Remember back when you first learned to use your camera? You took photos of everything. (You may be at this point now!) "Oh look how cute, the cat just jumped onto the crib, the baby just barfed on the cat, the cat just ran up the drapes and the baby is now wanting to eat." Did you get that on film? Yep...most of it. Nowadays "cameras" are everywhere. Thanks to facebook and twitter, you can use your cell phones and mp3 players and even video camera to capture your "cherished" moments and show them to the world in just under 3 seconds. Soon you are photographing everything you see, all day long you photograph. People at parties expect you to be the picture taker. You look at your family during the Holidays and take their photos. You bring a camera to the beach!!!! and take photos of the seagulls and a few snapshots of your kids against the waves and hope for that sunset shot you have seen in all the latest photo mags. (f16 rule need not apply, you have a polarizing filter and a tri-pod!) After the years pass you start not bringing the camera to all the events of your life. You start to carry smaller cameras, just to get the shot and hope its good enough for the "scrap book" (if it ever gets printed.) After all, this is your life in between all the days that pay you to use your camera. So while you may not see your friends but once a month, they expect the camera around your neck, not really caring that you have just spent 12 hours a day taking photos of someone else's wants and needs for the past 4 days. No fault of theirs of course and no disrespect, I just don't feel like looking through that lens for say the next 3 days or more. And so the cycle has begun. Your profession has become just that. Your profession.
It is a cycle that is never ending. I am sure every profession has it. So how do you get through the times when you are thinking of all the other things you would be doing if you weren't photographing this or setting up a shot for that? Looking through the lens as much as we do certainly lets you see the world in a different light. You get to make memories for others and get paid for it. But day after day, month after month year after year where is your time? (we will get to workflow in the articles ahead). How do you expend the same energy session after session? I don't have your answers. I can tell you that I know a lot of photographers who have been around since the "film days" (I don't mean to say we are "old timers" or "better than this" or "been there done that 30-40 somethings", just saying that if you have been doing this for as long as some of us you would know what makes your camera focus.) and what we all seem to do is the same but different.
"Jim" (this is real person, just a different name) likes to paint in his down time. "Painting for me really slows down my thinking, too often when in photographer mode, we move way too fast. 60th of a second is really what I live in for most of my days, just a split second at a time all added up. While painting I really need to slow down and look and concentrate on what I am doing. Soothes the soul."
"Kate" (real person, different name) loves to keep it going. She continues to photograph. Only for herself. " I make it a point to photograph just for me. Not my kids, not my dog...me. I set goals and achieve them. I really love sending large files to my lab (http://www.colorinc.com shameless plug :-) for wall prints of my landscape images. Mount them to matte board and frame them for the walls. That is a real sense of accomplishment. Instead of shooting, selling and framing the print for someone else, I see all the rewards. It really keeps me grounded to what I love."
"Dusty" (real person, same name) For me I get away from it. I work from home, you might too and its hard to "get away" from it. But you must set a "closing" time. If you don't, you will live 24/7/365 with your profession and burnout will conquer. So my home hours are set. I don't answer the phone after closing time, I don't look at print orders after closing time and I certainly don't open Photoshop after closing time. I learned this late in my career. But it is a lifesaver!
I am a true artist. Not bragging, in fact I had a hard time coming to that realization for a good part of my life. I am a photographer. I am a musician. I write poetry. I paint with oils. I cook (yep, art and science, but so is the darkroom). All of these are "hobbies". Even photography. You must love life to love anything. Having something else that makes me happy while serving the creative process helps me to stay focused when I need to.
For you it may be the same, it may be different. But in the end if you are going to keep on keeping on then you must rejuvenate, stay hydrated. Drink from a different cup once in a while. Walk a different path to get to the same place.
- Dusty Brown is a photographer in Grand Rapids, MI
visit his website http://www.dustybrown.org/