Photographing your passion
As a photographer, we all want to see our images in print, be it in a magazine, online or hanging on a gallery wall. We all make the time to take images and want to share them, but what happens when you achieve a specific goal and see your image or images where you worked so hard to get? What happens when it takes a long time to reach that goal? Do you question what you are shooting and why it is taking so long?
I remember 17 years ago when I lived in St. Louis, I was working for a magazine and photographed a lot of gardens and flowers. I turned my personal work to floral images. When I started sharing it I got great response. I was talked into sending some of the images to Country Living magazine. I put them in an envelope and sent them off. To my surprise, a few weeks later I received a note saying they loved them and the managing editor had hung one in her office. They were also going to feature them in the magazine. This was the first time a photographer was going to be featured in Country Items You Can Purchase section. After hearing that, I was sure my career was going to skyrocket and I had made it as a photographer. I sent word out to everyone. The issue came and went. I sold two prints. I was crushed.
I stopped my personal work and went into commercial work only. In the back of my mind I was trying to figure out why I didn’t sell many prints, and as of today I still don’t know. Eventually I started shooting personal again, but this time I was shooting for what I thought people wanted to see; what they would purchase. It was a huge flop and I did not like the images. I was not getting into the shows I wanted to and again stopped all personal work.
Fast forward a few years. I have been very fortunate to have commercial advertising clients that trust my vision and let me shoot what I see. In the Advertising world, getting images into Communication Arts Photography is huge. I decided to send an image Communication Arts MagazineI felt strongly about. It was from a job and the client loved it. I received notice that my image was going to in the Photo Annual and I got a full page! I had the feeling again this was going to change my career. Two emails wanting bids for national jobs but I was already shooting nationally. Another let down…
I was beginning to see a pattern. Expectations and reality are tough. I was working hard trying to get my work out there I thought people wanted to see. That was my mistake. We need to make images for us - for you! Many of you know I photograph a lot of barns. I never set out to share a single image. It all started when my grandpa passed away. He was farmer and I knew one of the farms would be sold. I also knew the barns would be torn down to make more room for crops, so I photographed them. Within 6 months the barns were gone. I then noticed there were so many farm structures that were in disrepair; they too were being torn down. I decided to turn my camera to them and capture them in their glory before they were gone; and this changed everything.
I was making images on my terms - for me. Not for anyone else. When I started to share them, I was getting the response I was looking for 17 years ago. These images meant something to me. I started getting advertising jobs from the barn work. I had also tried for years to get my work with a publisher. I received so many rejection letters it was crazy. I sent the barn images, the images that I was really invested in, and I signed with one of, if not the biggest, publisher in the country. I didn’t show them what I thought they wanted to see, I showed what I felt strongly about…then waited for the rejection note which I never got.
Why am I sharing this? I am sharing this part of my career to let you know there is rejection and our expectations and the reality of showing work can be cruel. Find your voice. Show your passion. Don’t copy other photographers. Take images from your heart. Some viewers will get it and others will not. We don’t care about the ones that don’t…. Love what you are photographing