On a social media group recently a student posted the question, ‘Who pays?’ He made the point that he’d been looking at a professional photographer’s website and couldn’t see how the photographer was making any money. In fact, as most of the images were of professional models (who presumably want to be paid), it was difficult to see the website as anything other than an expensive vanity project.
This reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago. Noticing two very large camera bags that I was struggling with, a guy asked me if I was a photographer. He then went on to tell me that he was a wedding photographer and ran his own business in the town (that I happened to be in at the time).
I asked him how business was and he replied that it was ‘booming’. At that point he offered me a business card, and as we’d arrived at the church, I got out of his taxi.
This ‘professional’ photographer, with a ‘booming’ business also happened to be a taxi driver.
About the same time, I took a few students to a talk about working in photography professionally. The guy giving the talk (which was excellent and full of inspiring photos) suggested that the audience entered a few competitions to try to develop the skill of working to a brief. A member of the audience immediately suggested a local competition which the speaker obviously knew about. He suggested that he might have entered it himself had he not been a friend of one of the judges. After the talk the member of the audience drew the speaker aside and suggested that he would not have been able to enter the competition as it clearly stated it was an amateur competition. Ah, the speaker replied, according to the rules of the competition an amateur was anyone who did not derive the majority of their income from photography, and as he earns more doing other things, he could have entered if he had wished to.
Three random encounters, but the same underlying picture.
On the return from a holiday in America, a friend recounted her experiences of visiting Hollywood. Did she meet any actors? She met loads of actors. All of them working in restaurants, bars and diners. All of them doing really well with heir acting careers, but ‘resting’ through fear of over-exposure or typecasting.
Does ‘professional photographer’ mean the same as ‘actor’. If so it seems more an aspiration than an occupation.