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
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?