What is there to love about photography?
I ask myself this question on occasions. Not so much to introduce doubts, lord knows there’s enough impediments in this world which create new self-doubts without developing my own internal frustrations. But I, like many other people may sometimes struggle with commitment. Just to be clear, I’m not talking of stereo-typical “Rom-Com” masculine fear of relationship commitment, I’m referring to that fad phenomenon. That insidious experience also responsible for the ab-cruncher in the garage, the ice-cream maker in the kitchen and the framed certificate of registration of business name that represents all that remains of a previous entrepreneurial venture. I have taken on new projects in my life and at the time my inner voice screamed “this is it. This is what you were meant to do.” At the time I loved it, found myself good at it, learned new skills with the voracity of a child savant, and developed clear goals for development of that idea. Then, two years, one year, even 3 months later the love dies, the relationship sours and we part ways with a mutual understanding never to contact the other again.
This is not a treatise on the human condition and impetus for failures, so let me take a fork in the road now. Suffice to say, the goal is often inimical to the process. Another way of looking at it is to say, just because you love doing something, does not necessarily translate into love of doing that for someone else, or dare I say it, into paying the bills. So if money becomes the objective, then the activity often loses its lustre. I used to love riding motor bikes. Not that I don’t anymore, but there was something I noticed about riding that relates here. I would ride on my days off, in the rain, in the heat, in the cold, around the corner or thousands of miles and loved it all. So then, it only makes sense that my workdays could only be made better by riding my bike at the start and end of that workday. As with all emergent love, spring fills the senses and fools the mind into the false belief of eternal bliss. After a while though, autumn leads to inevitable winter and as it crept into my world, I began to find irritation in those attributes I once saw as cute. The problem was, no matter how much I loved riding, I could not escape the irrefutable fact that I was still commuting, and no matter the method, the negativity tainted the activity. Now might be a time to turn to Zen philosophies and look at my own negative Neural Linguistic Programming, but I won’t, so don’t panic.
What I did learn though, is that there is a triangle of needs for a successful life. There is what you love doing; what you have a talent for; and what is marketable. Success in life increases as these three converge.
To fit this into the previous example, I loved riding motorcycles. I was not particularly great at it, and no-one wanted to pay me to do it. Only one point of the triangle was met and I lived with this disparity. Realising something had to give, I sold the bikes for other pursuits – there were other imperatives, but for the sake of argument let’s stick on message.
Getting back to topic, Photography has always been my passion, only I never knew what to do with it. Sure, there was the taking of photos, but then what? The ultimate love for me was the way to see the world. I noticed in me a change and still do, as I continue to learn new skills and challenge my abilities. I don’t just see a tree, or a field, or a sunset. I experience the light; I look at the depth, the curves, the lines, the shadows inherent in every vista and learn to love what I see. Photography has changed, and is changing my perception and enhancing my experience of my world and I love that. However, for many years I would enjoy my photographic excursions, and then continue to relive the experience with my prints. I might even share them with family and friends who usually feigned interest just to be nice, or maybe they actually were impressed. The point is, the journey was incomplete. Like an addictive psychotropic drug I was always chasing the dragon for that high I’d feel when I was alone in the wilderness with my camera.
That’s what I loved about photography, but that is not the title of this musing. I had something I loved doing; and something that I was good at, and I believed with time, study and practice I might even become better than good. So now I have two points to the triangle, but I’m still missing that all too crucial third point, marketability. Again, with enough will there is always a way around the obstacle, but I was never prepared to place the sanctity of my family’s home in jeopardy by quitting my job and schlepping around the state to market fares with my stall of prints and canvasses, making pennies and hoping to be discovered.
All hail the digital revolution!
It’s all different now, and I know I’m technically a late adopter, but I have a rekindled love. Photography and I have renewed our vows at a small ceremony on the beach at dawn. The convergence of digital camera, internet, social media and the democratisation of content creation has changed forever the playing field of publishing. I regard this as a social revolution akin to vernacular bibles and mass-transit, altering the human experience, generally for the better. What this means to me is simple. Marketing in the 21st century is a Masters Degree of intricacy, so I am not professing expertise or possessing of panaceas. But I do now see an avenue, a tunnel that links the two points of the triangle to the third providing a glimpse of the means by which the points can converge. I can still capture my beloved images, but now I can more easily seek help to learn from my mistakes and subscribe to tutorials and mentorships. Further to this, I can now share my work, create a brand, and even participate in sharing and promoting the work of others. I can’t force an audience, but likewise I’m not beholden to an executive from a publishing house to decide if I tick the required boxes or fit with the corporate business plan philosophy, or before all that, just getting her attention. My bride has gone back to school; signed up to the gym; and bought a new wardrobe and has returned to me with new abilities and radiance that compels me to catch-up, or risk being left behind. Photography and I are in love again, and I am doing all I can to be worthy of her affection.