Realities

I have a degree in photojournalism.  The photographers I’m most influenced and awed by are photojournalists and documentary photographers.  I have a passion for telling stories through my camera.

In spite of all of the above, I’m beginning to think that photojournalism and editorial photography may not be the path I should take.

Why the sudden change of heart?

Well, as some of you already know, I’ve saved up enough money to take about 3 months off from all other paying work, so that I can focus purely on turning DriftingFocus Photography into a legitimate business.  Though the project doesn’t really start until mid-June, when the school year ends, I’ve had quite a bit of unexpected time off lately and I’ve been using it to do some thinking about my photography, this project, and how to best utilize that time.

During said contemplation, I have realized something:  though it’s where my passion lies, I don’t think that photojournalism or its related fields are really for me.  This has been a rather crucial realization, and there are more than a few reasons that I think it might be a good one, and for sake of ease, I’ve divided the reasons into positive reasons and negative reasons.

Negatives:

The following are the things about photojournalism that I think don’t work for me, for one reason or another.

  • I live for moments like this.

    I don’t deal well with long-term, low-level stress.  Put me in the center of a riot and I do just fine, but give me a bunch of pushy editors and deadlines towering overhead and I lose it.  I just shut down and stop being able to deal with anything.  Given that photojournalism is pretty much entirely fast deadlines and demanding bosses, I don’t think I’d last very long.

  • I’m easily intimidated when I’m dealing with someone indirectly, via email, phone, etc.  In person I am great at selling myself and I’ve been told countless times that I’m very likable and make a good impression.  But, when it comes to talking to those same people over an indirect medium, I freeze up.  Pitches are pretty much the most terrifying thing I ever have to do.  I can do them, but they really bring me to my knees, and I’m not sure I want that to be not just my daily reality, but also crucial to my earning a living.  Occasionally it’s okay, but I think it’s better if I don’t deal with it as a core part of my business.
  • Most magazine assignments don't allow the kind of time necessary to build the relationships necessary for shots like this.

    I like having direct control over what I’m doing.  This is a fancy schmancy way to say “I don’t deal well with bosses”.  Even though freelance editorial/documentary photographers don’t have bosses in the traditional sense, they are still working within someone else’s framework for the piece they’re shooting for.

  • Frankly, success in the photojournalism sub-field of photography has more to do with who you know than how good you are.  Being a phenomenal photographer helps a lot, but I have actually found that at all but the upper echelons of publishing, skills as a photographer are actually valued less than a photographer’s ability to churn out material day after day.
  • Related to the previous point: photojournalism jobs become more and more competitive by the day.  There are fewer and fewer jobs to be had, and more and more photographers who want them.  It’s just not a good time to be in that field.

Positives

Lest this sound too much like I’m just running away from something big and scary, the following are the reasons why I think other forms of photography would work better for me.

  • This shot made me semi-famous within the world of reenacting.

    I’m very good at dealing with people in person, and am very good at marketing myself through word of mouth.  Heck, I meet people at reenactments all the time who have at least 4 or 5 degrees of separation from me but who know who I am because of my photographs.  For the direction I’m planning on taking my photography, that will work very much in my favor.

  • I tend to work more when I’m the one finding myself the work, whereas I tend to avoid work when there’s someone else putting it on my plate.  Assuming I can develop a client base, that bodes well.
  • I have more fun when I’m shooting things I enjoy shooting, without a fast and looming deadline to worry about.  That’s good for my overall happiness.
  • My skills as a photographer are more likely to be appreciated and lead to success in non-editorial/journalism photography.  The fields are smaller and talent is more likely to be noticed.
  • In the niches I’m considering aiming for, there’s definitely still a lot of room for someone of my caliber, unlike in photojournalism, where everyone is frantically grabbing at the crumbs of the publishing industry.
  • As it looks increasingly likely that Marc and I will be moving out to the countryside in the next few years, I need to make sure that my photography business isn’t something that requires a city to support it the way that photojournalism does.  The niches I’m thinking of can be done pretty much anywhere, and in fact are in many ways more country-friendly.

So what am I planning on doing with my photography?  Well, since this post is already long enough, that will have to wait until next time!  Stay tuned until next time!

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2 Responses to Realities

  1. KaT Adams says:

    I say stay indie! You’ll probably be FAR happier, given how I’ve watched you work over the years-and the stuff you do under your own direction is fabulous. I have a few photographer friends who all avoid working for a permanent boss like it’s their job (oh, wait) but still pull in some spare cash off it. Admittedly, they like to do event photography and it’s a hobby for them. And if you ever want to do a week in NYC, you’ve got crash space! (Kinda crappy crash space as our “guest room” is really the art den, but details…)

    Your work from reenactments and Korea make me absurdly happy, by the by, and it’s fantastic stuff that’s just so uncommon. I don’t think you could effectively EVER have gotten that work done the way you did in a journalist’s job. You’ve got a gift. If you ever want to shoot random stuff in NYC, though, I know people who’d love you.

    • Kelsey Freeman says:

      Well, part of what I’m going to be doing this summer is trying to figure out niches that I enjoy that also still have income potential. For instance, wedding photography pays well, but I’d rather shoot myself than shoot weddings. Reenactments are one of the things I shoot best, but it’s hard to turn into paying work. There are other things I’m good at shooting, and so I’m hoping to figure it all out soon. Thanks to the fact that Marc has a decently-paying job, if I can get to a point where I’m earning a steady $1500+ a month, I’ll be happy, and that can’t be TOO hard, can it?

      And yes, I doubt that I would be as good a photographer as I am if I had to work within the confines of a typical journalism job. Hopefully I’ll figure it all out soon.

      I was actually planning on coming to NYC sometime this fall for a long weekend or so, so I may take you up on that offer!

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