# 133 Relearning the Craft…That’s the Least of It. Part One.
Thinking about pictures…making pictures…selling pictures. ? What’s the point ? What’s the market ??
I’ve completely lost the vector of being a photographer in this era. In the early times of knowing I wanted to be a photographer there was magic in it.
It was also a recognized profession and there were a fair assortment of paths between learning the art and technique…the craft…and finding a livelihood. There was also the hobby…family and vacation pictures…slide shows after Christmas dinner and all that stuff. Now, it seems, the distinctions have blurred. The camera industry and the digital revolution have changed the entire game into something I can hardly grok. There are photography blogs and sites and markets and tutorials beyond count on the web. Tens of thousands have on-line stores where you can put picture purchases on plastic funny-money accounts. There are still professional photography businesses in the phone book…if you can find a paper phone book. I used to know what they did, and how they charged for doing it, but as I look at the scene today I haven’t a clue how it’s done today. Someone must be deriving a livelihood, but it surely isn’t me.
Part of the problem here has nothing to do with my talent or skill as a photographer. I may have it…or not. I know very well that most of my current work falls outside the universe of current style. I’ve posted here about that in the past and pro’lly will again.
The current escarpment blocking my ascent is a deepening battle with agoraphobia, the dread of crowds and the marketplace. I don’t understand and can’t handle basic social games that most people learn as four year olds in Sandbox 101. This mental region has been described as “social paraplegia” or “social dyslexia” …the inability to read and appropriately respond to or act on social messages. A mild case produces wallflowers, medium cases are just debilitating…severe cases become mentally disturbed or catatonic. I’m somewhere in the middle. It’s hard to market work when there is dread in every communication.
So why bother?
Well, “winners never quit, quitters never win.” (attrib. Vince Lombari). I’ve been doing this since I was eleven…that’s more than sixty years, and I AM counting. Besides, what else am I going to do. ??
I still can access the magic of watching a fine print becoming realized in a print tray… a joy which seldom extends to watching a print emerge from a digital inkjet printer. I can also still remember and relate with the ambition of the late 1950’s thru the early 1980’s that humanist photographers could exert a positive force on the direction of society. There are still today photographers who believe in that ambition, but the milieu in which they operate these days is confused beyond recognition and they have become tiny signals in the huge noise of cute cat pictures, selfies, Etsy gift shops, online galleries and photobombs. There are more photo stock agencies operating these days than could possibly be imagined a generation ago. The price of pictures approaches zero as the supply approaches infinity. The profession has seldom been an outstanding path to a livelihood, even for the young, healthy and unencumbered. How can creaky old farts like me manage it today ?
How you manage it is your problem.
How to manage it for myself is certainly my problem.
How, at an age when the body is already deteriorating to the point where the physical demands of the work are daunting, can I go about competing in a vastly overpopulated field ? How in the world can someone increasingly agoraphobic operate in an economic world where networking with other people is almost universally recognized as prerequisite for success ??? It has been said that on the internet no one knows if you are black, tiny, yellow, a genius, green, stupid, talented, obnoxious or agoraphobic until you show them. It’s all about brand management…and being software savvy. Software savvy comes hard. I was born when Alan Turing was legally a sex criminal…before the punchcard computers of Bletchley Park cracked the Enigma codes of the Third Reich… and remember the joyous geeks entering an OpSys to the 8080’s one bit at a time by hand with toggle switches. ? I can follow the pace of today’s technology ?
I know from Java ? I know from Java that it always demands more resources and I’ve never seen any direct benefit from it.
I know from software ? I know from software that it’s usually expensive and almost always frustrating. The GNU public license allows free ! frustrating software. ? I know from HTML ? I know from HTML that it pro’lly won’t come out looking like I wanted it to, but I can pro’lly thrash my way to something close.
As for the human networking part of the problem I can just do what I can as best I can. ? Did you know that people can call themselves social dyslexia therapists only if they are certified by a Dot ORG in the U.K. that has an international service mark on the very term ?? They charge over a KiloEuro for certification! Certified practitioners charge for an hour therapy session about my two week grocery budget ! So much for seeking help in that agora ! The prices are enough to make you MORE agoraphobic. So what to do ?
A great classical concert virtuouso…I forget which one…said to the effect “If I skip practice for a day, only I know it. If I skip two days my agent knows it. If I skip for three days the whole audience knows it.” Photography like music depends a lot on timing which in turn depends a lot on practice. Many of my life choices make practicing photography difficult these days. Field work costs gasoline and large blocks of time and even the digital realm has cash costs.
Still, I need to keep the tools sharp.
Part two of this thread will be about post processing tools as I am currently learning them.
One of the first things I managed to learn in Photoshop post processing is that sometimes…more often then you’d think…the best option is “Don”t Mess With It !” This picture of the grain hopper car on a CSX siding in Cortland NY was shot both in color, and with the camera’s B&W option. I could spend a lot of time in Photoshop tinkering with this picture and only make it less effective.
Part Two of this post will be a some before and after pictures photoshopped in CS2 entirely as self tutorials. I want to address both the aesthetic logic and the craft workflow.
Part Two may have to wait a week or so as this Friday, 13 Dec.’13…I’m not especially superstitious, I’ll be showing lots of my work at the Alternative’s FCU Holiday Market in the credit union lobby, 125 North Fulton St. Ithaca, NY. Some of my pictures may make fine holiday gifts. I hope Ithaca friends will stop by.