I turned 53 in July and for the past 3+ months have been struggling with what might be termed a mid-life career crisis. Speaking with good friend and mentor @viewmagazine recently, I’ve come to one of those many epiphanies as one gets older regarding what I’ve done in the past and what I’m doing presently.
The idea of shooting visual content only is an outdated paradigm — one that you can either fight — and perish, or adapt and try to survive.
We are in a “Photography Surplus”.
In my opinion — and taking it as such, I can no longer sit by and think that I, as visual content creator, am going to compete in what has turned out to be an “extremely” competitive market and think that I’m going to make any sort of a decent income from it. There are exceptions, but for the most part, we as a profession are slowly starving to death due mostly to the sheer amount of “acceptable” images being produced by others who have more credit limit than real world experience.
I’ve lost many a nights sleep pondering how am I going to make it in this new photographic/filmmaking economy versus my somewhat old school thinking in how I use to do it. That entailed having worked as a print photojournalist in the late 80’s into the late 90’s before taking a leave from the profession until 2006.
I get the hype all the time — market, market, market. But somehow it feels disingenuous from a slick snake oil salesman mentality for me.
Unfortunately, potential clients have become desensitized to email and even phone calls, filtering large amounts of their email as spam — and that includes initial email inquiries about ones work — something I’ve experienced firsthand. In addition, it has been my experience customers base their decisions the majority of the time on cost, not quality (just look at what’s happened to the stock photo business — something photographers relied upon as their “retirement” income).
So I’ve been left feeling defeated and disillusioned — even left in a state of despair about continuing in what I’ve loved doing since the age of 15.
Then I started discovering publishing platforms to distribute content digitally online for multiple devices.
Then I knew what I the missing puzzle piece was that I had been looking for — I’m not just a photographer, multimedia journalist, etc.
I’m also a content creator for online publication.
And a part of that realization is that I will need to collaborate with other like minded people. I can no longer do it all myself some of the time. I need to be working smarter — not harder.
So the ongoing paradigm shift is taking place. I’m an online publisher, and can use my multimedia storytelling skills as part of an online niche market publication — which can be brought to market for little cost. Clients who face ever shrinking budgets that need someone who can think on their feet, come up with creative solutions to problems and differentiate themselves from all the others who lack real world experience is the key.
It comes down to knowing that what I produce visually is a part of something larger — and not forgetting that in the process.
And realizing, marketing is not a dirty word after all.