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Thursday, 26 April 2018


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I'd like to respectfully disagree with Kirk Tuck's comment that "Retirement is only for people who didn't like their careers." I worked hard at my primary career, being a pediatrician, caring for children for over thirty years. I loved it; it was a great time for me. I am still in contact with many of my former patients and their parents.

I chose to retire relatively young because I could. Two colleagues, both younger than me and previously healthy, died suddenly and I realized I wanted to do something else for the rest of my functional years. I'd been doing photography since my beloved uncle showed me contact printing when I was a teen. Now, in retirement, photography is my main "occupation."

I do photography related activities almost every day; I'm active with local groups and at our superb local art museum. I plan to do this until I not longer can. I make no money at it; I'd starve if I had to live on my sales but feel like my retirement time is well spent.

Many fortunate people now live longer lives and want to have multiple adventures, not all of which make money but many of which provide great challenge and joy.

Kirk Tuck's comments are very interesting, and good for him for find a career path he finds rewarding in many ways. I hope his comments about engineers are made tonque-in-cheek and "Retirement is only for people who didn't like their careers" should be re-thought.

[I think his comments about engineers are only true FOR HIM if HE had become an engineer. He can comment further if he wants to, but that was my reading. --Mike]

What an excellent pair of texts. In particular, I had not seen that Castaneda piece, and I do thank you for posting it. Pause for thought.

I see it like the old saw about country musicians 'making it' in Nashville. Out of a thousand who go there, one will ever make an album and only one of them will make a second album.

Yeah, it is possible to make a good living as a photographer but it takes a lot of personal and business skills in addition to making good photographs that most photographers don't have. No one makes it on 'good photos' alone.

"Retirement is only for people who didn't like their careers."

Exactly why I semi-retired this past January. Never more true a statement Kirk.

I'm happy for Kirk Tuck, but he's incredibly naive if he believes that just because he did it, anybody can. Especially that because he did it 30 years ago, anybody can do it today.

The demand for professional still photography is rapidly waning. As experienced pros get pushed out of failing markets like retail, they move into the surviving markets, leaving no room for newcomers.

The future is video. If you're still arguing Raw vs. JPEG, you might as well be arguing Rodinal vs D-76.

Oh, and admonishment to "do what you love" for a living is absurd. We can't have everybody traveling the world taking pictures. People need to do what needs doing, not what they love to do. Nobody loves collecting garbage, repairing downed power-lines in a blizzard, or caring for a loved one stricken with Alzheimers. But people do what must be done, which strikes me as more noble than having wine with a President.

Two points. Yes, my remark about engineers was very much "tongue in cheek." I swim with a bunch of engineers of all stripes and they are great guys who love what they do. And yes, their profession has changed a bunch too.

Second, as to my naiveté... The maxim has always been "you are only as good as your last shoot." That means that no one gives a crap about what I did when I started out thirty years ago but they hire me for what we do NOW. There are projects for photographers out there. If there are jobs for me there are jobs for Joe Smith and Sarah Smith. They are different then the jobs we did 30 years ago. But I meet new photographers all the time. Some will make a career of whatever the new paradigm of photography is. And they will bring their youth along as a selling tool.

The bottom line is that everyone who walks in to a new client for the first time and either wins the job or doesn't largely from the work they show, not from a resumé of past acheivements. 30 years of working won't change that in the market for commercial art.

Young kids have advantages that can trump experience. They get the cultural signals and nuances. Their potential clients are close to their ages. They move more fluidly between video and stills.


If you don't at least give "what you love" a shot you've quit before the race begins. Life is long enough to support many different trials and attempts, many career changes. I could have kept at the part time job I had in college and remained a line cook at a restaurant for the rest of my life but I'm glad I tried for something different.

Readers here aren't, for the most part, hampered by lack of education or cultural support. I'll conjecture that nearly every TOP reader has at least a 4 year college degree and had good training. Their choices aren't limited to blue collar jobs and most are smart enough to have figured out how to be a photographer if that's what they want. Most would rather enjoy it as a hobby; a passion.

What most people mean when they trot out that resistance to trying something less secure is that they are willing to trade security for potential success at something fun. Everyone makes a choice about where they want to be along the curve of risk taking and rewards.

Funny about the samples Jack used. One of my clients is a big waste disposal company and I spend time with their garbage truck drivers. They mostly have fun on the job. Another client is a regional power company and their linemen have tremendous pride in what they do and what they know how to do. I'm caring for a parent with Alzheimers right now. I may curtail taking on jobs with too much travel away from home but refuse to give up on my dreams.

Finally, the snarkiness about the "wine with a president." I would agree that just about anything would be more noble than drinking wine with the current president. I stated that I was offered a glass of wine by a president (George W. Bush) but I could not and would not accept it while on the job.....that's how I keep the job... But I loved being in a small group of people who got to share ideas with him for the better part of an hour. Is that noble? No. But is everything you do all day long "noble?" I'm betting Jack is picking and choosing to support his point of view....

I agree entirely with the comment from 'Jack' concerning jobs.
To me, one of the most memorable parts of Happy Days is when Mr Cunningham is totally despondent with his achievements in life and Fonzie the philosopher says something along the lines of....
"Heyyy, Mr C., you take care of business"
I was lucky enough to travel the world taking pictures and getting paid.
I just happened to be an engineer that (sometimes) carried a camera.

By coincidence listened to Kirk being interviewed by Ibarionex on the Candid Frame just a few days ago. There was little talk about photography and a lot of talk about how to run a successful business. lots of people can take good photos, but you have to smarten up to make it into a living. I came away very impressed by the savviness of Kirk Tuck.

Thank you Mr. Hansen. Ibarionex is a great interviewer if he can make me sound savvy...

I've had this discussion with photo friends for years. Many want to be a professional photographer but fail to appreciate what that means.

What it means is that they want to own a small business whose sole product is your photographic skills.

If you don't want to own your own small business, then you probably shouldn't attempt to be a professional photographer.

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