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Recently I had the good fortune of being interviewed by two top-notch photographers who have very forward-looking blogs: Ibarionex Perello, The Candid Frame; and Matt Brandon, The Digital Trekker.

The interviews took place months apart but they happened to be published days apart. This is not the first time I’ve been interviewed on a podcast, but it made me pause and think about The New World Order for photographers.

The Candid Frame #80 – Nevada Wier

Depth of Field: Nevada Wier Part I

Depth of Field: Nevada Wier Part II

(You can also find these podcasts on iTunes)

There has been a steady, gradual shift in the business of photography over the past few years, but I really see a major tectonic shift this summer.

When I started out it was all about magazines. I wanted to be published in magazines; whenever I was interviewed it was in magazines. Editors were The Great Barrier Reef that all photographers had to penetrate.

Magazines are still around but they are not the only forums for photographers, and they have less and less circulation and influence. Conversely, there is an increasing abundance of alternative venues for photo stories (with and without audio), single images, and videos. It is quite exciting, overwhelming, and much more democratic.

But, I can’t help but wonder …who will be paying for it? How will professional editorial (current event, travel, nature, etc.) photographers survive in this New World Order? And, it seems so much more work to me than writing proposals and figuring out to crack into specific magazines.

Plus there is no way to funnel the photographers who rise to the top through talent and hard work into central showcases. Magazines used to be that funnel leading to recognition known throughout out the general public, not just photographers. Now there seems to be a myriad of cells (through Twitter, Facebook, Flicker, Internet forums, etc.) providing platforms for enthusiastic photographers. This is a great boon to a wide range of photographers, but none have a wide range of followers. So it is A Wonderful New World Order for avid photographers and an increasingly stressing one for professionals. But I don’t think this is such a bad thing (ha! fooled you…no, I’m not bemoaning the situation).

I think it is time for a change. The day rate in magazines has not changed in over twenty-five years (I can’t think of any other profession where a pay rate hasn’t increased.) So pros can moan and groan, but it can be very exciting to reinvent one self. And, eventually, I think there will be a new conduit for the world at large to see the creme de la creme of photographers. And will there be will be a new God of Visual Judgment after the demise of magazine editors? (Do you think the median is the best judge of an art form? I don’t.)

I don’t have any answers; it’s exciting and thought provoking (as well as often frustrating) to be at the cusp of such a change.

As Helen Keller said, Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”

So I watch, marvel and try to ride the surf on top of the wave! Whether I get crunched … I don’t know.

Myanmar_107796

© nevada wier          Myanmar. Inle Lake.

I recently had a portfolio of my work published in a wonderful Czech photography magazine PhotoArt.  I received a very kind and inquisitive email from a young man who asked a question I get quite often. Here is an excerpt from the email (It was written by a non-English speaking person so I fixed some of the spelling and grammar.)

“I have one question that your homepage doesn’t answer.
How did you become a professional photographer?
It would be very interesting to know how you began.
I recently bought a magazine called “PhotoArt”  and I read an article about you and your work and I was fascinated.
Why? Because I want to know how to become a professional.  I want to know the first step to becoming a professional photographer.
I am just a beginner, but I have been fascinated by photography since I was a child. Next year I will study in a German college. Do you think communication design is a good first step?

I also used to ask this very question to any pro I could when I was first starting in the business. How does one begin to be an editorial or travel photographer? In most professions one goes to school, gets the grades, passes the tests, and pops out ready to become a paid lawyer, doctor, or whatever. Not so in photography, especially not so in journalism or other kinds of editorial photography. Yes, one has to be a creative, visionary photographer to make it in the upper echelons of the business and that takes talent, perseverance, and practice (just like any profession). However, the question is how? How does one get in that coveted “upper echelons”?

I could spout answers like: “Become an assistant for another photographer” (but most editorial photographers only have office assistants). “Get a job with a newspaper (actually that would be a very good idea. I worked for my local paper for a year.). “Take workshops with photographers whose work you admire” (another good idea). Or, “Marry someone with a MBA who wants to manage your business, especially if he/she has a trust fund. (This is my very best suggestion. I wish I had hung out with business students instead of rock climbers and river rafters!).

However, the people I know who are photographic professionals have something else besides great talent and business sense—they have what I call the tenacity quotient. They want to be a photographer; they live to be a photographer, and they will die being a photographer.

There is no pathway in the field of photography with sign posts, hints, or Get Out of Jail Free cards. It is like being dropped blindfolded in the middle of Alaska and being told to find your way to Seattle. Someone who wants to be a photographer will find a way to make a living in this convoluted, underpaid field. And, that is what it takes to be one. No one can tell you how. Each photographer finds a different route to becoming established and solvent. You have to figure it out on your own. All the photographers I know did this. And, you will have to also. It feels rather mean to say it this way, but it is true.

Note: However, I do think having a background in art, graphic design, and digital imagining helps. As well as having business acumen and technical know-how. I personally think I do very well as a travel photographer because I can eat anything and never get stomach problems — and I can hold quite a few drinks. I can also sleep anywhere, on any surface. And, I do not have a very good sense of smell, but I like to think I have a good sense of humor.

Good luck and … take one of Mary Virginia Swanson’s workshops (see previous post).

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POLL – August 3, 2009