My life as an invisible photographer.

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by rk_ny, Aug 20, 2013.

  1. I hope this post will be allowed to live in this forum. I am not seeking specific critique, though I am happy to hear it. Moreover, I'm
    looking for a place to document the short story of my life as an unknown photographer, in the hopes that some might be able to put their
    finger on why I remain unknown (not that I am even remotely entitled to being known) and perhaps to bond with other unknown
    photographers...you know who you are.

    My love affair with photography began at an early age, perhaps 7 or 8. It manifested itself first as an obsession with cameras as physical
    objects. I was fascinated by lenses, cameras, optics. I broke my dad's Pentax because I kept cocking the shutter incessantly. In my
    teens, I began making photographs. At age 19, I dropped out of college, unsure as to what to do with my life (anything besides college).
    I happened into a job as an assistant manager at a camera shop in New Haven, CT. The year was 1987

    With a generous employee discount, I obtained my first real camera, a Minolta x370. I soon upgraded to a Nikon FM2, which was soon
    replaced by a Leica M6. A 50mm was my constant and only lens companion.

    I set off to become the next Cartier-Bresson, documenting the streets of New Haven, CT. I joined a local camera club. At my very first
    meeting, we were asked to bring only the best examples of our work. I brought far too many. The moderator of the club chose 3 photos
    from the entire roomful of images, with which to begin the discussion of the essence of street photography. Shockingly to me, even to
    this day, all 3 photos he chose were mine...a 19 year old kid who'd owned a camera for all of 6 months.

    I shot like a madman for the next year or so. Those black and white film images remain some of my favorites. I have yet to digitize them.
    After 2 years in New Haven, I was ready for the big city.

    I moved to NYC in early 1989 and got work in the rental department of a small professional camera shop called Photomarketplace, later
    purchased by Calumet. I met and rented equipment to dozens of the city's top photographers. Within a few months, I had networked
    enough to leave the shop and become a freelance photo assistant.

    Over the next 10 years, I assisted over 100 photographers, from mail order catalog photographers to Annie Leibovitz, and everyone in
    between. Food, interiors, portaits, fashion, still life, commercial, editorial...I saw it all. I learned the techniques and observed the creative
    processes of some of the top photographers in the world (and some of the crappiest ones too).

    All the while, I was shooting on my own. Aside from the occasional bone thrown me by one of the photographers I assisted, I shot mainly
    for myself. I gravitated towards still life, with a slant towards incidental, natural light still life. That is to say, I never really liked shooting
    people. And the last thing I wanted to do after working 14 hour days in a studio was to set up my own studio shots. So I wandered the
    streets in the falling light, looking for happy accidents of light. This is still pretty much what I shoot today.

    After 10 years assisting, it was time to break out on my own. I compiled a big slick portfolio...images that were a hybrid of my street style
    and my studio experience...a collection of commercially slanted naturally lit composed still life. I think it was a little too loose for art
    directors to get their heads around. I got very few jobs.

    I did however manage to catch the eye of the creative director for a boutique Japanese stock photo agency called Photonica. For a few
    years, I did quite nicely with them, even getting some assignment work, and some handsome royalties, back before the Internet, back
    before penny stock, back before Getty bought Photonica and sent all my photos back to me, with a note saying, "we don't need this kind
    of stuff anymore". And then Getty started charging photographers to submit photos, instead of paying them. Nice while it lasted!

    Fast forward to the digital era. I've been shooting this entire time, for myself. I regularly submit photos, to blogs, contests, e-magazines,
    regular magazines, book publishers, galleries, newspapers, etc. All I get, all I have gotten since about 1999, is...crickets. Not even a
    thanks but no thanks. Literally no replies, from dozens of contacts.

    Now, I am not a big networker. I have little interest in schmoozing my way into print or onto a gallery wall, and I fully realize that in NYC
    that helps immensely. But in this day and age, content is king, and great new photographers get noticed all the time, just by posting a
    few things online here and there, at the right place, at the right time. I'm also not the 20 year old party machine I was when this journey
    started.

    Which leads me to 2 possible conclusions. Either I have never been at the right place at the right time, or, my stuff just kinda sucks. I'm
    ok with either scenario, because I shoot for myself first and foremost, and always have. But my friends and family love my work. My
    coworkers like it. I've shown it to random strangers and they like it. I've posted it to forums and people I've never met seem to like it.

    But not a single soul that I've shown my work to, who is actually in any position to show or publish my work in any way shape or form,
    seems to like it., or if they do, they didn't mention it to me. Maybe they lost my phone number. And my email got deleted. And the follow
    up email. And the follow up to the follow up...

    Maybe my work is boring. Maybe it's derivative. Maybe it's too all over the place (though so is the work of a lot of well known
    photographers). I've never been one to take a theme and make a series of photos. I see a photo, I take it. There are recurring themes in
    my work, but none deliberate. Maybe my work is too undeliberate. Maybe its not edgy or different enough. Whatever the reasons, my
    work remains, my work, for me and my friends and family, and few if anyone else.

    These days I work at one of the top retouching studios in NYC, as the lead retoucher/artistic director of the product/still life department.
    It's not glamorous, but I do get to see my "work" everywhere. Of course, it's never attributed to me. Or even my studio. Credit goes to
    the photographer, of there's a credit at all. That's ok.

    I still hold onto the dream of being discovered, for doing what I've always done...putting a rectangle around a patch of light and pushing a
    button. I've been doing it for 25 years, and making a living at it, sort of, but I remain largely invisible.

    Thanks for reading. Thoughts, criticisms, guidance, musings, rants, all welcomed. I'm a thick skinned New Yorker. I bring no ego to my
    work. Love it, hate it, it's all good.
     
  2. stp

    stp

    But in this day and age, content is king....​
    I think that's an assumption, and I don't think it's necessarily true. You say you're not a big networker; that may be a significant hindrance. It's not a matter of schmoozing.....it's a matter of talking to people, lots of people, many times. As with successful selling, it's a matter of marketing yourself, and you're not doing that.
     
  3. One also has to distinguish between looking for commercial photographic work ( ads, catalogs, etc.) vs. trying to break into the fine art scene.
    In the 1st case, it sounds like you really aren't set up in a way that you can be competitive with the existing studios that specialize in this type of work and can absolutely reliably grind out images under real time and money constraints.
    In the 2nd case (and I know next to nothing about this since I shoot mostly for my employer), IMHO, you need to be plugged into the art scene, need to have an all engulfing artistic vision, and need to produce items that can't be easily reproduced, so there is at least a chance that your work may be perceived of as unique and may appreciate in value over time with collectors. To be honest, it sounds like this isn't your cup of tea, either.
    Just my $0.02,
    Tom
     
  4. rk, I don't get it.
    You might believe, that you have done much throughout the years to become discovered, but you don't really do it here around. Why don't you just go to your own portfolio here on PN (here it is) and also you will see, that you are indeed "invisible". Nothing yet to discover !
    Start by showing some of your best shots according to your own estimates one these pages, and maybe we all have the opportunity to discover you ?
    I have put you among those photographers I "follow", so that I'm sure to see your shots when they are uploaded.
     
  5. "I am not a big networker."​
    Give it a try, it may help. Some of my favorite photographers who are working in very small communities or neighborhoods doing personal or family documentary photography still do at least some social networking online. If you're not comfortable schmoozing in person or simply don't have the time, try dabbling in Facebook, Google+, etc. It can take a little investment in time but eventually you'll find like-minded photographers, and compatible folks. I find it useful for the bits of inspiration from what I see other folks doing, and those gentle nudges of encouragement.
    "Maybe my work is boring. Maybe it's derivative. Maybe it's too all over the place..."​
    That describes most of us. Don't worry about it. Most photography is like most blues and jazz standards. It's not how innovative a performer can be but the spirit and nuance of interpretation he or she brings to the piece that makes it uniquely personal.
    "I still hold onto the dream of being discovered..."​
    I'll admit, I have trouble relating to this. I'm happy that some people I know in person are happy with the photos I've done for them. All I want is to finish a few projects. What do you want to be known for - your work, or yourself? I see some competent photographers who are very good at networking, self promotion, interacting with people they meet, and usually a combination of the three. I see many more excellent photographers who are barely known outside of a relatively small circle of admirers, mostly like-minded photographers.
     
  6. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I find it staggering that someone who obviously feels a sense of injustice about it all doesn't even have a website . When you make approaches to people what do you have that shows them what you can do? Why make your post here without giving people the chance to see what you can do?
    When you look around work in the press, on websites , in galleries etc do you see work that replicates the style, content and quality of what you produce? In short are you generating what a market wants? Most of the breaks I've had in stock have been because people have seen my site and approached me. In other cases referring people onto a website has been crucial to getting into other libraries and whatever limited success I get in galleries and commercial.
    Equally its not really satisfactory to suggest that you're not much of a networker. You have to exploit every relationship you have that can help you. If you haven't got any get some. Its part of the job.
    I can see lots of reasons why you haven't been successful yet. Operating as an island doesn't help. And yet I also need to say that getting the marketing process right is no guarantee of success. There's lots of people spending a lot of time trying very hard to make a good living by taking photographs they like , making great images and promoting themselves as best they can, who are in the same position as you. I see people with great images paying to advertise in the search for representation. Supply of photographers and photography greatly outstrips supply and most people fail- and even those of us that don't fail completely fail to a degree. Either accept this and promote yourself realising that getting it right doesn't always or even often bring success, or have a great hobby and stop seeing yourself as a failed hero of photography.
     
  7. Moderator's note: Because the OP has posted other threads in the past with little more than links to his work, I removed the link in his original post. As with all other members of photo.net, he can add a link on his user page (or, as other have noted, upload photos to his photo.net portfolio).
     
  8. You and millions of other guys.

    You may as well ask why you haven't won a million dollars in the lottery despite your dedication, passion and hard work at buying lottery
    tickets.

    For every guy who attributes his success to hard work, you can bet that many other people were working as hard and as well doing similar
    things independently at the same time... and this is particularly the case with something as trivial as photography.
     
  9. great new photographers get noticed all the time, just by posting a few things online here and there, at the right place, at the right time.​
    I'm not in NYC, so for sure I'm a mediocre judge at this, but somehow, I think these great new photographers do a bit more than that. I think most photographers who do want to get noticed, take a more active stand. They're not incidentally at the right place, at the right time - they knew where to be, what to do. They're prepared.
    You instead submit photos to sites of others, leaving it up to them to present you or not, without active control from your end. Instead, build a portofolio here maybe (Google tends to find photo.net easily, and that IS important), and/or actively publish where the people are: a blog that gets followers, build a crowd in Facebook, Flickr... do not let others decide whether you get published, because the internet can make you the publisher. The feedback will also make you know where to be, when and what to do.
    But, something about your story sounds half-and-half to me. Do you really want to get noticed? Really really? Is it your deepest desire? The tone of your posting tells me you're not really really deeply committed to making it happen actually. Every alternative to being discovered is acceptable, not getting published by others is "ok, stuff happens". It doesn't read like it's your burning passion. And in a pool so full of fish, I guess one has to be a bit more of a piranha than that. Now, if I misread you, and you're ready to commit big time to make it work, I think others already gave great advice - but first, be sure to commit fully to making it happen.
    And in the end, I see nothing wrong with being an unsung hero. If you feel that your work expresses what you want it to express, if sharing it with others gets you the occassional feedback that people understood what you were trying to tell (so not "great photo! Love it", but more like "I love the contrast in the image between element A and element B, it made me reconsider a point of view on the subject")... then be happy with what you've done. I might seem utterly aspirationless in this sense, but I do really enjoy feedback from people on my images that is thoughtfull, has insight and shows they really seriously took time for whatever I shot. I get great ideas and thoughts from it too, and I know I gave somebody else a bit of pleasure by sharing my photo. And there is really little wrong with those small sincere moments of joy.
     
  10. Some great stuff being written here, truly. Thank you, especially Wouter. You all have me thinking.

    I do feel a bit betrayed by the moderator who removed the link to my tumblr page. I suppose I get why it was removed,
    but it leaves me looking rather ridiculous, even with the note above from the moderator. Personally, if I were a moderator
    and I were about to seriously edit someone's post, by removing the link that contains the meat and potatoes, I'd give the
    poster the option of just deleting the entire thread rather than let him look like a moron as Mr. Henderson clearly sees me.
    Either way, I have added the link to my home page here, though I must admit, while I realize that subscriber income is
    important to the site, allowing off site links on the home page rather defeats the purpose. And removing a link in a post,
    that can be simply relinked to with the words "check my home page for the deleted link" seems rather contradictory. .
     
  11. I've forgotten the linking rule myself a few times over the years. No big deal. It's the rule, and I can see the rationale behind it.
    No matter what it takes to lose the cloak of invisibility, taking things too personally is not one of those things.
     
  12. Oh I know it's nothing personal. Just saying it makes more sense to ban all links, and to prohibit the formation of any
    URL in a post, thereby reminding the poster that links are not allowed, than to police them somewhat haphazardly, and
    ultimately allow them anyway.

    Also, I'd have given much more consideration to subscribing here if the site was a bit cleaner stylistically and allowed for
    customization of galleries. If I could have a gallery that looked and acted like my free and ad-free tumblr page, I'd be all
    over it.
     
  13. OK, here it goes:

    1/ When I think of getting something from someone, I think of the people who do what I want the best. If I had the budget and wanted a great portrait of someone in the third world, I'd call Steve McCurry. From your Tumblr, I can't tell what you do, and there's no way I'd remember you when I wanted something in particular shot. I hope the portfolio you show isn't as diffuse. I'm not even looking for work, but my Flicker photos are divided into sets of things I think I do or have done well, and I'm not showing anything that detracts from that appearance, as much as I can. Consequently, people really do seem to remember one facet or another of what I do.
    2/ In my business, at least, the last thing I need from someone who pushes back. Just shut up, and do the job. Employers want to know what they're going to get, and that they can trust the person they choose to deliver that without a lot of uncertainty [referring here to the diffuse character of your Tumblr stuff] or drama. That you have allowed your own thread to be sidetracked BY YOU into a discussion of photo.net policies is a very bad sign to me, and I wouldn't touch you with a ten-foot pole. You might be a great guy in person, of course. . . I really don't know anything except what you've projected here.
     
  14. I think that most artists are not discovered simply on the merits of their work. Either they, or someone around them, is pushing them forwards and investing in their work and telling others about it. Without that hard driving push at the beginning, combined with the luck of the right person buying a piece and displaying it, MOST great artists go undiscovered.
    Unfortunately, most talented artists are not great net workers. They're absorbed totally by their craft. Many have little or no business sense and many are shy about promoting themselves. In business, this is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, that's more often the case than not.
     
  15. @Mr. Darnton...
    " When I think of getting something from someone, I think of the people who do what I want the best. If I had the budget and wanted a great portrait of someone in the third world, I'd call Steve McCurry. From your Tumblr, I can't tell what you do, and there's no way I'd remember you when I wanted something in particular shot."
    This is valuable criticism. Thanks.
    "In my business, at least, the last thing I need from someone who pushes back. Just shut up, and do the job."
    Photographers are not bricklayers. Hiring a photographer is not ordering a wall to be built. There is give and take, and a good art director knows this, and is specifically hiring a photographer for what he/she can bring to the table, aside from putting a camera on a tripod and pressing a shutter button. In addition, a good art director lets this happen, and it's often in the form of pushing back. The creative process is a fluid one. Some of the greatest images I've worked on have sprouted from ideas the photographer's team has come up with, taking the art director's concept to the next, and sometimes even different, level.
     
  16. That's true, but it's a right you have to earn, not one you can assume right from the start when no one knows you.
     
  17. I was able to find your tumblr page in seconds, before realizing the link had been removed by a mod. That's not an obstacle to anyone who wanted to check out your work before commenting.
    All I can say is that photography in 2013 is a business, not an art. And a very difficult business to break into, as I'm sure you're aware. No one makes any money at photography by picking up a camera and walking the streets at night. Or if they do, I would like to know how, because I enjoy walking around at night with a camera and it would be nice to get paid for doing so.
    I think you do have the contacts and knowledge of the field to attempt a serious career, what you're missing is the super-inflated ego and shameless self-promotion, not to mention the willingness to work 24/7 and stab in the back anyone who gets in your way (all the while stealing their work).
     
  18. I don't think you have to become cynical in order to succeed. Talent and networking can pay off. Depends how big you want to make it. I know many local photographic artists who make a living off it, between exhibiting, lecturing, and teaching, as well as doing some commercial work in addition. They have confidence, which can be interpreted as big egos depending on how you want to look at it, they have a lot of friends, network a lot, show genuine interest in what others are doing as well as promoting themselves, and I've never known any of them to stab anyone in the back. People don't tend to get in their way as much as they tend to know the world they're in and establish levels of mutual support as well as healthy competitiveness. They work hard but always seem to have time for play as well. The thing to remember is, they're doing it.
     
  19. Your "website" isn't doing you any favors. I've no idea what the total download size it. I gave up after five few minutes and it was still downloading. I'm currently on the end of a rather slow DSL line in the UK, but even so, so much stuff on one page is a really bad idea. Get a real website and put thumbnails on your index page.
    If I could have a gallery that looked and acted like my free and ad-free tumblr page, I'd be all over it.​
    Hmm. I don't think so...
     
  20. "Get a real website and put thumbnails on your index page."
    I'll take the high road here and not compare your website to my tumblr page. Suffice it to say, we have utterly different tastes.
    Tumblr utilizes a feature you may not be quite used to, called infinite scrolling. It downloads new content as you scroll. It is not loading the entire "site" at once, though it may appear to do so.
    There are many ways to skin a cat when it comes to hosting, sharing and displaying photos. Some are tried and true, like static pages and thumbnails, while some utilize more modern technology that many would argue are more interesting and engaging. Tumblr is one of the fastest growing segments of that end of the spectrum.
     
  21. Tumblr utilizes a feature you may not be quite used to, called infinite scrolling. It downloads new content as you scroll. It is not loading the entire "site" at once, though it may appear to do so.​
    Flickr also does this, so it's hardly new. Your tumblr page loaded very slowly on a fast connection to a computer with lots of free RAM. That's a problem, 'modern technology' or no.
    I also agree that your portfolio is randomly arranged, contains no text and tells me nothing whatsoever about who you are. There are some excellent shots there, but even those would benefit greatly from a focused arrangement. It is very true that there is a trend away from having only a static website; tumblr, Pinterest, and above all, a well maintained blog see to be necessary in 'today's market'. Even so, a static website is still the best way of displaying galleries, taking orders for prints, etc.
    In addition, I feel compelled to note that a PN gallery does look and act (mostly) the way your tumblr page does.
     
  22. Perhaps the first thing you might do is to develop specific themes or objectives that would drive your photography, perhaps interest the viewing public and lead to the creation of a small or medium size body of work that people can point to and think, yes, he has created something that I can relate to, rather than heterogeneous shots, albeit interesting, of singular subjects. Instead of themes you might pursue specific style attributes that would also unite your work or speak something of uniqueness.
    Getting recognized without such intentional photography can be easy in some very rare cases. But that is not typical. Normally the 1 to 5% inspiration that can create the basis for significant bodies of work has to be complemented by 95% plus perspiration, really hard work. And that includes communicating with others so that your work gets known. You need to be consistent with a capital C, know what you are doing and why, and be prepared to be rejected often before willing eyes see something in your work.
    First get a circle of friends of photographic interest or taste and listen to them as much or more than talking about your work. 1 on 1 discussion, difficult to achieve with any depth on an internet site, can be very helpful and working with other artists will reveal some useful secrets.
     
  23. Terrific words of advice Arthur. Thanks for taking the time. Thanks again to everyone.
     
  24. I'll take the high road here and not compare your website to my tumblr page​
    No, that's not the high road.

    If you like Tumblr, good luck to you. If you think that's cutting edge technology and displays your work to best effect, who am I to tell you different. Its a very popular site. Clearly it's been working very well for you so you should probably stick with it. It's probably not the reason you're invisible.
     
  25. The reason you haven't been discovered is you're still alive. Take a cue from Vivian Maier and start stuffing you negs into a storage locker. Eventually, some one will find them and you will be famous.
    Kent in SD
     
  26. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I also agree that your portfolio is randomly arranged,​

    That's pretty fundamental. Nobody can look at the tumblr page and tell what you could do for them. It's chaos. And there's nothing that says what you are doing or looking to do. This is why a website can make a difference. Or not, if you can network. Most of my commercial work comes from networking now. And when people go to my website, even though it's a personal website and doesn't have much commercial stuff, they see what I can do in categories.
     
  27. I'm confused RK NY. You say that you are fine with your work being seen and appropriated by your family and close friends but then you say you are still holding out hope to be discovered. Which is it? I cannot even begin to speculate on why you are "invisible" but there is a lot of excellent advice here for you; especially the need for you to market yourself and create a "brand" for your work. These days, with so many photographers all competing with each other for the few jobs that are available at any given time, I think being a shrewd business person is more important then talent. Networking is where it's at; like just about any other industry, who you know if often more important then what you know. It's human nature to want to work with people one knows. On the other hand, maybe you're just burned out and it's time to think about hanging up the cameras and seeking some other creative outlet. Myself, this is all foreign to me because I got in to photography rather late in life and
    I've been at it less then 10 years. I've had some success with winning contests and invitations to exhibit my work show up here and there, but I make no assumption about how well known my work is. I simply don't care; I photograph for the sheer love of it. What little success I do get is just icing on the cake.
     
  28. Tumblr is just a random photo blog. It's okay but mostly hip only to fellow Tumblrs. A savvy web pundit earlier this year noted rather astutely that Tumblr's core membership prefer it precisely because it isn't mainstream, isn't particularly topical and many Tumblrs seem opaque to outsiders - especially to parents who spy on their kids' Facebook pages, but can't seem to grok Tumblr. The kids like it that way.
    Tumblr isn't a great way to showcase your work. I know of a few photographers whose work is very focused and genre-specific, who have either switched to Tumblr this year or added a Tumblr in addition to their existing sites. Personally I find Tumblr less satisfactory than their more traditional websites, particularly for reading narratives accompanying photos. Formatting, font sizes, etc., seem to vary wildly depending on the viewer's browser.
    BTW, you can change the default to load only a page at a time. Terry Richardson's is set up that way. Your Tumblr is a bit sluggish compared with some, even on a fast PC with relatively fast DSL. You have a lot of largish JPEGs loading in the background, more than most Tumblrs I visit.
     
  29. Just thought I would chime in here.

    The advice you've been given in regards to whether or not you "really" want to be discovered or noticed is
    valuable. It really does just come down to that. If you are, you will do what it takes to get noticed instead of
    sitting back and hoping it will happen all by itself.

    I have been fortunate to have been recognized somewhat in a few competitions, and have shown my work in a
    couple of exhibits but I don't think my work is good enough to be noticed by people who could make things
    'happen". But if I were serious, if I wanted that, I would do what it takes to get it or at least having failed (which
    I think is what would happen) I would at least know I tried. You seem to have access to some contacts, it might
    be a good place to start.

    As far as your tumblr site....I don't personally use tumblr so I don't know, maybe it is cutting edge, but I agree
    with the above comments about content and chaos. It really tells me nothing at all about you. I have put in a
    link to my imagepro site (that I get for SUBSCRIBING), it suits me well enough and shows off my photos pretty
    well I think. I've organized it to show the things I'm interested in and I tell a little bit about WHY I'm interested in
    them. Asking for insight as to why you're not getting noticed and then rejecting the observations offered about
    your website is counter productive. I asked for advice and took it to heart, made the changes recommended
    and it has worked out well. Now I have something I can reference when someone wants to know more about
    me and what I can do/cannot do.

    http://imagepro.photography.com/index?site_id=21941&page_id=187286&preview=true

    I hope it all works out for you.
     
  30. I like your page. I like your work. I have no idea how one makes a living in this business.
    --Lannie
     
  31. My simple observation of the art world is that the photos that appear in major galleries have a particular concept behind them, which has been worked on very hard by the artist. I got this strait from the photography curator of a major metropolitan art museum in a lecture about art photography. Your photos, like mine and many of us here on pnet appear to be random shots of various scenes. No matter how well done and nice to look at they are, there does not appear to be a centralized "concept." The thing about conceptual work is that it is not always that interesting to look at, but never the less, it is the concept that is what is being considered as the central important theme.
     
  32. My simple observation of the art world is that the photos that appear in major galleries have a particular concept behind them, which has been worked on very hard by the artist.​
    But weren't Eggleston's more famous photos more or less "random shots of various scenes"? I'm not contradicting you, Steve, just asking a question.
    --Lannie
     
  33. Lannie,
    Eggleston's photos are of ordinary or mundane subject matter, zeroing in on a very American vocabulary. That's not random. He found photographic riches in non-extraordinary places, framing a simple world into compelling images, isolating spaces and moments we might too easily pass by. If you ever see a well put-together Eggleston exhibit, you won't miss the consistency of his vision, not to mention the very recognizable color style he developed for himself, which seems to find and saturate not just the color but the complexion of his objects and spaces.
    The "concept" could be described as making iconic the commonplace. In his own words, which formed the title of a show I saw a month or so ago at the Met, he was "at war with the obvious." He'd skip over the well-lit and well-designed bed in favor of shooting the shoes and dust bunnies under it, or the stark red ceiling with bare bulb above it.
    The variety of subject matter doesn't obscure the consistency of vision, style, and photographic idea. IMO, the key to many photographic concepts is to look at, but also beyond, the subjects.
     
  34. Too much talk, not enough action.
    It's the same in every field; now and again there might be a superior talent that gets noticed so much so that the Deciders are prepared to
    take risks and employ him or her. For probably 99.9% of us though it is a case of marketing and selling. Don't confuse that with
    networking. Marketing and Sales means finding out what people need/want and angling an offer to meet that need. Be prepared for the
    door to be shut in your face and move on to the next one. This is the same as a request to take your card or saying we'll be in touch.
    Networking is passive - marketing and sales is pro-active and the only to get things moving
     
  35. Too much talk, not enough action.​
    Indeed - along with a somewhat inflated sense of entitlement.
    There are lots of very talented photographers on here - but most know that it they want commercial success, it won't fall into their lap.
    Otherwise we'd all have it.
    And as to what to shoot - does anyone buy "street", much less gain significant commercial success from it? It must be the most overdone, banal, hackneyed, unoriginal photographic genre out there.
     
  36. Too much talk, not enough action.​
    To that end, allow me to offer a few anecdotal observations on the actions my career has required.
    After fifteen years of practice and five years of concerted effort in marketing my work, I am just now beginning my first tentative steps across the line which demarcates the unknown from the slightly more recognizable.
    Such effects have required an enormous effort: Crossing the country several times a year, showing my portfolio to hundreds of editors, art directors, and curators and accepting volumes of often humbling feedback from these same individuals. Investing countless hours (frequently over the span of multiple sleepless days) into the maintenance of a website, blog, mailing list, Twitter account, and Facebook page as well as the preparing of grant applications, juried submissions, exhibition proposals, and estimates. Spending thousands of dollars on prints, postcards, business cards, leave-behind media, posters, catalogs, custom presentation bindings, consultants' fees, and workshop tuition; all done while simultaneously photographing, teaching, and raising two young children.
    It might be clear, consequently, that such a process requires an indestructible resolve, a resolution to oneself, a vow (as it were) that one will find an audience for the work at all costs, a fervent conviction that the story "told" within a given body of work is so critically important that it simply must be seen by as many viewers as possible. I firmly believe that making such a resolution is the first step.
    The second step...well, that's a bit trickier. I would suggest attendance at Fotofest (http://www.fotofest.org) in the spring. Meeting Place registration is currently open. At this event, an emerging photographer can receive concise guidance from a broad swath of imaging professionals working in a variety of sub-disciplines. These generous reviewers can help shape a body of work in ways that might be difficult to imagine. One can also interact with hundreds of peers, hearing from them what marketing strategies have worked and venues where they have experienced success.
    Should a photographer remain undeterred after a portfolio review of the sort described above, the third step, in my estimation, would be a session with Mary Virginia Swanson (http://mvswanson.com) at either a review event, workshop, or consulting session. Seriously. Meeting with "Swanny" constituted the most valuable twenty minutes I have ever spent at a portfolio review.
    Resolve, firmly. Then act, decisively. Don't stop, ever.
     
  37. *indignant*
    Keith Reeder wrote: "It must be the most overdone, banal, hackneyed, unoriginal photographic genre out there."
    I beg your pardon! Street is no better than third, at best! I feel sure that the genre that I do (Photoshopping) is #2, with pornography the easy, far-and-away #1 for banal, hackneyed, unoriginality. And "does anybody buy" that crummy stuff?
     
  38. But weren't Eggleston's more famous photos more or less "random shots of various scenes"? I'm not contradicting you, Steve, just asking a question.​
    He used an industrial printing method that made the colors punchier at a time when color photography was relatively new and not common in galleries. The subjects were less important than the process. By today's standards his photos on the web look pedestrian and would not get noticed. When everything else was in black and white, they stood out.
     
  39. A very nice summary by Robert, regardless of genre.
    Robert Shults -- "Such effects have required an enormous effort: Crossing the country several times a year, showing my portfolio to hundreds of editors, art directors, and curators and accepting volumes of often humbling feedback from these same individuals. Investing countless hours (frequently over the span of multiple sleepless days) into the maintenance of a website, blog, mailing list, Twitter account, and Facebook page as well as the preparing of grant applications, juried submissions, exhibition proposals, and estimates. Spending thousands of dollars on prints, postcards, business cards, leave-behind media, posters, catalogs, custom presentation bindings, consultants' fees, and workshop tuition; all done while simultaneously photographing, teaching, and raising two young children."
    Much is contingent upon what type of recognition someone desires. All of it requires the kind of work and dedication that Robert mentions, but who, and how, you make the approach is different. Commercial assignments from clients are different than gallery representation or museum showings. Is the desire for an ad in Vogue or Vanity Fair? Corporate annual reports? National Geographic? An art gallery and reviews by art magazines and websites? Or is recognition -- any kind of recognition -- the main driver? If it's recognition for "personal" work (rather than what is dictated by a client), the gallery/art world route is the obvious choice.
    Regardless of the type of work, much of what has already been said remains good advice in my opinion. A viewer friendly website, with images organized by theme or genre. A blog. Going to galleries for the purpose of finding ones that might be suitable for the type of work being done, and then making attempts at networking. And, if one has the confidence and money, the sort of portfolio reviews that Robert Shults mentions above.
    And Julie -- I wouldn't get too indignant at Keith's remarks. I understand what he is saying, but the same case could easily be made for the vast majority of photographs in the genres of landscape, wildlife, travel, and fashion photography. We all have our prejudices. Hmmm....maybe a thread on photographic prejudices might be in order. I try not to be disparaging or negative, but if I never see another tack sharp osprey with a fish in its talons, or (my favorite), an angst ridden self portrait by a scantily clad young woman (often photoshopped as hovering in mid-air) -- I would be just fine.
     
  40. RK, what strikes me repeatedly as I go through your tumblr is not a lack of talent or a lack of experience, but a sense that you are afraid. Many of these pictures are good, but almost all show a sense in which you left off at a certain place where you had it in you to go further, but did not.
    In many cases, I can see where one thing struck you in a situation, and you took a picture *of it*. But really, in art, you are striving for a thematic combination of several things through either chance or deliberate composition. I don't feel that you're trying to tell me something meaningful or extraordinary. This is not however to say that you don't have it in you. I get the feeling throughout that you are afraid to go and do the thing that I think you yourself know you have to do, and most likely have it within you to do. The act of self-confrontation is the most difficult thing for a photographer to achieve.
    One is unsure of what else you have in your portfolio, and what some judicious editing might yield. Most of these pictures are not the kinds of pictures you would show someone if you wanted work or a gallery slot. They are neither exactly commercial or artistic. But I wonder, if you were to dig through everything you did -- and I'd wager that's a lot of material -- and come up with the 20-25 most artistic works you've ever done, what would those look like? Being a good editor of your own work is as important as being able to take pictures.
     
  41. The desire to become a photographer ( someone who earns a full time living with it ) versus a enthusiatic camera owner (
    everyone else ) is not unlike that of the American Idol contestant. The contestant that is standing in line with thousands of
    other people has somehow been convinced to risk it all and pursue a dream and often the fire is stoked not by voice
    coaches, fellow musicians or other professionals but mom and dad, sis and bro and other friends and peers.

    So only one person per year wins American Idol....out of hundreds of thousands who were otherwise convinced they were
    the next one. So maybe the path you chose stunted your growth, you shot too much for your self and did not learn what
    people are willing to pay for.

    I started in photography at the same age you did. I was no photographic prodigy but I did have a gut feeling that by age
    10 it would not only be my job but my life. So by age 13, I had worked hard enough to have saved enough to buy my first
    camera instead of borrowing my dad's and was off and running. By age 18 I figured out what pictures that I liked to take
    people would be willing to pay for. I did some assisting from age 19-22 and by age 25 I no longer worked at non-photo
    jobs and have been a full time professional ever since.

    It was tough back then and it is far tougher now. Sure you have to market but more than that you have to have carved out
    a great niche and be outstanding at it, to the point that people trip over them selves to refer you. But not everyone will make it, because succeeding in photography in 2013 when everyone with a camera calls themselves a "Photograper"?.......just
    like American Idol.
     
  42. I think the OP, rk ny, is long gone.
    Nevertheless, a story: as a kid, I was a great admirer of the photographer Robert Capa, as much for his sheer gall as his photographs. I think he is not well known today, aside possibly from his photos of the D-day invasion, but he had an interesting start.
    from: http://www.photo-seminars.com/Fame/capa.htm
    When Hitler took over, Andrei Friedmann took off for Paris. There with his Polish fiancée, Gerda Taro, he struggled to get established in the rugged business of free lance journalism. The story of this struggle is recounted in John Hersey’s classic magazine article, "The Man Who Invented Himself."
    Andrei and Gerda decided to form an association of three people. Gerda was to serve as secretary and sales representative; Andrei was to be a darkroom hired hand; and these two were to be employed by a rich, famous, and talented (and imaginary) American photographer named Robert Capa, then allegedly visiting France. The ‘three’ went to work. Friedmann took the pictures, Gerda sold them, and credit was given the non-existent Capa. Since this Capa was supposed to be so rich, Gerda refused to let his pictures go to any French newspaper for less than 150 francs apiece, three times the prevailing rate.​
    So this is another possible way to advance your case.
     
  43. "I'm still not sure what a photographic concept is"
    It's when you go out with an idea of what you want to say or express, and especially when you carry that through a series or body of work.
    The concept doesn't always precede the photos. Sometimes it gels as you photograph more and more.
    One of my own photographic concepts is photographing middle-aged gay guys, who often find themselves feeling invisible in a community that puts a premium on youth and a certain type of looks. It's, in part, to explore identity and sexuality of aging. Another of the concepts I work with is to portray our personnas and approach my subjects somewhat theatrically in order to uncover certain truths about the way we comport ourselves and the characters we actually are.
    If you're unsure about photographic concepts, when and if you strike upon one, it'll likely become more clear. I don't think it's necessary.
    ___________________________________
    Re: the cartoon in your link. It's not about an idea that's never been thought of before. It's about an idea that you can do something significant with, perhaps something personal, something that might transmit some feeling to a viewer. It's not so much about whether it's been done. It's about YOU doing it, and committing to it.
     
  44. Well, let's see, Fred. I shoot a lot in the dark. . . .
    And I have a lot of ridiculously stupid ideas.
    Ridiculously stupid ideas in the dark. That's it! My concept!
    --Lannie
     
  45. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    "But my friends and family love my work. My coworkers like it. I've shown it to random strangers and they like it."

    Ask them which ones they'd like to buy
     
  46. I don't think that this is completely off topic:
    "Art is not a democracy, it’s a way of sounding your voice and when you allow others – especially unknown or anonymous others – to determine the direction of that art, you’re allowing it to be diluted. Yes, learn about your art and your craft from people you respect, but that will only take you so far before you stand at the edge of the place where art is done alone, without the input or concensus of others, and you leap."
    http://davidduchemin.com/2013/08/winning-at-yoga/
    --Lannie
     
  47. Lannie -- Very very much to the point, I think. Thanks. A good read.
     
  48. Lannie, great read indeed. Thanks for posting. To Bill C, I am very much here, soaking in the words. This has been a great discussion. I don't agree with everything I've read, but I have been inspired to rebuild my online portfiolio. I have registered 50f2.com, in honor of my tried and true Summicron...hope to have my photos whittled down, tidied up and posted there soon, in galleries with categories and, *gulp*, thumbnails. I hope others have gotten as much out of this thread as I have. Thanks to all, especially to Luke, who has clearly encountered the likes of me before.
    00bwI3-542107884.jpg
     
  49. "Ridiculously stupid ideas in the dark. That's it! My concept!"
    OK.
     
  50. I was just jiving, Fred, but, who knows? That just might be it. I do appreciate your sustained and insightful comments on the matter, though. I don't mean to sound so flippant. I just sometimes tire of art speak, especially when spoken by non-artists.
    Not that I know the first thing about art. . .
    This has been a good thread, rk ny. Thanks. I hope that it goes a bit longer before people drift away to other threads.
    --Lannie
     
  51. I'll echo what other said - that Tumblr page is not good. Just make a normal website, wordpress.org or somesuch. Get someone to help you do it if needed. A p/t freelance designer doesn't have to be that expensive.
    Another thing - unlike most here, I'm an amateur, and barely that. I just like taking pictures of nature. I enjoy looking at them later. From the pics I did manage to see on that page, I don't know what you LOVE.
     
  52. Well the world is full of invisable artists. Some folks just know how to get noticed and some folks get lucky and some folks stay invisable. If I did not cover all the possibilities then toss those in there also.
     
  53. "Well the world is full of invisable artists. . . . If I did not cover all the possibilities then toss those in there also."
    Good observation. And I will. There are also artists who are visible but to a smaller circle or community. Not every artist becomes world renowned or even wants to, and yet many are as significant in their own way as those who do. There are many different kinds and levels of artistic reach and success.
     
  54. "...the world is full of invisable artists."​
    Yup! One of my many projects is to photograph tags and graffiti in my neighborhood. Some of it is damned good. It tends to be covered up in less than a week so snagging photos is like hunting for mushrooms. Most of these were gone within days.
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  55. I like what you're doing but agree with what somebody else said, that you seem to have reached a theoretical limit and are unwilling to progress beyond a certain point. Makes me think you should leave your comfort zone -- maybe a two month cross-country trip or some other way to broaden your perspective -- then bring that experience to bear on your everyday tasks.
     
  56. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    One of the truisms of photography (and similar popular fields). They are populated already with people who have done
    this thing for years, they have the inside track to the 'big jobs.' A friend of mine is a fashion photographer, he used to
    do many of the popular female magazines, like Cosmo, etc. This is back in the film days and he had more work than he
    could handle. He got out of the field in the digital era and is happy with his new direction in life.

    I do feel for you. There is nothing more frustrating than being highly skilled and unappreciated. It's, frankly more often
    being at the right place, at the right time, with right skills. You can't beat dumb luck in a field where there are lots of
    others with the same interest. I am not a marine biologist for the same reason, but I am happy with my job. I deal with
    lots of students who want to go to Med school, I tell them only 1 in 10 who applies from undergrad actually gets in. Yet
    they still try. I get to play marine biologist when I visit the sea, just not at work and that's okay. I try and tell my
    students the same thing. I hope if you never reach that plateau at least you can be happy on your journey in life; that's
    what it's all about.
     
  57. Ry ny, I've noticed one thing. You are a good writer. Ever published anything? You ought to if you haven't. You ought to be writing about photography. After being read you might get seen.
    For those of us who hate dealing with the guardians of the front door there are always back doors. For me, they has consisted of notices on bulletin boards and friends. That's how I all my jobs in academia. As I writer I have one golden rule: publish. Anywhere and at any time. That has been my rule for photography as well, which for the sake of my sanity has to remain a secondary and somewhat underground art.
    Ever thought of teaching photography? You can make connections that way. They good thing about academia is that your art does not have to translate into money for someone to be appreciated. The university or art school gallery can lead to something.
    You might consider going back to New Haven. It seems you were doing good work there and you might have done your best work in that place. New York has been done and done again. New Haven not so.
    Do you have a mentor? Finding one might help.
     
  58. Agree with Alex S you are a good writer, I am the worst.

    Was it Adams or Weston who said "it takes 30 years". I just hit 30 years and you are at 25. Go digital.
    I shot film for 25 years and had a darkroom. I have been digital for the last five and love it.So much faster. I have a cheap 300 dollar camera that is wonderful. I use a free photo editor http://ipiccy.com/ as good as PS and images done in 5 minutes. I use a free site Twitter https://twitter.com/dylanisgenius. Why I love PN is you can separate into galleries. I currently have 2600 images. Mine is personal for family and whomever. Good-luck.
     
  59. To Alex,
    Thanks. I have considered writing about something, not sure it's photography. Teaching has crossed my mind as well. I actually have a friend who has offered me a guest spot teaching Photoshop to his photography class at a New England prep school. That might lead to interesting things...
    If anyone is curious, my new site is now live. I hope the moderators will let this link survive...
    50f2.com
    Thanks again to everyone who suggested a new format for the images. It's a work in progress.
    Rob
     
  60. Good stuff, Rob, and much better organized. I really like your people pix. Good eye and timing.
     
  61. Wish I could cull through your gallery, Rob, and get rid of a lot of distracting contrived psuedo-sophisticated compositions that I've seen done as far back as the '70's when I was an art director flipping through volumes of Communication Arts mags.
    That way the REALLY compelling and iconic ones you have standout more. That one with the busted tempered glass needs extra sharpening to contrast against the reflections of the people. That's an image I've not seen before among quite a few others you have. Damn good stuff.
    Good luck with your endeavors. I faced the same invisibility as a famous cartoonist/illustrator wanna' be starting back when I was a production assistant on "Tank McNamara" comic strip in '81. That job was like winning the lottery. I was so lucky back then. Now my luck at 53 has pretty much been pissed away.
    Hang on to that retoucher job. That's just like winning the lottery.
     
  62. @Tim,

    So funny, because I've always been on the fence about that broken glass image...I think it's one of the more contrived
    images I have. And I'm not sure what people you see. I see maaaybe one on the left but I can't make out any others. To
    me it was all about the cracks.

    I'd love to hear about which images you feel are contrived and which are iconic. The trouble with editors is that if you run
    a body of work by 5 of them, there will often be no body of work left. One man's contrived is another's iconic and vice
    versa.
     
  63. So funny, because I've always been on the fence about that broken glass image...I think it's one of the more contrived images I have. And I'm not sure what people you see. I see maaaybe one on the left but I can't make out any others. To me it was all about the cracks.​
    Then either your display isn't properly calibrated or you must have poor vision because I can make out blurred reflections of people through the cracks which makes the image even more compelling and interesting. It's just the cracks look too soft and need to be made more pronounced to add more contrast to bring out these blurred figures.
    The fact you couldn't see or appreciate this aspect of the image suggest you might need a fresh eye from someone you trust and respect as being a high end "Tastemaker", the kind of folks who really are the gatekeepers that decide whether you're in or out.
    The people who have the good sense and taste to pay good money for fine art photography aren't stupid investors with mediocre tastes. Looking at your gallery from the perspective of an agent I wouldn't trust your judgement on what you think is good which is what you're telegraphing by not showing your best and weeding out the rest.
    These are the people you should be appealing to and if you can't get in contact with them then I'ld suggest you hire an agent who can. You need to be around money people who have a track record of buying wisely and can articulate clearly why they don't want your work. Don't take no for an answer.
    I'ld say a lot of your shots of silhouetted tree branches against broad white sky is pretty contrived including some of your skyscraper shots, but those B&W shots of the snowy park have some interesting compositions that deceptively give off a simplistic greeting card feel but whose graceful placing of negative and positive elements within a tastefully designed composition indicate otherwise. At least you got a feel of those as keepers.
    I went through your entire website gallery and was saying this to myself flipping through it...
    "Seen that. Seen that. Seen that...What's this about? Toss it!...Seen that done before. Seen that...Whoah! What's this? DAMN! That's a keeper!...Seen that...Seen that done before." etc., etc. I do this a lot to quite a few galleries online by supposed professionals. There certainly are a ton of images to compete against, aren't there?
    The trouble with editors is that if you run a body of work by 5 of them, there will often be no body of work left. One man's contrived is another's iconic and vice versa.​
    Clearly you know better, just not enough to figure out why you're invisible as a photographer.
     
  64. Gup

    Gup Gup

    Well, Mr. Kearney, clearly you are much more visible here now than before you started this thread. I would wager there are dozens of members reading this thread who haven't contributed to this point who have visited your new website and perused your work. You now have 593 visits to your P.net homepage (not sure what the count was before you posted).
    I would say you are a better networker than you let on;)
    Good Luck with your pursuits.
     
  65. Tim Lookingbill wronte: "Then either your display isn't properly calibrated or you must have poor vision because I can make out blurred reflections of people through the cracks which makes the image even more compelling and interesting."

    Other than the guy walking behind me on the left, I think the "people" you're seeing are my hands holding the camera.
    [​IMG]
     
  66. That photo looked fine to me in the original version. I prefer the ambiguity of the darker, less well defined version. Were they blurred faces? Hands? Something else entirely? Who knows. I don't necessarily need to know or even want to know, based on someone else's opinion about whether an image - or story - is "clear enough". Sometimes one person's clarification is another person's tiresome explication.
    And there's the rub...
    I don't disagree with Tim's opinions in theory. But in practice, who the heck knows *what* a prospective agent, gallery owner, museum curator, critic, client or anyone else will like? Sometimes they don't even know that they'll appreciate something until it comes along and hits them just the right way at just the right time. And in arts and pop culture, often timing is crucial.
    I believe you have to go with your own instincts and maybe with a little nudge from someone who understands what you're hoping to accomplish and is more interested in what you're aiming for rather than trying to mold you and your work into their own concepts.
     
  67. Other than the guy walking behind me on the left, I think the "people" you're seeing are my hands holding the camera.​
    It doesn't matter what is being reflected in the image. It's the suggestion that there's something there but is obscured in the texture of the broken glass that entices the viewer to wonder and inject their own interpretation of what it is. It's one of the ways you grab eyeballs with a still image. It's also quite a different POV and approach from the rest of your other less noticeable images, the ones I suggested you eliminate that distract from the good ones.
    You're trying to convey a unique vision no one else possesses and you don't want to distract from that by pointless clutter. It was the same advice given to me when I was a 20 something illustrator by leading art directors who worked for major ad agencies like McCann Erickson when I attended the design schools back in the early '80's. You are the art director for what you want to communicate to the buyer of your work. Don't make it difficult for them to see it among the million other skillfully honed portfolios you're competing against.
    But in practice, who the heck knows *what* a prospective agent, gallery owner, museum curator, critic, client or anyone else will like?​
    They'll like what you make them see. If they don't see it, then you have to ask questions of said buyer/curator what it is they do and how they see in the ones they have on display they've clearly made a committed choice on. If they can't explain it then move on to others because more than likely you don't want to hitch your wagon with folks who don't know how to communicate in an industry that relies on that skill to survive.
    There's no mystery in how to do this and no hard and true rules to follow but if the images are showing something that hasn't been seen before and are truly compelling by comparison to others as well convey a like mindedness going by the potential buyer's other choices, the really smart ones will pick up on it and see it as an investment not just monetarily but culturally.
    Good grief, it's not rocket science. Just look at the success of Thomas Kinkade paintings. Just on first glance you know immediately the OP's work would not be appreciated by these non-like minded folks.
     
  68. "Then either your display isn't properly calibrated or you must have poor vision..."

    "It doesn't matter what is being reflected in the image."

    Ah, but of course it doesn't matter when someone points out that you are mistaken. Good day, sir.
     
  69. Rob, I see now those aren't faces in your cracked glass image. It's your hands holding the camera. I didn't see that when I first saw the image in your gallery. Maybe you ought to reshoot it so it shows faces.
    Besides you're missing my point in the value of the concept behind such a shot and nit picking over how I saw/interpreted it. Good grief, I can't even pay you a compliment on your own work without you arguing. I can't imagine how much you must irritate potential buyers showing your portfolio.
    As far as I'm concerned you can remain invisible for all I care. Good day to you, Sir!
     
  70. Lot of nice people shots my favorite is the guy with the Polaroid SX-70.
     
  71. I'm looking for a place to document the short story of my life as an unknown photographer, in the hopes that some might be able to put their finger on why I remain unknown​
    Hey, Bro! There are a lot of us out here. Some of us, such as I, don't have a clue as to why we are so mediocre.
    I'm not saying that you are. . . .
    --Lannie
     

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