My primary objectives right now are to breath and survive. I’m at that point, 3 years in, when most sane people get out. It’s the true test, are you crazy enough to go forward when a brontosaurus-sized neon sign is flashing “ABORT NOW – BECOME A TRUCK DRIVER!” As photographer, Keith Carter, says, “You have to learn to embrace a life of uncertainty.”So I gotta breathe in. Stay the course. Surviving the photo industry is one part vision, one part business and all heart.

via Photo Coleslaw.

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  1. … as well as supportive friends and/or mentors in the industry!

  2. I remember once asking my (then) husband who was at the time struggling as a musician, why he didnt just give up music and use his columbia u degree to do something sane. I said, why do you work so hard in an industry that gives you so little return?” He said: “I do this Because I cant’ not. Music is in my bolood…”
    Sometimes its what flows through our veins that keeps us going.

  3. Yeah, if you’re committed to fine art photography, I don’t see how you can’t have some other source of income…either a job, a spouse with a job that pays all the bills, a big inheritance, a large payout from a life insurance policy, or some such thing. Truck driving, however, doesn’t seem ideal for this purpose *unless* getting photos along the highway and at truck stops “feeds” your fine art photographic vision…:p.

  4. I think a lot of photographers are dealing with this issue. With the advent of User Generated Content with a camera phone, the existence of iStock and the collapse of so many print publications, you have to ask yourself, “Did I make the wrong decision to get into photography?” Yet, if you have the passion to recreate your reality on a two-dimensional plane, there is only one answer, “NO!” Although, with a cute little iPhone and a Cab-Over-Pete, you can shoot an awful lot of landscape and maybe run-over a celeb and cash in!

  5. Making choices to survive is natural and healthy. I had to leave it for a decade, to literally survive, raise boys, pay a mortgage, car payment, heat, just to think about it makes me cringe. Thinking about crushing pennies between my fingers trying to decide which bill got paid during those times brings up unpalatable emotions. I am now in the position to pursue photography on a full time basis; BUT not as comfortably as before the economy spun into a vortex of hell siphoning out hope with it.

    Although I had one friend completely bail, sell off equipment, and return for higher education, some of my other friends are diversifying or choosing to work in alternative fields temporarily. I have an award winning photographer friend, who will shoots wedding, senior portraits, holiday portraits to make ends meet. A well established gallery owner I know, is diversifying with workshops and classes. Another close friend, who worked full time as an independent artist now teaches college (pay and benefit packages).

    We do what we must to come through the other side. You don’t have to go down with the ship. Sometimes you have to bail out the problem weighing you down. Diversifying has helped some of my friends and colleagues.

    Good luck to all my photographer colleagues who are struggling right now.

  6. I made a choice many years ago to follow my passion and become a photographer. At the time I passed on the opportunity to be a NYC firefighter as many of my friends had become.

    As a photographer, I’ve enjoyed some lucrative years and a great staff position. The last few years have been tough and find myself trying to reinvent myself, my work and my vision. It is difficult, but without sounding like a cliche it is reinvigorating knowing I am doing what I love.

    I’d lie if I said I don’t think about the what if…and be hanging with my retired firemen friends and the security of pensions, benefits and new careers. The truth is I don’t think I would have been as enriched as I am now if I didn’t enjoy the people, places and experiences that photography has given me over the years…in that respect I feel blessed.

  7. Become a truck driver … hit the ‘Ice Road’ for a winter season … do nice pics and/or a photo-doc … and you are back on the (photographic) track (maybe)

    Assuming the ice doesn’t melt away under your 16-wheeler :-)

    Job description here … for the tough guys behind the steering wheel:

    “Earn $40,000 USD In 3 Months As An Ice Road Truck Driver In Canada”

    Waiting for your images,

  8. I think and say this to myself all the time also. But photography is our way of life now we all have to move forward. Even if there are more and more want to be photographers these days now that digital came out. Truck drive sounds good that you get benefits and what not but not be a creative person would drive me crazy.

  9. With all due respect to the commenters on here. A LOT of photogs, esp older ones, have been behind the curve when it comes to the Internet. My “collegues” laughed at me when I told them I started putting stuff on Flickr three years ago. They also scoffed when I stared an on-line fashion/feature magazine. Now they’re behind. It’s all about keeping up and having the foresight to see what’s coming.
    Noah Kalina gets most of his biz from his Flickr site. My best gigs have come from me hitting up writers I friend on FB and Flickr for collaboration.
    There are other ways to be a successful photog other than send out e-mail blasts and wait for the three cherries to hit. Your website is not enough anymore. Use your head and quit whining.

    • @JMG, A few years back I held a rent party and sold the images out of my portfolio. Not because I was broke.. I thought I was done. It was the beginning of the downturn; doors were being slammed and phone calls went unanswered. Over time the new ways at approaching clients made me think differently about my involvement in the medium.

      That portfolio would do me no good today anyway. It was full of images that I thought someone else wanted to see.

  10. One recurring theme on a lot of photography blogs lately is that many established professionals are worried about the state of the industry, the economy and in short their survival. There is a whole class of emerging photographers, which I count myself as one of, that has always known the photo industry to be tough. We don’t know it to be any other way than full of chopped commercial budgets and an evolving marketplace. And in that sense we have an advantage….we’re ready to evolve and be a part of crafting this new photo industry.

    We passed by the neon-sign and the truck-stop coffee; we’re staying true to our visions.

    Thanks for your sentiments,
    Photo Coleslaw

    • @Jennifer Spelman, great post and I love coleslaw. I have added you to my list of must reads on my Blog. I love the attitude of can do rather than; what am I going to do, oh poor me what am I going to do. Thanks

  11. I read the full article and it just so happened that I have been working on a revised business plan. It is an eye opener for those who have never created one. It is the most painful arduous task to ever give a creative mind to do, it is almost like cutting off the shutter release finger.

    The end result of the marketing analysis; the income potential is out there and it comes down to who, how, what and when. Who are you going to market to, to survive? How are you going to do it? What are you going to market to them? Will it be your standard fare or will it be something new? When are you going to do it? Me one Item I plan to do is to have a weekend of free settings for portraits, create some buzz, stir up the blood, get people to be visceral.

    If you say I forgot the why, the why is to survive, to do what we love to do, I have more thoughts here. Me personally, Everyone that has commented has pieces to success, I am gleaning from everyone. I am hoping that I can contribute back. I am not doom and gloom about the turn of our country. I think it creates a challenge and we need to allow our passion out, so we can create the hope our country needs, We can help life move forward. I am not struggling to survive in this economy, I am challenged to be more creative in marketing the one product that will make the biggest difference for the year. Me!

  12. Rob, you are a photographer best friend! Thank you for doing what you do.

  13. I’ve chosen photography as a lifestyle choice. I get to ski, I get to ride my bike and I get to fish all because I learned to use a camera. It’s not easy and it’s even most often hard, I’ll never be wealthy because of it but my life is rich beyond my wildest dreams. I believe, if you do what you love and live your life with passion the universe will reward you. Stop your bitching. Grab your camera and go make some money….every image you see, anywhere, was created by a person just like you….kind of.

  14. I think some of us are missing the tenor of the statement: there’s a realization of the nature of the current market, but there is also a defiant tone that this reality won’t stop Ms Spelman; she will embrace the uncertainty and stay the course because she’s passionate about photography.

  15. not so much a comment directed at Ms Spelman but a general rant to all the woe-ways me-ers out there. Thanks Coleslaw read you all the time.

  16. We all have been or are at your point.

    I too, thought I was done’ sold off my archive to start a wedding business and got sidetracked by many personal trials and tribulations. It was a ‘time out’ that lasted 5 years.

    I even took a real job as a photo editor/photographer. It quickly morphed into more editing as the photographer part of me had many contacts when it came to obtaining images in a hurry and my photographic eye helped me make fast selections. It was a great job, great people, yet I missed my work so much that many nights I would cry all the way home. I started to moonlight as a second wedding photographer in weekends to fill that empty spot. It did not work as I was so tired from working all week my photography suffered.
    Other people liked my work, to me it was a ‘shadow’ of my real self.

    Crazy to do in what people call ‘this economy’..I answered my inner child and have picked up my cameras again. Big, big learning curve, computer programs, CS4 Lightroom web design, FB and so on.

    However, if anyone tracks back history, this is a cycle with artists. The great painters had this problem when suddenly photography emerged…….they had to develop techniques that could NOT be copied by
    photographers. Now we have all the people with cell phones, little ‘happy snappers’, which I am sure most of us use on occassion. We simply have to be our very best and as hard as it is…….do a business plan, learn about cutting marketing and somehow find the strength to actually stick to it.
    And maybe be flexible and read into what the person in front of us is asking for, most time that person does not know what it is they want until we inform them. Along with presenting excellent work and being charming, energetic and so on, we must be able to read into each and every person.

    Of course as I rebuild my business I am on this site because I am looking for PT work as a photo editor :-)

  17. I’ve chosen both professions. They can work well together and even compliment one another! Obviously the markets have changed in recent times and one must truly find his on niche in photography to make the income of years past.

    In trucking the markets are still abundant but it’s not always easy to find the time or access to the locations you desire. You can still eat your cake but don’t spill too many crumbs…..

  18. Since I ‘ve seen the ice road trucking show,I wanted to do ice trucking, it’s been a dream. I’ve been on some web sites but so far couldn’t get all the info I need to go and actually drive myself. I stay in South Africa, and I’m currently employed by a company with heavy duty earth moving equipment.
    I am a mechanic and also do the transport of the machinery. I do have a valid SA truck license with public drivers permid.

    If there is anyone that could assist me with more info regarding how to become involved with Ice Road Trucking.

    Thank you
    Hannes Snyman

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