I’ve been neglecting bus pictures of late. I got frustrated for a while there, as I kept taking the same sort of pictures over and over again, constrained by where I could sit to actually get these pictures, and the fact that I do take the same bus every day and its route doesn’t deviate.
I’m not sure why I get quite so annoyed with myself for doing the same thing over again, as there are plenty of repetitive things I do on a daily basis that remain constant. I think it’s something to do with the fact that this is photography, that this supposed to be my Thing, and that I badly want to make Something of it.
I was having a conversation with the boy one day when he said “I could have married a ________, but went and married a photographer instead.” He’s never been one to be supportive on bias of association, and not so secretly wishes I’d just decide to give the whole photography thing up, so that by-way acknowledgement kind of did my head in.
It started me mulling over the label of “photographer.” I’ve never felt comfortable calling myself a photographer in earnest. When I have to make reference to myself as a keen picture taker, it always comes with a disclaimer of sorts attached, like the one on this blog’s subheading: aspiring photographer; there’s also amateur photographer, photography enthusiast, dork with camera, takes pictures for fun etc etc and etc.
I can’t call myself a photographer, point blank, without feeling like a fraud. And it’s largely because I don’t know much about the business of being a photographer. I’m not talking about account keeping, marketing, SEO and actual running-business stuff (although, that is one aspect). I’m talking about the business of being a photographer that comes from within, from this thing about visual narratives, which I am still trying to get my head around, to the experience driven one that calls for one knowing exactly what to do, the way I would do it, when thrown an assignment instead of faffing around getting into gear and finally, in the last 5 minutes of allocated time, finding my way and then going “I wish I’d gotten to this point sooner.”
A lot of the above comes with study, exposure, experience and etc. All of which I do have – in limited quantities, and there lies the heart of my problem. I don’t know about the business of being a photographer because I haven’t been exposed to much by way of the craft (nevermind the industry). I know what I don’t know, from other kind photographers who spare my questions a moment or two, and all of this are points I’ve stored away mentally as “stuff to work on.”
However, there is also a gaping void in my knowledge, the bit called “what I don’t know, I don’t know.” How do I know this exists? It’s pretty simple – there are certain roadblocks I come to at times where I’ve exhausted all my available knowledge and technique and mental exercises to get me out of. And I’m left with the thought “there HAS to be another way around this.” Most of the time this sort of roadblock is creative/approach related, some of the time it’s to do with technique/craft, and some of the time it’s that mysterious other I will pin to experience for lack of a better explanation.
Yes I am aware working professionals do go through this sort of thing from time to time, but I’m going to guess that most of them have enough confidence to get their work done, hook or crook. And here is where the lines start to blur.
I have come to a stage where I deliver on my jobs. Every single frame won’t be a winner, but I usually am value for money (so to speak). I have enough confidence in the subjects I often shoot, be they portraits or tugboats or weddings or whatever, to pull something out of the proverbial that does it, and sometimes a bit more. I often learn something new on every job, small or large, that can be applied to the next one. Granted, what I have been doing is fairly simple and straightforward, unlikely to get me on a page of National Geographic, but it gets me paid without dispute. Ask me to ape something Joe McNally does now and I’ll whimper and run away, but I do feel it’s possible to produce that quality of work somewhere down the track.
See this photography being my Thing business, it’s a lot to do with the fact that I have never felt discouraged by anything I don’t know, just frustrated every now and then, because it’s all so insanely possible, limited only by willingness to plug away at it, imagination, and available internet connection. I still don’t know a lot about visual essays, portfolio building or marketing myself, but I can/will learn it.
And maybe that’s what the business of being a photographer is about? That your work and education is never really done? The road is shorter for some than it is people like me, but I remember every now and then that I’m on it, and on days where I wonder what the hell I’m doing, it’s always what counts. Maybe i can call myself a photographer, simply because i’m working towards being one.
So after all of that, I leave you with some images taken with my very plebian camera phone. From the bus, as always, my muse of sorts.
* Typos and odd grammar attributed to the 20 minute window I had to put this down. I may or may not edit it later.