So here I sit on a rain cloud shrouded day in the Bay Area. Snuggled up in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace, coffee one side of me, snoring pug on the other. Failing miserably at getting caught up on some photography blog reading. And the reason being that one of the first posts I find has a discussion that is so engrossing that it has taken up most of my reading time.
It all started with Dave Hobby’s Jerry Maguire like manifesto on Four Reasons to Consider Working for Free where Mr. Strobist himself discusses why the current economic down turn is the perfect time for photographers to work for free to do some projects that are either more meaningful for themselves personally or allow them to work in a new direction that they have been wanting to head toward (but couldn’t find paying customers to fund).
While there are a number of well known photographer bloggers who have chimed in on this discussion (as well as a seemingly endless number of others via the original posts comments), I found Joe McNally’s associated blog post hitting it right on the head:
I’m not suggesting you don’t need to make money as a shooter. Far from it. But those pictures we get, the ones we keep close, the deepest cuts, if you will, are really of our own volition and making. And those are the ones we seek and need, or better, the ones that seek us. They are way stations. You will stop there, or need to stop there, no matter if someone is paying you or not.
Cause what we are talking about here is food for the table and food for the soul.
The core premise behind this entire thread is what clicked in each of our heads when we picked up the camera that one time and have not been able to put it down since. The ability to express something about life visually in way that shares our inner vision with others. This creativity in photography can easily get sent into remission by the drive to earn a living creating photos. It is this exact creativeness that drives so many enthusiast photographers to continue to follow their passion late at night and over the weekends, funded by their “soul-sucking day job” (as Dave put it). I would argue that this is the same core premise that originated creative photography and any art.
A combination of the year end analysis that most people do with the current economic situation makes this a very timely discussion. Splurge on your photographic self this holiday season by taking the time to sit back and think critically about your photography, the direction you find yourself heading, and the stuff you keep telling youself you wish you could be doing. Then find and approach that client that can help you by allow you to help them. Their help is payment enough.
(Side Blur: If you need help in finding that client that may be able to help you help them, a fellow photographer friend of mine pointed me to the Taproot Foundation just a few days ago. They are an organization that helps non-profit organizations and professionals who want to do pro-bono work find each other. This is a great way for any talented photographer to work for free while working for a good cause.)