Being A Photographer – 3

I am sure that someday (hopefully) I will look back to this day and laugh about how despondent the times seemed. I will perhaps think of it nostalgically and say “Oh those were the days when I was broke, scrounging for work and quite frustrated with the world in general.”

I know that might happen. But living in the present, being in that moment of frustration, I wonder  how I will take that step forward, make the success happen.

I have plenty of advisors and plenty of great advice. It varies from how to see photography not just as an art, but as a freelancer, as a full time business as well. About how to deal with cranky clients, about contracts and contract violations and being professional.

But in a country where half the population doesn’t seem to know the word ‘professional’ and majority of the other half who do know don’t seem to care about it, how do you function?

I seem to have wasted many of my resources and contacts and all those things that are supposed to be important to running one’s own business. I see people who I know are less skilled running their own units successfully. I see them flourish, get better with publicity and make more money.

A year ago, when I started my journey as a ‘full time photographer’, all I knew was I just wanted to shoot. A ridiculous conversation with a friend sort of highlighted my ignorance and naiveity about the business world. 6 months later, I learnt the hard way what the friend was trying to say.

I made mistakes and I hope to have learnt from them.

But it doesn’t seem to get easier as I get by. I still do not know how to negotiate. I still hate to tag myself with a label – commercial photographer, full time photographer,  freelance photographer, lifestyle photographer, street photographer, fashion photographer, food photographer, wedding photographer and the term I seem to hate the most ‘wedding photojournalist’.

I like to shoot and I often shoot whatever catches my eye. Of course, when you do that for money, you do need to ‘channelize’ yourself into certain, specialized areas. You need to explain to clients or people who do not understand the art about why they should be paying you to shoot photos of a certain thing. And the easiest way to lose a potential client is to say “You should be paying me cuz I want to take those photos.”

And these clients would also need a label to understand my expertise?

There are forms of photography that I love best but do not pay well, and of course, those bills do need to be paid. The tightrope walk between what you like to do and what you need to do to be paid gets frustrating at times.

There are ‘inspirational’ stories I hear about photographers who have shot exclusively what they wanted to and made it big. I am a little unsure about that path. Is it that the age of digital cameras is different, or I’m impatient, or I just do no have faith in myself that the method would work?

They too, we are told, went through these stages of frustration.

I don’t particularly want to be an inspirational story. I just want to figure out how to continue doing what I love for a living and make enough money to pay those bills. Without having to think of terms like marketing, business development and networking.

Any solution?

Inspirations

I was in conversation with a fellow photographer. Naturally, about photographs. Being much junior to me, he respects my opinion, if not all my work.

The conversation moved onto photographers that we admire and we discovered that we knew some photographers in common. My opinion of some of these photographers has changed from ‘awesome’ to ‘good’ in the past year. That is perhaps a result of me discovering more about photography techniques and some of their work.

As we grow older, and more confident in our field, do we suddenly cease to see what we saw earlier. Perceptions change – that is inevitable. But does success being arrogance with it, and a certain kind of blindness?

One of these photographers had been my inspiration. I loved the photographs he shot – bright, vivid and beautiful. Now, I realise it is a lot to do with his characters and processing. I still admit he is a great photographer, just not as brilliant as I had made him out to be.

So the process began, browsing other photographers, some famous and some on their way. Some extinct but memorable.

Vivian Maier, one of my all time inspirations. Ryan Lobo, Steve McCurry.

And then I wondered where was my real inspiration? For those portraits that I loved to take. The challenge that I need to meet, to capture. Most of my inspirations are from the world of street or photojournalism (thin line between those two, methinks). But portraits… for those ethereal portraits? This is one of my favorite ones… reminds me of the photo of the Afghan girl McCurry shot for NGC.

Apart from these two names, I really cannot recall a single photographer whose work simply inspires me in terms of portraits. An image here, an image there. A collection I make.

There is this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that there was someone’s work I really did admire. A link, an image… but I cannot seem to focus. David Terraza, to an extent.

But when I think about these photographs in the Indian context, I come up with a blank. Indian photographs have always been earthy. Can we aim to shoot a dreamy photograph like Sara’s here? I do not know… I have never really tried to emulate that here either. But the skin tone, the colour of the air, the water and the sky do make a difference.

But does a portrait only mean the face? There are emotions, signals, gestures… there was an article on NYTimes about this photographer who shot faces. Just faces. Blank faces. And yet they held a punch.

It is perhaps easier to take photos of inanimate objects. A row of cupcakes, a lens, a pot. It takes vision… but humans are the eternal challenge. Particularly those just out on the street and not being posed in the studio. Or something midway.

Who is your favorite photographer? In portraits or otherwise?

2 Good Photographs

“They take 1000s of photographs and then post some 2 good photographs from that on Facebook. All their friends like it and tell them they are an awesome photographer. Even my 8 year old can do that!” a fellow photographer said to me.

We were talking about the new trend of software engineers turning photographers. Or well, everyone turning into a photographer.

The reason I say software engineers is because I’ve met a ton of them in the past few months who have enough money to buy the latest equipment, shoot inanimate objects or some portraits and hence, are photographers.

But this isn’t restricted to only the engineers. More people are doing this… and the statement by my fellow photographer seemed to nail the problem.

It isn’t that there aren’t some awesome photographers out there. But 2 photos out of a 1000 does not make you one either, and that isn’t being bitchy.

4 days at a mega event, hobnobbing with some truly amazing photographers –  both professional and amateurs and even hobbyists – got me thinking about why exactly we do this.

We had to shoot  fashion shows… elaborate ones over the course of 4 days. At some point, I got jaded… there are only so many ways that you can shoot a fashion show. Is that showing less creativity as a photographer?

I saw people trying to gatecrash the show, desperate to get passes to shoot the event. I was wondering why there was such a fuss… I go back and see the images from the event and mostly, they are similar. Perhaps there is that one photograph that is different… but on a ramp, the same poses, the same looks and clothes. The only difference being the distance and the angle at which we shoot it.

Some photographers said they just want to make money, some enjoyed shooting beautiful and leggy women, some were there because they just like photography.

Everyone has a facebook page. Everyone has a 100 likes on their page. They process the photographs, they photoshop it to beyond recognition. One cannot be blamed for the desire to make money.

But from an artist’s perspective, it seems that art for the sake of art is being lost to commercialism.