Hopelessly in Love
I'm still utterly in love with photography. Even though the reality of it punched me in the guts, telling me I can't make a living doing it in what I thought was the best city in the world.
But I'm no longer blinded by the pursuit of it.
I picked up a camera and shot a model yesterday. It was a work shoot but I got to art direct, produce, cast, and make it my own shoot. And, well, I'm off work now but still editing the photos. I can't help it. This is what I love to do more than anything in the world.
I'm so lucky to have found something I'm so passionate about. People go their entire lives not ever discovering a true passion. They have a career but they would never do it unpaid. They have hobbies but they're not consumed by it. How lucky I am to be hopelessly in love with photography and making art.
I think what I love about photography the most is the innovation. My passion is fueled by inspiration and imagination, an idea in my head that I need to express in physical form. I love test shoots - getting to experiment with all sorts of subjects and unique beauties in any art direction I desire. I love art directing - styling fashion and creating the set. I love creating something new, something people have never seen before. I love challenging myself to create beauty out of the ordinary. Those are the shoots that make me happiest.
But I hate business. I hate commercial advertising. Photography is too special for me to sell out. To be "successful" as a photographer you make your way up, working with large teams and large scales and large shoots, which include art directors and stylists and set designers and people doing all the things I love to do. It includes reference boards and expectations and budget limitations. I don't want to be just a body clicking a shutter.
In addition, you have to compete. (How can you compete in art?) Lower prices, better portfolio (super subjective), more school (puh-lease), and more connections (!!!) It's networking, producing, negotiating, comprising. Where is the art??!?
Furthermore, horror stories about what happens behind the scenes in the industry scares me. I don't want to work in an industry that preys on young people in both career-related and sexual harassment-inducing ways. A quote from a BoF article reads "The problem goes much deeper than models and photographers. Powerful editors, stylists and casting directors are also known to routinely engage in sexual misconduct, exerting their positions of industry power to abuse young women and men who, much like those climbing the ranks in Hollywood, are often compelled to consent to their own exploitation for fear of losing out on career-enhancing jobs."
Another op-ed article delves deeper into the Hollywood and fashion worlds, talking about the sexual nature in the marketing of fashion. It promotes a youth-driven hyper sexualized culture you must buy into to be a part of. In these creative industries, there are few rules and regulations, therefore allowing a powerful few to take advantage of everyone else for their own benefit. This volatile industry thrives on this culture.
When I got to New York, I was amazed by the options. So many photography rental companies and locations and resources and fashion. But I feel like my work didn't even come close to the work I did in SLO. Those hours slaving away in the tiny little Cal Poly Photo Department photo studio and driving to the sand dunes - that was magic. That was beyond ordinary, something different from anything people are used to. In New York, everyone shoots fashion. Everyone shoots bloggers and e-commerce and weird conceptual fashion and high-maintenance celebrities. It's all the same. Trends are established and followed, and quantity is emphasized over quality. There is a never-ending flow of new trends and new talents that rise fast but fall faster. You put yourself into the cycle that chews you up and spits you out. Is that worth it?
If I want to create good work for myself, I need to have limitations. Constraints make us more creative. It's the process that is thrilling and passion-fueling. So I'm back in California, chasing after a more mature, slightly more grown-up dream. Maybe photography isn't the career for me, but it's something better - it's my art.