Creative: A Question I Can’t Answer

This is a ridiculous post, but the idea was floating around in my melon, so here it is.

Can someone shoot film and actually work full-time as a photographer? (Outside of weddings.)

I’m disgusted by the idea I’m even asking myself this question. “NO, OF COURSE NOT.” “IMPOSSIBLE.” But then I began to wonder why.

Let me clarify a few things. I’m talking about real photography, real assignments, jobs, etc. Not the online photography world, or social photography world where anything is possible, but the real-world, working for commercial, editorial or advertising clients. Agents, art buyers, reps, studios, digital services, post production, stylists, catering, insurance, production, producers, etc. My answer to this portion of the question is “no f%$%$$# way.”

The reason has little to do with film. The reasons are many, but there are two that jump out at me. Speed and perception. EVERYONE is in a hurry for no reason at all. Always. Frantic even. We’ve convinced ourselves this is good, a lifestyle even, and something to brag about. Lack of sleep, insane travel, amount of email, how many jobs in the air at one time; all things we now hold as badges of honor even though these things make us miserable. I find this one of the most puzzling aspects of our current culture. This reality doesn’t bode well for anything that takes time.

Perception. Film is expensive. The first person who corrected me on this scenario was an uber lab owner in LA who said “If you shoot 30 rolls of 220 a day or less then film is far cheaper than digital.”(I’ve never shot this much in one day in my life.) What? How? Who? Impossible right? Nope. But the perception is the exact opposite. Remember, cost for the digital gear is exponentially higher, and this cost includes the tech services that come along with it as well as the need to buy/rent the latest gear. (Some clients began demanding this years ago.) Factor in the archiving costs and now you are WAY beyond film, but again, perception is everything.

But here is maybe the only important point I’m going to make. Why do so many photographers put their work in the hands of someone else?(I’ve done this for years, so I’m as guilty as anyone.) Yes, you have to work with clients. Yes, they have needs, but aren’t we the ones who are supposed to have the style? For example. Let’s say that you are a person who likes to shoot 35mm Leicas and TRI-X. I don’t know anyone like this but play along.

Let’s say this person has been making work this way for decades, and when this person shows the work to people in the professional space he gets almost nothing but positive feedback. And yet this work has no home in the modern photography world. What if this person just says “Okay, this is what I do, so if you want me then this is what you are going to get.” “You just told me you loved it.” What would happen is this person would probably never get a single job for the rest of his/her career.

I find this hysterical. It’s not like the professional photography world is moving in a great direction. Right? How many photographers do you know that are thriving and saying “Wow, things are GREAT.” I know a lot who claim that on social but most photographers I know are navigating a very shaky playing field at the moment, and many are working in ways that make them miserable.

Gone are the days of making work in the way that made them the photographer they are.

I would compare this to me trying to hire someone like, oh I don’t know, Picasso. “Hey Pablo, good seeing you, I’ve been following your relentless stream of what you ate for lunch on your IG feed…it’s SOOOOOOOO good.” “Oh hey, the client wants you for the commission but you know the painting by hand thing isn’t going to work for them. They actually need you to use a Wagner Power Painter for this job because the shoot is on Monday morning and the work goes live on the website at 2PM that same day.” “We have to trim the budget and the client hired a cost consultant to keep the bid down, so hopefully it will still work.” “Oh, and they don’t want color or anything abstract.” “Oh, oh, and you need to do video too.”

Lunacy? Yes. Just what runs around in my head. The ONLY way around this would be with a very rare customer who is willing to work with you but those aren’t common enough to be a career. Or, the fine art world. “They” don’t care. Anything goes in that world, which is truly intriguing. Who knew that art might save journalism? (Insert Dr. Evil, finger to mouth, wink here.)

Now, you can flip this story to fit whatever method you work in. Can someone work in black and white acrylic ONLY and make a living? God I hope so.
And I’m sure there are exceptions out there.

Okay, gotta go. Unicorn hunting this afternoon.


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