Photographer Ken Jarecke has a guest column over on the blog Tiffinbox where he gives us a brutally honest look into the life of an editorial photographer. His lack of motivation for making pictures over the last couple years stemmed from the constant worry and struggle to pay the bills.

It’s sad, because I didn’t become a photojournalist to get rich (I was never that crazy or misguided). I’m ashamed because much of my money problems were the direct result of poor or stubborn decisions that are completely my fault.

[…] Over the past few years, we’ve cut expenses, and eliminated most of the extras that come with family life, in my vain attempt to reinvent the editorial market and make things right.

A medical emergency with one of his children snapped him back to reality:

Ironically, being in this powerless situation has seemed to heal me also. I have no cares about my reputation, or my standing in the photography world. I should be totally freaked about the medical bills (on top of everything else), but instead they just don’t seem important. I just want to be a better dad and husband (I thought I always was, but I didn’t give any thought to the huge burden I had placed on my family).

Strangest of all, I also want to make some really good pictures. Go figure.

Read the whole thing (here). If you want to lend a hand and buy a print go (here).

There’s still a giant smoldering crater where editorial photography used to exist. And, while I’m still optimistic about the future need for high quality editorial photography this serves as a gut check for the difficult road ahead.

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  1. As a father myself I can relate. I have a beautiful and healthy 2 year old daughter and since she was born my work mentality has for surely changed as well as the way I look at things.

    The photography market has changed since digital has come along and every joe blow with a cell phone is a “photographer” now. To me it’s a card game and you have to play the best you can with the hand your dealt. If you don’t like it then fold.

    I always tell myself don’t expect the phone to ring with people wanting to hire you. I to am very stubborn on my pricing and where my work goes. For me I just want to pay my bills and make my daughter happy and raise her with love and care.

    It’s not just in the photography field where things are tough, it’s everywhere!

  2. Workshops, commercial work and grants are the only way. I never thought it was possible to live from editorial work, and so far I have found that it is not. I get a few magazine jobs a year but I make my money in photography largely through other ways and these jobs fund my personal work.

  3. It is a tough world and it takes more of an effort to get your name out there so it is noticed. Yes it is tough but it is also worth it.

    I have to say that the generation of phone photos and those using consumer dslr’s don’t bother me. I can show a client the difference between someone who has the photographic eye and those who walk around with a camera purporting to be a photographer. A professional photographer that approaches his work as an artesian lets his work speak for it self.

    I am sure that many a photographer struggles with getting out to create and make images, especially they have been doing it for most of their life. Family is important and should come first in our lives, yet we also need to have balance too.

    • @Marko Cecic-Karuzic, it’s a fairly common story to almost all photographers unfortunately… :(

  4. Interesting post–I appreciate Jarecke’s candor.

  5. It really proves that the photographer career is again, DEAD.

    • @Calvin Wallace,

      I hope not to sound smug, the internet has a way of doing that to people’s voices, but honestly, failure is the photographer’s own fault. There is a huge echo chamber on the internet though for people to feel like they are the victim. I guess it’s comforting, but it ain’t gonna pay your bills.

      One thing that is different is the marketing landscape. Internet is king. If your website sucks, it reflects on you. (btw, none of your links work Calvin… including contact). If you don’t know how to market yourself to the right people, you don’t exist.

      I’m making a living with photography. Not as great as it was 2 years ago, but I haven’t sat idly by as the economy crashed. I’ve been revamping everything from my book to my contact list (a full third changed jobs/laid off). So now the work comes in and every week the phone rings.

      If you are failing it is you who is doing something wrong. Not the economy, not “photographers with cell phones”… you. Change your work, change your contact list and for god’s sake, have a decent working website made.

      Sorry if my tone comes across rude.

      • @craig, Not at all. I appreciate the honest feedback. I failed as a photographer at business. I went bankrupt so I am no longer a photographer. I relied on photography as a main job with no other income. I was in the process of remaking my website, revamping contacts, etc. which is why its not completed.

  6. I found Ken’s post very poignant and unfortunately very familiar. After 34 years in the business, I find myself in very much the same situation. Our profession has made a profound change and we are all trying to figure out how to avoid the downward spiral. Part of this has come from the changes in technology and their marketed perceptions along with the general downward trend of our economy, but a lot has come from us directly by looking at photography purely as a passion and not approaching it as a business. I know I am guilty. It seems as though I am rapidly moving from being a professional to being a very experienced amateur.

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