Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26th, 2013 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Happy Turkey Feast Day 2013!

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
And if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

–From The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Grass Hummock, Indian Creek, Indian Valley, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde.

Grass Hummock, Indian Creek, Fall, Indian Valley, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2013 by David Leland Hyde.

When you do not know the business of photography, it is challenging to jump right in full-time and make a living, regardless of experience in other businesses. This difficulty is eased in some ways, but ultimately more devastating in the long run, if you have some funds to start with. This tends to merely delay the necessary pain of actually having to produce, but when the funds finally do dry up, there is what seems like a long free fall before you finally learn enough to construct a net out of thin air, to save yourself from ruin.

They say you have to hit bottom before you can bounce. However, I have now proven that a person can skim along the bottom for quite some time before hitting the lowest point and bouncing. This year, for me, was the year of the bounce. Print sales are up. Business is up. Income is up. In fact, at one point early in the year I was mystified and lamenting my lack of earning power, when I began to ask around to find out what was really going on out there in the streets and with other photographers and landscape photographers. In most cases it is not very pretty, even though the images often are nothing but pretty.

I could sit here and moan about the economy like the majority of others do every day, even the very best, but it really isn’t “the economy, stupid.” It is really each of us making or breaking it daily. An interesting discovery I made not long ago was that the “economy” today is twice as big as it was in 1980. Why isn’t each of us earning twice as much? Well, because our individual incomes truly do not have all that much to do with the overall economy. In this essay, I’m going to play economic devil’s advocate.

The U. S. “Economy” alone is measured in hundreds of billions of dollars. If it goes down a few percentage points, the media spread hysteria and fright like wildfire, but if it goes up a small fraction, then we all rejoice. And what the heck is uncertainty? I thought the role of a leader is to banish uncertainty from people’s minds, but I guess we don’t have any leaders of consequence these days. The fluctuations in growth that are part of doing business affect each of us individually just about as much as we believe they do.

I am not blind to unemployment or the decline I see all around me, but to blame all of it on the idiot gamblers on Wall Street and the con artist mortgage bankers seems a bit overblown.  I know a huge number of people have been taken advantage of, lost their homes, lost their retirement funds and so on. I feel for these people and understand they are victims of the new corporate state. Toward changes, we all need to work and become activists, but what else is new? The big guys have been taking advantage of the little guys since history began. Each of us has to step to the plate and do it for ourselves despite the economy, despite unemployment, despite whatever the setbacks are of any nature.

I have discovered that if a collector wants to make an excuse not to acquire a print, he or she will find an excuse, lately it has conveniently been the economy. If you buy that excuse from someone who is more well off than you are, then you do not believe enough in art and you are not likely to sell much of it in the Soft Depression of the 21st Century. Go back and get a government job, oops, maybe that’s not such a good idea either. Nothing personal if you already work for the government. I feel for all those who were needlessly put out of work recently because of partisan politics. During the government shut down, members of Congress still collected their pay and retained all or most of their staff, while Nobel Prize winning scientists and other accomplished people were ejected. The only real security is the security each of us creates for ourselves. Henry David Thoreau called it self-reliance. This century we have to practice economic self-reliance. It is the only way we will have anything to be thankful for in the long run.

Back to landscape photography, certainly some superstars are still crushing it in the current “economy,” whatever that is, but it turns out that a lot of collectors and other print buyers are making a lot of excuses and most photographers have no decent response or plan to overcome these excuses. I certainly do not have all the answers, or even hardly any. However, I was heartened to find out when I checked around, that even though I consider my income paltry compared to the days of the late 1980s when I was making a six figure income, I am selling more prints than just about anyone else around, at least in the nature and landscape photography genre. That is something to be thankful for… and I am. Thank you Great Spirit, for the gifts you bestow. It has been a long road to get here. I still have a long way to go in many areas including time management, SEO, web development, social media, exhibiting at shows, museum relations, photography gallery development, printing my own prints and much more. My father once wrote that he had a long apprenticeship from the mountains themselves, mainly learning economics. More on the economy and selling photographic prints in future posts…

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

What are you thankful for?

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18 comments

  1. pj says:

    Interesting thoughts David, and I think you’re spot on with the economic issues. It’s easy enough to blame someone or something when things aren’t working. Excuses are cheap. Much harder to face the reality that our efforts aren’t all they should be. We sink or thrive largely on the effectiveness of our own efforts, good economy or bad. Luckily I’ve skimmed and bounced enough times over the years that I’ve lost my fear of the slim times.

    Thoughtful post, and that hummock photo is certainly a keeper in my book. Hope you have a good thanksgiving.

  2. Hi PJ, I’m glad you like the photo and economic views expressed. The slim times are scarier for me now that I have more to lose than I did when I didn’t own any real estate.Hope you have an excellent Thanksgiving too, out there in the sage and ocotillo at Joshua Tree.

  3. David, I always enjoy the insightful thoughts you publish and this one is right on! For me this year has not been so much about photography as about being a caregiver to my wife who is dying of lung cancer. If you get a chance you might find this post interesting as it is my perspective on where photography fits in my life today. http://hwilliam.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/seasons-photography-and-memories/
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Hi Bill, Thank you for stopping by. I know you have very little opportunity for blog perusing. As I wrote on your very moving blog post with that excellent photograph, you’re doing what is important. People take breaks from photography sometimes for years for much lesser reasons… and when it is all said and done, you will be changed and your photography will most probably shift too. The experience of taking care of someone close in their last days cannot be matched for transformation.

  5. Happy Thanksgiving to you too, David.
    I agree with you for the most part, but I do think the transgressions of the elite do make it difficult, and impossible for some, to make it in any pursuit…the arts or otherwise. And while it is best for us to fend for ourselves, not all are equipped for the battle. Either emotionally, intellectually or just plain not prepared by the educational system as it evolves into a worker spewer, many people don’t have the tools to take on a bad economy. The US governemnt was looked upon as a great experiment by the original writers of the constitution and it continues to evolve daily. But I do agree as well that our leaders today leave a lot to be desired…but they are a reflection of us. We need to demand more.
    Congratulations on your success with sales. I hope you are able to maintain that and see the numbers grow even more.

  6. Appreciate your comment, Steve. You’re right, we need to have compassion for those who are less robust in coping. I am very lucky in how I was raised and who I was raised by, not just to have the right attitude to build on, but to have the example in my father and his father before him, who made a living as an oil painter, architectural draftsman and furniture designer and builder, right through the Great Depression. I took my father’s self-employed mindset and reinforced it by associating with entrepreneurs most of my working career. From them I learned even more of the mindset necessary to weather the winds of adversity. I am merely attempting to pass along some of their wisdom and attitude that has helped to make me as resilient as I am. Meanwhile, it is also important for me, for us, to remember that most people have not had the advantages I, we, have had, though I have been dirt poor in my life too and actually poor more often than not. I probably ought to be doing much better than I have considering that I have learned from some of the best, but I guess I am also living proof that anyone can fall on hard times. Fortunately I’ve come back a little, but I’m certainly still a long way from security and comfort without economic challenges, so far. Have a great holiday.

  7. Jack Sasson says:

    Well written David but I must take exception to your belittling of the workings of the economy in providing people with sustainable incomes. As a finish carpenter in the Boulder area since 1976, I’ve seen the money ebb and flow but this last recession really pulled the monetary rug out from under all of us in the trades. Construction is the canary in the coal mine when things go bust and I also went from 6 figures to unemployment with many unanswered craigslist ads for my services. As I was on the cusp of my retirement I did that. Fortunately part of not having a desk job means you have to be aware that you will have slow times and you prepare the best you can by not buying anything new and salting as much money as you can in anticipation of times like these. We are an overspending society and the house of cards collapsed.
    Thanks for a great article and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and all the best! Jack

  8. Hi Jack, I see now that the way I wrote this blog post, I have triggered some of the solid and real opposite views. I wrote it the way I did, I suppose, because I’m not only tired of other’s excuses, I’m tired of hearing my own too. I am glad you have made the good points you have to balance out the discussion. I have a number of good friends in the trades and am well aware of how the economic conditions of the last several years, even of the last decade, have impacted the construction industry. I can guarantee you, though, that the business of art and photography has been hit just as hard. The unanswered marketing efforts, yep, done that. Galleries have closed left and right, the stock image licensing industry has all but collapsed and the full-time photographer has become very rare indeed. You’re right about the birds of debt and materialism coming home to roost too. This is the main cause as much as anything else. The other big issue is that many of these industries, including those that both you and I are in, as they are today, still depend on unlimited growth to keep them profitable. We cannot keep building houses, or keep consuming anything else that uses up resources at the rate we have been, or we will continue to head toward a cliff as a civilization. We need to create a sustainable system, where livelihoods depend on more than economic growth to succeed. Let’s hope we learn enough to get it all back on track in a more reliable way heading into the future. Happy Turkey Day.

  9. Hope it was a great Thanksgiving for you, David!

  10. Thanks, Derrick. Seems like I hardly took much of a break from work, but it was a good Thanksgiving. Hope it was good for you too.

  11. Richard Wong says:

    Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving, David. Glad that business is improving for you. You’ve put a lot of work into it.

    I’m just grateful I was able to go home and spend time with my family over the holidays. My dad passed away three months ago so it was my first visit home since the funeral.

  12. Sounds like it was an important holiday for you, Richard. I was a mess three months after my father passed on. We had been so close for four years as I was his primary caregiver and companion at the end of his life. The passing of our fathers is perhaps the biggest life marker for a man, with the possible exception of the passing of our mothers who gave us life, and you’re pretty young to lose a parent. I remember feeling robbed by the passing of my mom when I was only 36. I imagine it was good for your family to be together. Hope you had an excellent day, considering the fresh loss.

  13. Richard says:

    Thanks David. We have dinner with my mom’s side of the family every year so this year was no different. My dad was sick for many years so I didn’t feel robbed but if it were my mom I’d definitely feel the same way as you did.

  14. Hi Richard, That’s right. I remember now that you said that about your dad in San Francisco. I think my response was something about how truly sad that is, but perhaps good that it is over. I apologize for having such a rotten memory, and about something like that. As you probably know, I feel for you regardless. My deepest sympathies and wishes for a great holiday season, my friend.

  15. QT Luong says:

    The recession had an impact on collectors. I’m no print collector for various reasons, however I collect photography books. I’ve noticed sharp price drops in that market starting from about 2008.

    Independently from the recession, photography is devalued by long-term economic trends. One of the reasons you are doing better may be that in a difficult economy, collectors tend to look for sure value and therefore established names. If you are interested in nature/conservation, few names are more established than your father.

  16. Hi QT, I appreciate hearing from you and your adding the voice of experience to the discussion. “Doing well,” is of course all relative. I’m doing better than I was, but not as well as I was at various times in my life when I made a six figure income. I’m not sure how much photography has been devalued, perhaps it did go a bit soft, as so much of it was on sale, but many prices didn’t drop much at auctions or in galleries, even when nothing was selling, or compared to how much it has gone up in the last 30-40 years. Even with all the sale prices, photography out-performed the S&P 500 and other leading indicators during the recession, just as it has ever since photography has been collected and there were financial markets. Also, I believe record auction prices continued right on through the roof, perhaps for the reason you mention about sure value…?

  17. Hugh Sakols says:

    Hi David,
    I’m happy to hear that business is picking up for you. Since the downturn, I have been thankful that I have a job, even though my clients are 9-12 years old. Shame on our government for the Shutdown. Yes, federal employees will get back pay, but that is not true for others that work closely with the government. The shutdown was a blow to many small communities that survive off tourism. Here in Yosemite, many employees lost their health benefits because they couldn’t make the payment being out of work. The fact that I have a job and money left over to fill my printer with ink makes me one of the country’s elite. We live in an exciting time for photographers, but it certainly looks next to impossible for landscape photographers. Still photography is the perfect excuse to get out even in the winter for a cozy overnight trip. Stay warm David.

    Hugh

  18. Hi Hugh, there is something to be said for having a job to keep the prints rolling off the presses. It is getting better, but even now I often have cash flow challenges that keep me from ordering prints right when I need them to hang somewhere or show to someone. Regarding the shutdown, there is no conspiracy, just follow the money. The people running our government have insulated themselves enough that they don’t have to feel the cold when the rest of us do because of their wrangling. I sure would like to go on some of those backcountry rambles you take by skis or snowshoes, but I have to keep working all the time. I guess it’s best though. Without my own necessity, there might not be as much drive moving Dad’s work forward.

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