Saturday, 22 October 2011

Originality, Neil Young, increasing numbers and making money.

This is my last day here on Skye in the Highlands of Scotland. A place renowned for its dramatic scenery and beauty.

My wife and I rent a house and have done so for a few years now. I have a set of photos taken on these trips here.
Another thing Skye has is artists of all kinds. There is a very vibrant artist community here. I, naturally, tend to go and visit the photographers who nearly all take landscape shots. This year I have been struck by how similar these landscape shots look- you know, rocks in the immediate foreground, loch or river leading the eye to the mountains lit by either the setting or rising sun, perhaps with some snow. A wee white cottage or a lone dead tree the icing on the cake. Personally, I've yet to capture such a 'perfect' shot and I have no doubt that if I could see one and I was skillful enough to capture it as well as these photographers do, I would take such a shot. But why?
Just to see if I can. Just because it is recording the beauty of the island I visit so often. People buy such pictures. And why not?

Not very original though and in a crowded, networked and technically advanced environment, how do you stand out?

How can you be original these days when there are so many competent and enthusiastic photographers out there (and the numbers keep increasing!)? I was thinking about this last night whilst watching a BBC4 documentary on the great Neil Young who is well known for experimenting, for exploring new forms of musical expression, for putting the music first. Even though one musical 'formula' was highly profitable and popular, it was not to be repeated as far as Neil was concerned - often with disastrous consequences, losing sales and fans. Neil was not trying to make his music popular or interesting, he was making music that interested him, that stretched him, that advanced his craft and got him out of a comfort zone.

Neil isn't short of a bob or two, so having talent, being true to your craft, getting out of your comfort zone and working hard can be profitable, even if you lose fans and friends along the way.

Bland, unoriginal music also survives and makes money - and so does bland, unoriginal art.

Is this how photographers make enough money to live these days - produce the 'goods' that sell but try to be original in your free time in the hope that some people may love your original and personal work? Probably. But I also wonder if other employment is needed such as running courses, giving talks and, who knows, some other part time work.

I enjoyed David Fleet's blog post this morning on the viability of being a landscape photographer (you can read it here, as well as my comment). His post, as well as the Neil Young documentary, inspired this rambling entry today. I hope you followed my train of thought and what I was trying to say. I've said similar things here, here and here.

Please feel free to comment, especially if you are a full time photographer.