…that is the question and when it involves “creating art” (not commercial work), this is what I want to say about it.
Everyone has to pay bills these days. Some more than others. Seems like we all have to find some niche, some opportunity that can be turned into cash or we go broke.
I still dabble at photographic art. I don’t have 35 years behind the camera. I never shot film. I never went to photography school. I still look at a histogram and wonder how the stock market is doing with curves like that.
All I know is that I want to take the perfect picture. I look at people and wonder what sort of spontaneity and goodness can we create together. I rent a studio and stock it with clothes, shoes, wigs, props, backdrops, lights, jewelry, body paint and more.
I drive long distances to locations, pick up models, feed them, take care of them while they shoot with us and even spend time with them helping to hone their understanding of light and other tips every model should know (but not all do).
I look at my monthly expenses and ask myself - why do I do this? It’s a money pit! Photography is one of those professions where most people can’t justify paying to have it done. People who already know how important good photography is don’t even blink. But everyone else balks at the suggestion that it might not be free.
Most models want to get paid but still want free pictures from the shoot. Too many models would rather get paid than collaborate on an amazing piece of art (and still get a copy of the photo for themselves to use for free).
What do I do with the images I take? I study them. Try to figure out what worked, what didn’t and how to improve my next shot. Rarely, my work is discovered (randomly) and someone offers to buy a piece. When that happens I contact the model and share the wealth. But most of my work right now is for personal study and improvement.
That’s about to change.
Next week I get to study with Michael Helms. He’s been my favorite photographer ever since I looked at the internet for examples of what I thought good photography was. I didn’t keep looking or studying other photographers work because what Mr. Helms shoots (style, technique, lighting, etc) is exactly what I wanted to be able to do.
I know how to break rules (hell, I never learned them in the first place). I love shooting through stacks of plexiglass or focusing through a dewdrop. But to take a picture that looks like I’m actually there - in the room with them and feeling so comfortable just enjoying how beautiful everyone and everything is. How colorful, undistracted and natural the entire scene is… to take a picture like that EVERY TIME I PICK UP THE CAMERA?
It’s a hunger I can’t describe. I leave Monday.
When I return I will have a gathering of models, other photographers and assistants to PERFORM what I learned and CREATE ART, or die trying!
At that time, if I am successful, I will be able to hire models with the look I want because it will no longer matter who you are or your skill level I will be able to get the picture I want without having to spend half the shoot educating the models I’ve just paid on how to pose or understand the light!
Until then, and particularly if I fail to learn what I am so hungry to discover, the cost of a shoot will be SHARED by everyone involved - not the photographer alone!
I love photography. I have my wife to thank for that. I can shoot anything commercial and produce equal to or better results than most advertising firms or magazines on the market today and 90% of the time - without a speck of Photoshop! I’ve got that down even if I don’t pursue it full time.
I want something more. And I want to work with people who also want something epic from the time spent shooting.
My studio is a place for creativity. I’m footing the bill for that. What will you do?