day 35: I’m going to rant a little.

Every now and then when I was younger, I would curse my artistic abilities.  It’s not that I didn’t like being artistic.  It’s just that I always thought that you could never really have a real job that was artistic.  I imagined myself flipping burgers during the day and selling paintings on a street corner by night.  I imagined myself like Gene Kelly in “American in Paris”.  A starving artist.  Someone who only really had art to fall back on.
While in high school my plans of a future career were scattered, at best. But I’m pretty sure I gave up on “real” university when I heard a counsellor give a lecture on the prerequisites you needed to get a “real” degree. “You must have a language.  You must have a a billion science credits.  You must be a brilliant mathematician.” I looked over my grade 10 reports.  Math & Science grades were less than brilliant (and when I say “less than” I really mean, *less than*).  I already had no chance of getting into normal Math for grade 11.  I would have had to suddenly grow a fond appreciation of the periodic table of elements to have the desire to put myself through two more years of the sciences she said I needed for “real” university.   And a language? Por que? No.  I had that arts.  English, Choir, Drama, Visual Arts…if it meant creating, I did it.

There is a point to this story.  I promise.

Fast forward a few years.  I have become a “professional” artist.  And I love it with every fibre of my being.  It has taken a number of years to get used to the fact that being an artist isn’t always stable.  I understand that now.  When I go through lulls with hired work, I have about a hundred side projects that I am working on to keep me busy and sane (some may make me money, most will not).

Here’s where I struggle:
Photography is pretty popular right now.  I see, time and time again people “toying with the idea of starting a photography business on the side”(or have already started their “side” photography business).  I also see that many of those people have promising careers in the business or academic world.  I don’t understand why one would go through school to be say, a nurse…and then decide that since one has a DSLR, a photography business is the next logical step. My heart broke a few weeks ago when a very talented photographer friend said she was thinking of quitting because there’s too much competition. She has worked hard to become a photographer. (Yes, I am ranting.  Bear with me.) I’ve worked hard to become a photographer.  I learnt film photography (all manual),  for 3 years trying to get all the ins and outs of photography.  Later I bought myself a digital SLR and took pictures of everyone and everything for two years before attempting a business.  And when I started I did only free work.  A photography business is not as simple as just owning a nice camera.  It’s having an eye for people and places and small little details and everything in between.  If you want to have a business, (and I’m not trying to stop you, just trying to caution) seriously think about it.  Only do free work for a year.  Read every online forum about every weird technique (zoom blur! tilt shift!) and learn them all.  Fill your brain with Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz.  Be willing to crawl on your belly, or climb onto someones roof for the perfect shot.  And when you’ve hauled your camera equipment through mosquito infested jungles all for the sake of getting a sweet shot, or laid on the ground in the middle of a country western wedding reception dance (with cowboy boots inches from your head) and you still love doing it for free…then start your business.

Tomorrow I am dropping off the DVD’s of a wedding I did a few weeks ago.  I am so excited to give them to the couple.  I love the response when the client sees their proofs for the first time.  I love being given the responsibility of capturing peoples special moments.  
I hate to hear stories of couples who entrusted their special moments to a friend of a friend who does photography “on the side” and ended up with a load of unusable out of focus boring half-hearted photos.  
So there you have it.  Being an artist (in this case, a photographer) is hard work.  It’s not a side job that you can just take a few hours from your weekend and that’s it.  Leave the art to the artists.  (Or else I might just start practicing brain surgery on the side).

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