« Sunday Support Group: Dippers | Main | Ah, Youth »

Monday, 14 June 2021


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I think that the elites in sports and other vocations such as photography and the arts or what not are wired differently. They are more like Vijay Singh. Kobe Bryant had no problem being in the gym 6-8 hours per day. Michael Phelps swam nearly the same amount of hours. I'd rather light myself on fire, and most people I'd argue are not wired this way. I've read stories of the talent of minor league baseball players who have the talent to play in the big leagues, but not the mental wiring of putting in the insane amount of hours of work to make it happen.

Just my two cents. There is some level of obsessive behavior required to put so much into one thing, and to stick with that over the course of many years, and sometimes even a lifetime.

Your post reminds me of the story I may have mentioned here before, of Andy Summers, the guitar player for the band The Police, taking up photography while on tour and making photographs throughout the day before the nightly concert. When asked why does he make photographs when he’s already so creative as a musician, he said being a rockstar is kind of like being an automaton, you play the same 16 songs every night and he said he needed to do something else to express his creativity. https://andysummers.com/photography/

An automaton? No you’re a rockstar, the greatest job in the world! I feel bad for the members of REO Speedwagon who really can do no other work except for playing Can’t Fight This Feeling night after night.

The ones I really feel the most for are the musicians who had only one hit (or any artist who had one hit) and they just wanna continue to make more work and nobody wants anything from them except for that one. It must feel like a curse, I bet many of the one hit wonders in music would give up their hit if they could just have a career and make multiple records.

From that never been surpassed documentary on golf, Caddyshack: Chevy Chase as Ty Webb talking with Ted Knight as Judge Smails...

Judge Smails: Ty, what did you shoot today?

Ty Webb: Oh, Judge, I don't keep score.

Judge Smails: Then how do you measure yourself with other golfers?

Ty Webb: By height.

Art school, turning pro, etc, properly aren’t rational decisions. They’re for people who find unbearable the thought of not pursuing them.

Who was it (you probably know, but I cannot recall) that said about his journey into photography;
‘At first I did it to please myself.
Then I did it to please others.
Finally, I did it for money.’

Another good quote: the indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch always called himself an "amateur" filmmaker because he said he wanted to always do it for the love of the story he wanted to tell, not for the way the industry wanted him to make films. Being an amateur allowed him to pursue it with love for the craft first.

Wow. The 'Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?' moment? was a very real thing for me. I love photography, so I thought that photojournalism was something I wanted - and loved the start of it. Was shooting for the local alternative weeklies in high school, then went to Mizzou, was working on the Maneater there, and while at home shooting the Memphis in May BBQ Festival, standing with a bunch other far older photogs doing the same thing I was doing(namely, trying to take a picture of Tipper Gore leaning over a smoker without just taking a pictures of the Vice President's Wife's butt), I realized that this was their job. I was just a dilettante.

Sobering. But helpful.

I still love photography, but I don't take money for it. It's my escape. It's mine. You don't like what I shoot? who cares! I still want to get better, I still want to improve, but yes, sometimes I take a break. I'm almost at peace with that, 25 years on.

While I've sold a few prints (at near cost) making a living in the photographic realm is like being a major sports superstar. I make a good living as an engineer (I am a superstar in my very narrow niche market). Photography (since 1969) has been a passion, but it could never ever become a career. I'm not good enough. I play a good game of pool too, but I'm nowhere good enough.

Mike, its not quite the same topic but the following book had a big effect on me.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art making.
David Bayles & Ted Orland.
eISBN : 978-0-961-45472-2

I read it when ever "whats the point? i'll never be Mozart" gets too loud in my head.

Thank you for all you do.


I have a wealthy friend who often offers me advice on how to grow my money.

He spends a lot of his life working on increasing his wealth. But it doesn't bring him joy. It seems to only reinforce his sense of scarcity.

I've bluntly expressed to him that I'm just not willing to sacrifice the other parts of my life for wealth on his scale.

And I've never gone without, as a result. I guess I'm a life amateur

I remember your landmark test of enlarging lenses in Darkroom Techniques. I don't recall that the Apo-Rodenstock-N 50mm f/2.8 was on that list. Did this lens came out after that early 1980s test?

[I think you might be thinking of Ctein? He's the one who did the big enlarger lens wrapup. I didn't start writing for magazines until 1987. --Mike]

When I first got interested in photography I ended up chasing the dream even if I was not sure what that dream was as a teenager on Vancouver Island in the 1970s. I thought wouldn't it be cool to be a professional photographer. I wasn't even sure what kind of photographer that I wanted to be I just wanted to be a working photographer. A crossroads of circumstances of sorts happened which lead to me working as a newspaper photographer for over 4 decades in Canada. After I graduated from high school I needed work, my dad worked at an autobody shop a few doors down from a newly opened weekly newspaper (The Goldstream Gazette) the paper was growing in prosperity (this was in 1976) My Dad suggested that I go and see the owners of the paper and I did that.

This is how I started my newspaper photography career. From the Gazette I went on to work at a small daily newspaper near Toronto, Ontario. I came back to British Columbia, in the early 1980s and had a long working stint of 34 years with the Kelowna Daily Courier in British Columbia it was a smaller Canadian newspaper but provided a good living. I took early retirement when the Courier decided they no longer needed a staff photographer like many newspapers around the world which were no longer the prosperous mighty beasts that they were in their younger days.

Looking back on my working career for the most part I always loved what I did. I would say that I had a fairly good appetite and energy level for my day-to-day work I even won a few awards along the way. One thing I did do pretty well from the get-go was to create my own specific body of photographic work on my days off and holidays. I got absorbed by shooting mostly landscape photos with my large format cameras. Whenever I came back to work I was ready for whatever action came my way as I had fulfilled my ultimate creative desires as an "amateur" photographer on my time off.

50 years ago I fancied a career as an artist, specifically a watercolour painter, and was studying on weekends with the Australian Watercolour Institute. As time went on, I realised that my mentors and teachers, (all vastly more talented than I was) were all working second and third jobs to keep their financial noses above water and their long-suffering partners were also working to supplement the family income. I calculated that I would have to sell a minimum of a painting a week, at a rate of $1,000 each, to equal my then-current salary. This was unrealistic, to say the least!
I decided then to pursue a commercial career, which has taken me all over the world, and resulted in a happy, well-fed family, and the luxury to paint as I want, when I want. I’m convinced I made the right decision, because without, as you say, the energy and appetite, artistic penury would not have been a happy place.

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” — Mark Twain

There is a middle ground. Within work there are activities we enjoy and some we don't. It is the balance between these that makes a job joy or drudgery.

I loved travelling. I hated doing expense reports. On balance it was a great job.

Golf story number 3. falls under the category, for me, of "there's something else going on". Some people admire those in our society that show an incredible amount of drive and focus in what they do, I do not! I think it's ADHD, or some other borderline insanity, if it's even borderline, might just be real undiagnosed insanity!

I admire those that can be competent in their work, and there for their family and friends, and well read, and well experienced in the modern world; that's the true genius!

You're not a genius if you devote vast quantities of time and effort to a certain discipline, to the exclusion of being there for your family, even having friends, or experiencing other things; you're "something else".

Could not agree with this more - about both golf and photography! I took up golf for the "social" and "networking" possibilities, and quickly discovered that 1) I was not and never was going to be very good at it, and 2) it was not worth it even if I had gotten good. Plus, it was a big waste of money! As a photographer, I am proud to wear the title of "amatuer". And, I do feel I get my money's worth. (PS: I still own 2 Beseler MXTs)

Regarding golf, sometime in my 20's I decided to try a par 3 course just to see what all the fuss was about. I shot a 63 my first time out. I was fine with that as I did a bit better on the 2nd hole, so already my game was improving. Can't exactly recall whether I completed the course or just called it mid way through.
Regarding love and dedication to what you do, back in the 90's I started following Nascar, because that's what my friends and coworkers did. And if you wanted to participate in the conversation, you had to speak Nascar. There was a driver by the name of Dave Marcus that had been racing for decades, but being a small independent one car team, always ran in about the bottom 25% towards the later part of his career. Everyone complained about why he didn't just retire, but I saw it differently. Here was a guy going out every weekend enjoying and making a living doing something a lot of people would give a left arm to do once. Why should he retire. Over the course of a 35 year career he ran nearly 900 races and won 5. I think he was focused more on the journey than the destination. It wasn't simply that he wanted to race, he had too. It's who he was. Not every photographer who has that level of dedication reaches the top and stays there, but every photographer that reaches the top and stays there, has that level of dedication.

A Christian minister once told me that ministry was "for those who can't do anything else." Not in the sense that they aren't capable for earning a living in any other way, but for them, doing anything else seems like a waste of time.

I feel the same way about art: it's for those who simply cannot do anything else. If they also posses, as you pointed out, high energy and a tremendous capacity for work, they're off to a good start. Those few who have all of that, plus the ability to articulate a unique vision, are the ones we all talk about.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007