I am, primarily — as in, first and foremost — an ‘artistic’ photographer. At least, I try to be. Creating artistic photographs is what moves me. It’s what interests me. In the realm of photography, it’s what I want to be doing. Unfortunately, the vast majority of artistic photographers find some difficulty paying the bills solely through doing artistic photography. I am fortune enough that I do make money from my artistic works — although, it’s not enough to provide me with both a comfortable life and the funding I need to finance artistic photographic projects. So, I must supplement my artistic photography — that which I would really like to spend all of my time doing — by engaging in other photographic endeavors, such as hiring myself out for commercial shoots and paid portraiture, and stock work.
I really have no complaints, however… I guess. Most photographers with my same interests can’t even do that. They make close to no money at all with their artistic work, if they even make any. Many can’t even support themselves with photography alone at all and must do photography in their time away from their non-photography related day-jobs.
I don’t hate doing other types of photography. I still enjoy practicing the art and craft of photography in these other, not strictly ‘artistic’ modes. It’s just that, left solely up to my own decision, artistic photography is what I would choose to spend 100% of my photography time doing. Currently, I’d say about 60% to 70% of my photography time is spent on doing these other types of photography in order to make ends meet. If I won the lottery tomorrow, and the prize amount was such that I absolutely could live comfortably off of it for the rest of my life, that number would probably lie more around the 5% to 10% area, perhaps. And, some of the non-artistic types of photography, I’d never, ever do again.
But, like I said, I guess I have no complaints. I know photographers who work shitty nine to five jobs that they hate, and that have nothing to do with photography, just so they can finance their photography interests. I do feel fortunate that I’m able to make, not a great, but a reasonably comfortable living for myself from photography alone — even if a good chunk of it is made through doing types of photography that I don’t consider absolutely optimum.
And, let me tell you, a lot of that other photography work is far from ‘absolutely optimum’. Every budding photographer knows of the glamour and excitement that seems inherent in working on a commercial shoot with beautiful models, in some clean, bright, spacious studio on the sixth floor of some luxurious down-town Manhattan building. Well, that’s the movies, my friend. In reality, I’ve rarely worked on a commercial shoot where a client or art director wasn’t constantly breathing down my neck, wanting everything done exactly his or her way to the smallest of detail, and wanted it all completed and perfect by yesterday, for as close to no money as they can get away with paying me. It’s stress. It’s tedium. It’s frustration.It’s fighting against time, conditions and people’s egos and expectations. It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. Usually, it really kind of sucks. But, if you can get it, there’s a paycheck in it — nothing great, of course — no big win-fall, or anything. You can’t reasonably expect to get rich. But, a paycheck nonetheless. And, it is photography. It’s not digging ditches (which I’ve actually done for a living, believe it or not), or cleaning portable outhouses (which I’ve never done), or lugging around giant 50 pound bags of flour and yeast from 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM (which I’ve also actually done for a living.)
In case you’re not clear, when I say ‘artistic photography’, what I’m talking about is this: I think up an idea for an image — usually something which contains somewhat deep, possibly somewhat obscure, cryptic and/or symbolic meaning. I then take, what is quite often, a ridiculous amount of time, and spend, what is quite often, ridiculous amounts of effort and attention, on planning and developing the envisioned image. I create wardrobe, set-pieces, etc. and I put them all together. I find the model, or models, I’ll need (if such an image requires models) and a location, and I schedule a shoot. That’s what I love — artistic expression through the medium of photography. And, if all goes well (often it does not) I end up with a visual image that represents my artistic vision.
If I could spend absolutely all of my time doing that, and just that, I would be in heaven. But, thus far at least, I can’t spend all of my time doing just that while also expecting to eat decent food and not feel rain hitting my body as I sleep. Maybe someday. But, for now, I have to supplement the income I do generate from doing that by photographing beautiful women wearing swimsuits and holding up some sort of a product, from time to time. Or, sometimes, taking photographs of some commercially available contrivance sitting inside a light-tent. It’s not bad — it’s just not optimal.
So, what about you? What type, or types, of photography move you the most? Landscape? Wildlife? Portraiture? Do you dream of doing commercial shoots for corporate advertising? Or, perhaps, is that what you’re already doing? Event photography? Photojournalism? Street photography? What types of photography really ‘trips your shutter’, so to speak?