'photographer' in the U.S.; instead we associate the title with Richard Avedon, Steve McCurry, Annie Leibovitz, or Ansel Adams. That freakishly talented (or lucky) tiny fraction of a percent that provides the public face of the field. Something a lot more glamorous than shooting senior portraits. So I think many folks yearn for *that* kind of validation, perhaps without realizing how extraordinarily rare that is. Or, as likely, that in an age of billions of images per day, such validation is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

The other reason, seems to me, is 'sample error'. We get a misleading sense of our skill. Most of us devoted hobbyists have been working at photography in our spare time for years, and like to think we're pretty good. Some of our photographs are genuinely excellent. They're certainly better than those shots our smug brother in law or slacker nephew are so proud of. Our photographs look pretty good in that context. But we take a lot of pretty mundane or genuinely awful shots too. And photography is kind of like music in this respect; we may think we're pretty good after a few decades of dabbling. But there are folks out there who have spent Malcolm Gladwell's '10,000 hours' many times over, and are terrifically skilled. People who can turn out really excellent photographs consistently, over and over, who have mastered studio and location lighting and have a unique visual take on matters. And no matter how much my mom likes my photos, I'm honestly just not in that league.

And that's okay! I'm still having a great time taking photographs I like.

And we give honor and recognition to Vivian Maier who evidently didn't give a rip about her photography. How can I compete against a dead person?

The self-made man is just that - someone who puts in the time and work to become known as the person everyone needs to turn to in order to get ____________ (fill in your greatest need). Photography is no different than glass blowing, sculpting, painting or blacksmithing. If you want to make money with it, you have to work in a way that compels people to buy the result. Very rarely does someone's passion become so transcendent that people convert from admirers to buyers without effort.

I look at the photographers at local art festivals and wonder which are trying to make a living and which are simply proud to show off their work (usually there is a lot of good work). And which is jealous of the other?

What bothers me most about my photography is that it rarely benefits anyone but myself.

Yesterday I unloaded a few digital photography items, i.e. cameras and lenses, and purchased a nice Leica M2. Today I loaded the camera with film and went to visit my daughter. It was strange to just sling the M2 over my shoulder and head out the door. I could not lose the feeling I was forgetting something....No need for spare batteries- or any battery at all. No spare lenses. No need to double check camera settings. Just camera and lens. I cannot remember the last time I spent a day shooting photographs and worried so little about the camera itself. I guess it was before I bought my brand new Nikon D70 all those years ago. All I did, all day, was think about focus, exposure, and composition. I will have to wait for results. Maybe I can aggravate myself over my ineptitude in Lightroom while I wait.

For some people just the joy of being behind the camera and making pictures is all that is needed and desired. In some ways becoming a "known photographer" is like someone wanting to become a famous actor or actress, lots of people aspire but few will ever hit the "big time". Maybe because people love what they do so much that they try to make it into a paying gig on a full time basis, nothing wrong with that, and plus there is always the inspiration that those who have "made it" provide for those of us that are just regular shooters day in and day out.

Mike - had Fred Picker NOT challenged you in that way, where do you think you'd be today?

Having been a lifelong photo "hobbyist", I too have been told that I should done this for a living. Nyet. Nine. No. I was in law enforcement for forty years and my off duty pursuit (no pun intended) of photography was the only thing that helped to maintain my sanity. I love photography. But, I could never done it for a living. It would have become a job. And then I would have hated it.

One thing I didn't see addressed here is that for just about all forms of professional photography, your customer is your boss, and for the most part you satisfy his/her demands. If you don't you lose the customer. This is why I turned down an offer of partnership in a going commercial photo business. In my professional life, I often had to work for 3 or 4 bosses who didn't agree on anything, on one project. Frequently my job involved resolving the conflicting desires and demands, and designing a product which did what it was supposed to do. For me, photography was an escape, in that I didn't have to please anyone except myself. I could shoot what I wanted, when I wanted, how I wanted, or not at all. If you don't like my images, tough. After 67 years of photography, its still the same. I rarely show my output, and when I do, kind words are welcome, but not required. In fact, intelligent criticism is welcome, as I am sure I can still learn a lot. As a result, I am sure that my photographic 'career' is much less stressful than for those who must please others, or who require external approbation.

When I started it wasn't particularly hard to make money from photography, but even then you really had to hustle. Over time I also found that the kinds of photographs that sold were generally of little interest to me, while the kinds that I liked were of almost no commercial interest to anyone else. That was the point where I quit worrying about trying to please anyone but myself, or expecting anything for it. A perfect solution, except for the minor matter about having to make a living.

I can think of at least two reasons, Mike.

The first is that the work is (or can be) relatively quick to produce compared to say, painting or carving. Especially so in the age of digital viewership. Because of this, 'working' itself is a lesser part of the joy compared to regarding the final image. When the subject is unfolding before you photography is thrilling, but I've never found quite the same meditation in it drawing, for example, gives. The act of drawing or painting is its own drawn-out reward for a much greater period vs releasing the shutter. In many instances, the result doesn't even matter.

The flip side of this is that a greater proportion of the joy is in regarding the image. That joy is amplified through sharing and reciprocating. Not everyone knows how to read or discuss an image in the way that lets you revel in it. I struggle to think of many of my friends or family that would discuss an image at length. There's a yearning that's deeper than attention I think, it's for connection with others who would share the joy in our pictures. Maybe that's validation, maybe it's not.

If people truly are expressing themselves, putting themselves into the work, then it makes sense to yearn to be understood, to have ones viewpoint acknowledged. Without a peer group who can engage with the visual language and when society's appreciation is codified in acclaim (and/or payment), I guess it's to be expected.

I think the answer is on both sides: 1. Seek out a group of articulate, visual people you can share and exchange feedback with. I'm lucky enough to know one such person, but I wish I knew others. Artists are better than photographers I've found ("generally speaking"). 2. Be completely present in the creation of the work. Enjoy the walking, the arranging, the looking. Don't over anticipate the release of the shutter or the picture on the screen / wall.

These are the things I remind myself of.

What's next, after the 15 minutes of fame?
(Tumble wood crossing the emptiness, slowly!)

Very good point. And good to step back a bit to put perspective on things. Oh, yes, your list. There are professional surfers, not sure if there are professional water skiers, but most likely there are. There used to be professional hunters. Maybe not that many anymore. Now they are probably called hunting guides, just like many photographers who actually eke out some living out of photography lead 'workshops'. Carpenters are professional woodworkers and it is a respectable profession. I don't think there are professional bird-watchers, but some museums, universities and such employ people who research birds. I don't need to comment on chefs as every restaurant has at least one. There are also professional video-gamers just like there are professional poker players.
But the point is very relevant. Why is photography so special that almost every photographers expects to get paid for their hobby.

Well Mike, you did it again and caught the zeitgeist. You can always tell the quality of your posts by the length of the responses they stimulate. Apropos the content of your post, I think the arts have always been like this. Years ago I used to photograph a dancer for her portfolio, with regular updates. She always seemed to be chasing that slightly better job. Last I heard of her, she was working in a call centre. The arts can be brutal. The problem with photography is that now digital cameras can produce perfectly exposed, perfectly sharp pictures, in the minds of the public everyone thinks they are a photographer. Aesthetics don't come into it. People seem unable to make the distinction between what is sharp and well exposed and what is truly great or creative or interesting. As others have suggested here, there also seems to be a disconnect between rated photographers of the past, where people happily spends thousands to acquire the art and what is current. Recently I went to see a small exhibition of Vivian Maier prints in London which were on sale for eye watering amounts of money. She was a true obsessive and artist because photography WAS her life. One can only admire her dedication.

Mike's back.....

I have had the pleasure of meeting quite a few "famous" photographers during the past 10-12 years. Most are from the art-world side, a few are commercial. Their ages spread 50 years and they have quite disparate backgrounds. But members of this small sampling do have a few things in common, for whatever it may be worth to readers.

1. Art education Not all of them have ever studied photography as a major, although quite a few have taught it. But they have all studied art and are often eager to discuss their work within contexts of art histories.

2. Project-driven I cannot think of one of these photographers who is not obsessively driven to pursue a line of visual investigation. These may be grand projects, such as Ed Burtynsky's "Oil" and "Water". Or they may be more humanistic studies such as Bruce Davidson's "East 100th Street" or "Circus". Or they may be more abstract or introspective studies such as Abe Morell's camera obscura work or his visual studies of books. But every one of these photographers derive their inspiration from some inner conceptual curiosity and pursues it often to exhaustion. And they each have (or, in their youth, had) boundless unstoppable energies.

Good Representation It's romantic to imagine artists and photographers as becoming famous and successful by being "discovered". Yes, scoring a show in John Szarkowski's MoMA (for example) was a boost for several mid-century photographers. But the opportunity fizzled for many more. The fact is that good galleries and agents have been behind nearly all of the names you might recognize as being well-known. A good gallery does much more than hang your pictures and wait for buyers. They guide, they shield, they constantly look for opportunities, they schlep your work around the world to shows, they handle shipments, etc. I can think of at least four "great" photographers who stayed with the same gallery for nearly all of their careers, dating back to before they had real careers. Would Vivian Maier's life have been different if she'd been less reclusive and met Howard Greenberg in the 1970's? You bet your ____.

What does all this mean for you? Probably nothing. But you might find it interesting within this topic!

I think a lot of us are deceived or diverted by the response of people to our photographs. The best time of my photography life was when I was unemployed for a season back in 2001. I took nudes as it happens, and my then-girlfriend encouraged me to do a 6-month course or something. What validation for my 'talent'! I subsequently did a course and wound up with a job as a school class photographer. After 5 years I left the job, my desire and ability much diminished (except technical ability of course). I sometimes struggle to regain the feeling of the golden years (though no nudes anymore) but just don't seem to have the ideas or the freedom anymore. What your post highlights so well is to ask what is it that you or I enjoy about photography, and focus on that (or restore that in my case). And what I really enjoyed about photography was the relationship and dynamic between me and my subject. And it's the same in other areas of my life: as a musician I was more interested in the intra-band dynamics than the audience's approval or money (though their participation was always welcome and appreciated). If I were distracted from that and tried for the rock-star route, I wouldn't have enjoyed it any more, and probably a lot less. Same with photography. My motivation probably means I will never rise above being merely adequate, as a musician or photographer, but I'm willing to accept that. I suspect this motivation to be great is simply my ego, wanting to be validated by others rather than simply enjoying. Thanks for the post

Mike...thanks for the great article, it has allowed me to feel more normal & centered in this hobby...

There are two comments that are just begging for responses. John Camp's comment that Michael Reichmann might be the most famous contemporary North American photographer is implicitly refuted in the very next comment by Geoff Wittig, where he names Annie Liebovitz. Does anyone really think that Liebovitz is less well known overall than Reichmann? She's a minor pop celebrity, whereas he is known almost exclusively to photographers.

Ken N states that Vivian Maier "evidently didn't give a rip about her photography." I suspect that he meant "didn't give a rip about being recognized for her photography," but it should be obvious from her work that she cared deeply about it. You don't accumulate a body of images that large and that excellent without caring.

Spot on, Mike!
I had a large and expensive studio a number of years ago and I have often said "I turned a great hobby into a horrible business."
Now I shoot for me (and the internet).
My two pesos (or Euros which allows me to pursue Europe photographically...again)

Photography,as with other visual arts, is a means of communication as well as a means of personal exploration and learning. Of course one wants attention, either for the quality of the photo or the quality of the subject. The attention desired might be for money, "a big name", a cause, or just to give a few other people pleasure.

I get a lot of pleasure from showing photos and telling a few details about the subjects at my local nature photography club. Our club has shows at local county parks and nature reserves, I have been proud to put in a favorite photo of a common local subject, often overlooked. If some visitor looks around the oak forest floor later for mushrooms and learns about their role as beneficial commensal with tree roots (increased efficiency in absorbing nutrients), necessary garbage disposal (also useful for the trees, providing additional trace nutrients), and food for insects - that's what I hope for.

I'm not sure why you chose to dis knitting when sites like verypink.com really are an awful lot lite photog sites...

[Did I "dis" knitting?!? I didn't think I did that. I thought I equated photography to it, more or less. --Mike]

When I was getting good at FILM photography in the late 60's, most people made money as photographers working for someone else. LIFE still had a photography staff, NATGEO still had a photography staff. Newspapers still had extensive photography staffs. The utility companies in my medium sized town all had on-staff photographers, as did the large factories. Even the local office of the national telephone company had a local photography staff (and I'm sure their offices in every major city did too). I had never planned to ever be a freelance. I never wanted to be a freelance. Most of the photographers that worked in my city for all these companies, made decent middle-class money; send your kid to college and buy a house money.

The compression of the market after the Arab oil embargo of the 70's, as well as the push to maximize profit at the expense of everything else, made a lot of those photographic positions go away. The ability to make a living at photography, and have a sane life went away with them.

If I would have been told that practically the only way I could make any money in photography would be to be self-employed, and that the average income for photographers would drop from 38K to 28K from 2004 to 2014. I would have never kept up with the training. Add on to this the "good enough" mentality that computerization has been responsible for, where a bad photo is acceptable for the right amount of money; and you can see where photography starts getting more and more ridiculous.

I have to say, I met a lot of photography 'hobbyists' when I was a teen, and a lot of those people had darkrooms in their houses (I still take a house tour where you can still see them in the basement, must have been big in the 50's) and shot with Rolleis or Graflexes. But none of those people would have taken away a job from a "pro", for little or no money because they thought they were good enough shooters.

I know professional photographers all over the country, and less than 10% of them make the prime income in the family, and their spouses are responsible for the health care and retirement funds. Many are on the cusp of divorce based on their spouses telling them they're tired of financing a "play-job", and many have already been divorced because of it. I don't know why people still want to flock to this business at all, since 90% of the people I meet in it, including the art directors and art buyers, are just a shadow of the intelligent humans I used to meet in the same positions 40 years ago.

If I was 30 instead of 62, I would already be back in college for something else, and I would have a nice little hobby.

BTW, a lot of the greatest pictures taken by some of the greatest photographers in this country, working at the greatest magazines of the 40's, 50', and 60's; were made when those photographers had nothing to do but concentrate on getting the image. If they were going over-seas for a few months, their checks still went to the house; when they got back after shooting, there was another shot in the pipe-line, they didn't have to go and sell themselves to get it, or even try and sell themselves in the middle of one job to make sure they had another; and their income was enough to keep a one earner family going.

Interesting post...while I never expected to be a famous artist (and I'm not), the thought of "recognition" was/is appealing, sort of. Before I retired and had rejuvenated my photography, my wife saw I was serious about it...vision, preparation/planning, technique, post-processing, printing, a web presence, etc...and she wondered if I was planning to open a photography business when I retired. My answer was really simple: I didn't want to ruin a perfectly good hobby by turning it into a business I didn't want to do. I didn't want to have to deal with clients (which I'd done as an IT consultant for many years), client babysitting, logistics and planning, hard-scheduling business days, order fulfillment...the gamut of what a business needs to do. I just wanted to take the photos I wanted to take, share them with people who would enjoy them, and print the (very) few I wanted to see again and again in our house. End result? My plan has worked, mostly, and I've enjoyed photography and not missed the business at all. Recognition? People in my local photo club, my target audience for my sports photos, family, and a few friends like my work; it's enough for me.

Be careful what you wish for, attention might not be all that great either. I got a photography award, and, it was, surprisingly, in the immediate aftermath, a negative experience. The award giver criticized it (instead of being effusive with praise, which I had always associated with the term award) and the audience didn't care.

This was for a famous photography website.

Nothing could be more disproportionate than my desire for acclaim and the reaction the photo received. Commentary involved the chirping of crickets, and a resounding "meh". In retrospect, the acceptance of the award was a mistake, but nothing could have prepared me to say no, my ego simply wouldn’t have it.

I urge caution in the desire for 3rd party affirmation... your soul and artistic ethos is at risk, even when you think there will be nothing but positivity. If you invest your life in your art, guess what, its easy to get hurt. Even though putting yourself (your work) out there means being open to criticism, you can suffer a death far worse, never being noticed at all, which is kinda how I felt.

The good news is that now my work is so much better, the chip on my shoulder got bigger, and I think about Emily Dickenson a lot. The experience has pushed me to photographic extremes that would have been otherwise impossible if my work had just accrued praise.

Once when I was a very infamous magazine staff photographer I went to shoot a couple in a retirement community in the south. Seems they couldn't get any traction with the folks there and were seen as the outsiders they were. We had dinner in a restaurant and surprise! All town's movers and shakers happened to be there and I was repeatedly introduced as "a famous New York photographer in town to shoot them" in an attempt to move them up the social ladder. I was not famous and I lived hundreds of miles away rom NYC and despite denying it.... I became one for one night.
That was more than enough for me.

Knitting is what wives do, alone at home or in a group of similarly lonely individuals, when their husbands are out making photographs all day.

Photography: a rich man's hobby and a poor man's way to make a living.

Or something like that.

Mike, you obviously feel at peace in your new house, because you knocked this one out of the park. Just a superb piece of writing!

Kind Regards,

[Thanks Ned. :-) --Mike]

Sorry for the late comment, Mike but I felt I had something good to add. I think what you've said is a great metaphor for life. As another example, my daughter loves figure skating and spends a lot of time doing it because she loves it. My wife and I use it as a way to teach her life skills and you can use photography the same way. In figure skating, even though it is judged you cannot control much about your scores. All the coaches say you have to learn to skate for yourself and be happy with yourself and not worry about scores or how others do. It's the same in life. Whatever you do in life people will either 1) like it, 2) hate it, or 3) not care. You really can't control any of those. So the best is to find what you love doing, set your own goals and work hard to meet those. When you do that, take pride in how hard you've worked and what you've accomplished. Some days you'll skate your best and get bad scores and some days you'll skate poorly and get good scores, so you can't use those as a reflection on yourself. Some people have more natural athletic ability and you can't control that either. It is what it is.

The other important thing is to work at always improving yourself. Constantly challenging yourself is good for your brain and your skills. Plus, it leads to more self-confidence and happiness. You get lost in the challenge and gain "flow" and that is what really makes people happy, not hedonism or money.

This all applies to photography, skating, knitting, exercise, whatever you enjoy. These steps are what lead to self-confidence and happiness, not the "every kid gets a ribbon" mentality. You can't control others but you can control yourself.

Sorry for the rambling but I'm in a hurry and wanted to say this piece. Thanks

Three words for you: Tony Hawkes skateboard.
And I'm sure there are other examples.

So I got to thinking about the concept of competitive knitting, and did a web search for the term. To my surprise, there were about three quarters of a million hits. Here's one of the top ones, video of a speed knitting competition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykFdl7qi6FU

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