My afternoon was spent reflecting on why I take photographs both commercially and artistically. While the money I make helps pay for travel and minor luxury items, the business cannot be about the money for me, as I can make money in many other ways. Do I do this because I love spending my late night hours taking photographs of cookware like an odd fetishist whose passion for culinary gadgets has taken him over the edge? No. Am I desperately trying to break into the weird hipster art market wherein I will stun the world with my composition of a dead fish, a plastic Santa and an old lady wearing a ferret costume in Schwartz’s Deli? Kill me when I do that shot. After a lot of self-talking I came up with one word: legitimacy.
I, like many other photographers, want to be recognized as being a real photographer. To be legit requires four things: creating a brand, doing regular work, makin’ steady cash and developing a catalogue of killer work. You can do one, but without the others you are just a hack, a hobbyist and are not in the game. Now you can be starving in New York, but because of your dire conditions you can claim starving artist status and be legit. No one will argue with that street cred. I definitely am not wanting to go hungry ever again. You can make the money taking photos of school children. I hate saying “whisky” unless I am ordering it at a nice speakeasy. No one ever says: “He is the man for edgy class photos, dude.” Sad, but true.
Who really decides if you are a professional photographer or not? The Tax Man. He separates the wheat from the chaff; the Annie Leibovitz’ from your Uncle Bob the Camera Hoarder. You either need to be proving your business mettle to him or be disqualified as a hobbyist. You need to make money, spend money, be published, build a portfolio and pay taxes. If you make no money, then the Tax Man will let you call yourself a photography god if you like, but that is like letting a crazy man call himself the Queen of Mars.
What have I decided? I like being a professional photographer. I do fascinating work most of the time, I use wonderful machines in exotic places and I have had a solid level of success, especially given how much time I can actually devote to the business. Where does this leave me? I envisioned a plan in four hours. The plan involves reworking my website, monetizing my portfolio through PhotoShelter so that prospective buyers can order prints directly with PayPal, looking for the perfect venue for my first exhibition and then deciding in June whether I met my specific goals (financial and artistic). If so, then I will finance a new digital back and/or SLR body to keep me in the commercial game. If not, then I will accept the game and move on to another plan in another direction. These decisions brought me to produce my first real attempt to turn photographs from my archive into work in a series that I can sell to clients. Lines of Horizon is a series of 9 images measuring 20×10 inches, and each photograph in the series matches a similar focal length from a different place in the world: Angkor, Havana, Jordan, Giza, Vancouver, Mount Sinai, Florence, Cape Town and Paris. Meant to be modern pieces of nostalgic places, each photograph is framed in a similar border and film tone. Depending on what the actual options are on PhotoShelter I may provide two size options [a 10×5 inch option would allow for 3 pieces to be hung together]. All apologies for needing to place the ridiculous watermark in the middle of these frames, but if I am going to sell them as actual prints, then I want to make sure I do not lose prospective clients to easy theft.
This is what I came up with in 4 hours…5712 hours left in the game.