"There are easier ways to make money than shooting long-term personal projects (waitressing for example)".
So said Anastasia Taylor Lind in the blog posts on success (here and here). Other people said similar things, that financial reward was the last thing on their minds. I suspect this is partly because there is so little financial reward in photography of the documentary/long-term project kind, the kind where a five figure income is quite an achievement. There is a huge amount of smoke and mirrors in photography, and how much people earn and the relationship between earnings and success, and the necessity to be perceived as successful and the image of financial security as an element of self-marketing are all central to very many photographers' lives.
I assume that every photographer scrapes a living at best - that waitressing (and for North American readers, Anastasia was talking UK, small tips waitressing here) or shelf-stacking or anything that pays minimum wage is going to be a better bet than photography.
I assume that most people involved in photography, even quite well-known names, have trouble buying cameras, computers or film - and I assume the less well-known find it difficult to buy film, printer ink and paper. I certainly do.
So it was heartening to hear so many people judging success in terms of communication, connection, of creativity and creating something fresh and making people see the world in a different way. Some of the people who said this do make money from photography, but still indulged in projects that interested them and stimulated them - and this part of their work, the non-money earning part, took over their lives.
So it is with this in mind that I interviewed a few people (Tony Fouhse, We are the Youth, Steve Davis and Gemma-Turnbull) who are doing collaborative projects, more for the love than the money (there is no money). And I'll put these interviews up next week.
In the meantime, all this talk of money reminds me of Maxine Peake who wrote of the snobbery in drama colleges in the UK. The idea is that most British actors are now upper-middle class and there is no opportunity for working class actors. A similar thing has happened in journalism, publishing, broadcasting, film and, ooh, everything really. There is a view that because the creative industries are dominated by one type of person with one accent, one community and, ultimately, one mentality, there is a unity of perspective and belief that is reflected in the plays, media, the television, the books. art and the films that we read, hear and see. You can hear this accent on Radio Four plays, you can read the mentality in the Guardian, you can see the community on BBC television. It doesn't make for a broad sweep of passion and imagination.
The reason these people, and only these people, can thrive is because the institutions they seek to join are so low-paying that only those with independent means can survive - who else can afford to work as an intern in a high-cost city such as London, who else can live on the four-figure (or three figure income) that photography provides so many of its wannabe artists/journalists/documentarians.
Does the same apply to photography? I don't know really. Sometimes I think it does, but then I read what people think of success and, though I know they are underplaying the financial aspects, I also do not doubt their sincerity for one second. And that gives me a little bit of hope.