Do you remember episodes of the West Wing television series when President Bartlett would say, “What’s next” as soon as he’d completed one phase of a campaign or legislative agenda? The sense from him was that you left a trail of dust rather than letting it settle on you, or that you dodge rain drops to keep dry instead of putting up an umbrella and standing there taking it.
There’s a parallel to what’s happening in the publishing world. You can stay put and keep doing things as you have in the hopes that your newspaper won’t eliminate you. You can assume that the clients you had before the economy tanked will come back when the economy returns. You can keep making and presenting pictures the way you always have because that’s always been fine.
I wonder if people who made horse buggies thought the same way when hearing that somebody had invented a thing called an automobile. It’s better to be like the Fisher Brothers than it is to continue making buggies. The Brothers moved from making horse-drawn carriages to dominating General Motors auto manufacturing for decades. Remember, “Body By Fisher”.
It’s understandable to feel remorse for things that are disappearing or changing in ways that you can’t control. Virtually everyone I talk to tells me they know someone who is struggling in one way or another or who just got laid off.
I was having coffee with Tom Hassler the other day. What a nice guy. He’s a photographer and the vice president of the Oregon chapter of ASMP. He noted the decline of things as they were but was so excited when talking about how he has changed what he’s done. He still does assignment work and commissions but to fill the economy-driven breach he has started selling prints to a responsive audience.
Randall K. Roberts has done the same thing. His job of many years evaporated when the Rocky Mountain News closed. Randall has travelled much of the Southwest making pictures of that amazing land since his days at the Albuquerque Tribune, beginning in the mid-1980’s. Now he’s continues to travel to make pictures but also sells prints in a variety of settings. New life begun.
Fred Joe just got laid off from the Oregonian a few weeks ago. Fred’s a great guy, full of energy and talent and interest in motorcycling and family life and friendships. So he launched a business making pictures of what he loves.
It’s scary doing things you’ve not done. But these guys are making it happen. So am I, for that matter.
When I took a buyout from my last job, I had been considering a Plan B for some time. You’re stupid if you don’t plan for a Plan B. I’m not stupid. I’d been thinking about what I enjoyed most in all these years of working for publications and organizations and with photographers. And it was helping people become better at making pictures by editing their existing work and giving feedback to work on progress and helping organizations produce bodies of work that tell their compelling story.
So creating that core as the driving force of a business model provided a clear path for me. And it’s working, thanks to the many photographers who’ve contacted me to work with them.
Asking yourself what you enjoy most is the critical starting point to reshaping what you need to do, how you need to change to make a living from photography. There’s no single path. You may have to compromise some things but if you are true to the essence, I’m betting you can make it happen. (As long as you’re good enough - there is that pissing in the wind phenomenon.)
And if I can help you create the path, I’m here for you.