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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!