May 4th, 2017 … The Struggle to Survive … Fuji X-Pro2

A few conversations have come up about being true to yourself vs being true to the $$$. This has been food for the devil forever. Back in the late 70’s, I was married, 2 kids, house and apple pie. I had a good photography gallery in old city. We did ok. I wasn’t cutting it financially. My friend asked me to do a studio with him. So we set out to make a killing in the photo market. Long story short, after about 14 months, I felt lost in America. I looked at my inventory of personal work and was horrified. I has less then 20 roll of film exposed. I couldn’t breathe. I felt my essence had died and I knew what had to happen.

I told my partner friend that I need to do something for money. We split and I called my grand father and uncle. See, we had a Hardwood Flooring Business since 1905. I dreaded going back into the business but hungry wives get pretty sore, and kids even more. I always carried my M4/35 crom.

I made photos all the time. One day my grandfather and I were driving to a job and he said…. I know how much photography means to you and I’m glad you are doing something with it.

Then he said, during the WW1, I wanted to be a lawyer. I studied and a firm said they would help me. I had 7 siblings and they had to eat. So I was enlisted to work and take care of my family. “I really wanted to be a lawyer Donald, you be what you want.” Well, I don’t cry much after Nam. But I sure as heck had tears inside hearing about pop like that.

Ok, here’s the point. I tried endlessly to find work as a paid shooter. I did some weddings, events, news paper stuff but never enough to really make it. I always looked at my work and I could see photos I liked. So I did hardwood floors. I worked very hard and was proud of the jobs my family turned out.

Photography was happening all the time but it was different then what I had my preconceptions focused on. One day Mrs ISL banged on my head and told me to focus on the here and now. See, Mrs Inverse Square Law knew what I was thinking and how I was wrong.

In that law which governs photography, it shows that less is more and more is less. So as I was working hard at the floor business, my shooting and processing time was limited. I had less time to do it. I had more productivity then I expected. See, the struggle to survive is what gives the flavor to life. That flavor is what we need to appreciate.

I know of many shooters that work as a paid shooter. They make their money and they are professional but, there is a lacking and longing for the personal work. Yeah, yeah, I know, some even say….”My work is my personal work.” BARF! There is a need for the SOUL to feel nourished. Most won’t feed their SOULS with money. The ones that try hard, don’t have a SOUL anyway.

So ya get a job as a paid shooter. Yippee! Ya work hard and make the ducketts and have nice cameras. Then the day is over and ya go home and do what? Many drink beer and watch sports. Nothing wrong with that and in fact, it’s some of the best anti-politician therapy made. But for a shooter doing personal work, ya got a problem.

So it seems even if your born to a family with all the advantages, emotionally and aesthetically, your on common ground with every single shooter ever born, ever will be born and even the ones that don’t know they are born. The idea of being a paid shooter and still doing your personal work without restrictions of any kind seems easy enough but yet, it’s the elusive butterfly. The idea of doing personal work and getting paid for it is also an elusive butterfly. Just remember, even butterflies may be caught with the right bait and net.

I won’t speak for anyone but myself and that’s not always the right thing. For me, I would rather do menial labor then lose the inspiration and desire to shoot for my self. Ya know how opposites attract, well this does too. When I was doing hardwood floors I was always dusty and dirty. Then I would get almost sterile and go to the darkroom. it’s polar opposites that were working.

There once was an amazing shooter and his name was Ralph Eugene Meatyard. He made the most bizarre photos but I loved his work. I was lucky to acquire a half dozen prints and I still love them. Anyway, he was an optometrist by trade and photographer by love. Closely related but in the heart and soul, I don’t think so. The dichotomy of a dual life is the driving force that could save one from thinking ….”oh, my job sucks and ruins my life”. There is always a saving Grace and we need to appreciate that and also to break the walls that bind us to our own preconceptions.

When I figure out how to do it, I’ll post it here…..

Go in Peace my friends, but go with a camera………….

21 thoughts on “May 4th, 2017 … The Struggle to Survive … Fuji X-Pro2”

    1. Welcome to life my friend. Working and doing art or photography after work is great for the mind and soul.

  1. Mister Don, I usually like what you write – this time I like it even more than usual. I am an trained orderly, working the nightshift on a dementia ward. That´s how I pay my bills and put food on my table. Making photos is my passion, and I could never do it “full time” even if I wanted to, which I don´t. Thank you. Write more along this line.

    1. Thanks tommi. You reinforce my thoughts and feelings but then you usually do anyway.

  2. Hi Don – Your posts have helped my photography so much since I started reading them. I share your feelings about the importance of understanding our own purpose and trying to express that purpose through what we do. I’ve been taking pictures since I was a kid, but I feel like I am just starting to get what I am doing with it. So thanks for that.

    I used to be a classical orchestral musician. Music is my passion, the thing I need to keep me going. Shortly after starting my career as an orchestral musician, I realized that the conductors who were in it more for the ego boost than the music, and the concerts of Muzak where we played orchestral versions of Eagles tunes and what-not were necessary to pay the bills so that we could play the music we really wanted to play. But it was slowly killing my soul, and I realized that I had to get out before it ruined the thing that I loved most. I came to the conclusion that for all but 0.001% of people, it is a mistake to try to make a living from the thing that you love the most; there are too many compromises that have to be made and that ultimately eat away at your own personal vision. I guess that’s burnout.

    1. Mark, thanks. I’m glad you get something from this. It’s not a fine line between work/love. It’s very well defined division. Once someone gets to the point of seeing and living on the line, the world changes.
      For me, it meant that I started to appreciate my job and was happy doing it because it paid the bills and gave me the freedom to do my work. I’m glad to hear you found a similar solution….

  3. I take the point that having to do photography to somebody else’s brief to put the bread on the table is enough to kill your creative energy. But getting paid to take the pictures that you want and that you are in creative control of now that’s another matter entirely. So you see, when you’re working at a job you hate dreaming of being a “paid shooter” you’re just living the wrong dream. If the man wants pictures let him take his own damn pictures. In the meantime you’re doing art.

  4. Nice piece Don. I got my college degree in photojournalism back in the early 80’s and worked in that field for a few years out of college but left to take a job that paid better, I have been in and out of the business ever since but the truth is, at this point in my life, photography is a wonderful creative outlet and the occasional paid gigs are just that occasional, and I like it that way. I tell young folks that ask me about my advice concerning going into the photo field that it’s a great part time vocation but you’ll have more fun if you make it your avocation.

    1. Thanks Dan. The advice you give is not just for youngin’s my friend. It’s nice to share that wisdom and even if they don’t follow it, well… you did your part.

    1. Sean, thanks. Yes, I agree with you but unfortunately, many will need to discover this truth for themselves.
      I will read the article, take care Sean….

    1. Perhaps that was his intent. Not everything in life is considered beautiful, then again, even the grotesque has a quality of beauty to it. There was a TV series back in the day called, “The Twilight Zone”. I urge you to seek it out and watch as many as you can.
      peace, don

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