Tabi basa & greetings everyone. In this day and age, when everyone has a camera in their pocket, it is easy to feel like job of photographer is no longer important as it was in the past. Every time you open social media apps, you will see a lot of beautiful images all around the world. If you are full-time photographer, you might have an existential crisis, doubting yourself or your capabilities, especially you’re not winning any award.
LET’S START WITH PSYCHOLOGY
Negative questions such as: should I quit? I don’t even have any award – am I not good enough? I don’t have any clients etc will start to flood your thoughts. This can be made worse through doom-scrolling social media etc. Those can lead to a devastating self-talk if left unchecked.
Too much negative self-talk will yield a bad effect to yourself, your own self-image. Physical scars can heal, but psychological scar can’t. There are some people you shouldn’t mix with, for you know they can inflict huge blow to your self-image. Keep your distance.
In this end, this may cause you to lose some sleep, not capturing any images as you used to be, eventually selling your camera for other life needs and quitting photography.
A moment of silence for another fallen brother/sister in photography.
I also gave a thought about this matter. That’s why, in this post, I’d like to share about my thoughts.
Before that, let’s start with phases of a photographer.
PHASES OF A PHOTOGRAPHER
Everything start with excitement. You just obtained your first camera. Whether it is brand new, handed over to you or it is a camera that you won at some random contest, it doesn’t matter. The main thing is, you just obtained a new camera. What more to say if it is a Leica? Another wow.
Camera Here & There
From there, just like a kid getting his / her first toy, you took it everywhere: to your workplace, parties, weddings, ngabangs etc. Basically you can’t part from your new camera. Photo quality, however, is questionable.
After a while, you started to learn how to shoot proper images. You invest your time learning about it via YouTube tutorials. You also probably learned how to use image-processing software at this point, be it Capture One or Lightroom or Photoshop. You get complimented wherever you go because, in their words, you are talented.
Then, you want to get serious. You created your own Facebook page, your name, followed by “Photography”. Or you might use a made-up name. Regardless, you have your own page. Congratulations!
Goes Viral (Or Maybe Not)
With one stroke of luck, being at the right place and at the right time, your image became viral. That notification hits you, dopamine spikes. Life feels good.
You started to get more and more requests to capture images for weddings, events etc. You charged them a cheaper price because you still think that you’re a beginner, and doesn’t want to disrupt the market.
This Is Not Worth It
Demands keep on coming, but after a while, the passion dies off due to overwork for so little pay.
You tried to increase your rate, but that only chases potential clients away. Demands keep on decreasing. Your passion for photography dies.
After a while, you find yourself needing money for your wedding. Camera sold to fund it. That marks the ends, for some.
In an alternative scenario, starting from that stroke of luck, a photographer became viral, but finds him/herself frustrated because he/she was unable to replicate his/her former glory. Let alone winning awards. There was none.
In fact, no one really cares about his/her photographs. Or so he/she thinks. What do you think?
It is easy to blame others when things are not going our way. The fault always lies in someone else. It is part of human nature to think that we are perfect. In reality, none of us are perfect.
Being human, part of our instinct tells us to follow the crowd. This dates back to our tribal days in the past, sabre & mammoth-hunting human ancestors. If you are alone, you will die. Hence, until now, a lot of people will do whatever it takes to feel belong to someone.
Loneliness is something to be avoided at all cost.
But for those who realise the truth, you are only lonely if you permits it. In fact, being alone doesn’t mean that you are lonely. It means that you accept solitude, which is important for you to hone yourself and improve yourself.
STILL UNABLE TO FIGURE OUT YOUR PASSION?
It is easy to answer this question. The answer is, what is the thing that you are willing to do whole-heartedly without being paid?
WHAT IF NOBODY CARES ABOUT MY PHOTOGRAPHY?
For those who is familiar with psychology, a lot of us are actually occupied with ourselves and have little time to think about others.
One easy way to get attention is to do things that will appeal to the masses. Otherwise, no one cares.
In this case, you have to ask yourself, what about photography that you really like? Money? Fame? Prestige? Status?
All of those are extrinsic motivation, which means a motivation that is driven by external reward.
It won’t last long, and it is not sustainable. You won’t perish though if you don’t obtain these things, but it might cause deep depression for some.
WHAT IF I DON’T WIN ANY AWARDS?
Same like above, this is also an extrinsic motivation. Getting an award, especially from a prestigious, international photography bodies is really a morale booster, and is also means that your artwork is recognised by others.
You can also charge others in the way you think your photography worths it because you can.
But in truth, it not entirely reflecting who you really are.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT WAY?
For me, photography itself is a rewards of its own. Being able to photograph subject that I care about, be it my people, my loved ones, or meaningful things around me; using camera that inspires me is what matters.
I also like to write about things that I observed, in contrary to the advised that I have received, where it says, a photograph should be able to stand on its own.
But the fact that it is up for someone else’s interpretation is not something I can tolerate, not when I can write about it.
I think also finding your passion is something that is overused, but it has its merit. If you find something is meaningful, you won’t wait for passion or motivation to drive you. You will just do it.
NO ONE CARES IS ACTUALLY A GOOD NEWS
Another thing that I have learned is that when no one cares about what you are doing, it is actually a liberating fact. You can do whatever you want without being attached to a particular expectation. For example, you already have established yourself as a <insert a genre here> photographer. Then you are expected to post some really wonderful stuff in that genre.
Failing to do so might diminish peoples expectation about you, or reduce their respect. In social media age, you will lose followers. I still remember when I switched my genre to colour photography from pure black and white photography, I lose some followings. Back then, follower’s number is something important for me, having not known more.
Then, I also changed from portrait to boudoir at some point. Losing following due to “interesting” content. I even called names by some, though I maintain strict discipline during photoshoot. Well, people believe what they want to believe.
Now, I don’t give any label to my photography genre. It is what it is.
JUST PHOTOGRAPH (& WRITE ABOUT) WHAT YOU CARE ABOUT
For me, the main reason why I am doing photography is because I want to photograph the things that I care about. When I grew up, I only have a handful of images. I do not have the pictures of me & my brother going to Sukah, Kidadem, Siseh or any other interesting places at my village. Even photo of Gawai at “tada kampung” is also not available. Only limited to some old image.
Though some might argue, it will be stored in our memories, but wouldn’t it be good if we can have it in a presentable form, i.e. picture?
I prefer to capture what I care in the way I see it, or how I visualise it. At this present moment, it is not really important, but few years down the road, you will realise, the images captured years ago is actually important, especially when we have a fast, growing young ones.
They might be crawling now, but before you know it, they will be going to pack their stuff to go to some distant places to continue their study.
Also, we are not going to be young / beautiful / sexy forever. Therefore it is important to capture as much images as we can when we are still in our best shape.
Life is beautiful.
In the end of the day, it is your life. Live while you’re still alive, so that one day, when it is time for you to go, you will go without any regrets (or ragrets).