In this post we are introducing a new series designed to generate discussion about the art and culture of photography. With so many people picking up the camera, and society accepting photography as a means to document and spread the happenings in our lives, we thought it was timely to ask some ‘big picture questions’. One of the first questions on our minds is this:
In order to make a living at photography, how necessary is it for the photographer to be a ‘personality’ to ensure success?
There are a lot of really talented photographers out there making stunning imagery. But many of these creative photographers are struggling to make a living while others are doing very well. We got to wondering why some photographers’ careers soar while others languish even when the quality and creativity of their images is comparable. A common factor seems to be that successful photographers all market not only their photos but their personalities as well. In some cases they seemed to market personality first and photos second. The successful ones all seem to be social media whiz kids who talked not only about their photos but their personal lives as well. We often know more about them personally than we know about their portfolio of photographs. So we wondered: “In the world of the internet and social media, do you need to be a celebrity to be a successful photographer?”
Becoming a celebrity is a tough gig for many photographers. Let’s face it; most people who are in photography (at least nature and landscape anyway) are introverts. That’s why we are behind the camera instead of in front of it! And introverts are not that great at marketing themselves. In short, many photographers lack the confidence and skills necessary to push their wares and especially put their personalities out there! The internet and social media has made it easier for introverts to market themselves because they can do so hidden behind their laptops and smartphones. But even then it’s tough to be a personality if it’s against your nature.
Throw an extrovert into the photography/social media mix and you have the making of a celebrity. Dare we say that our culture has a tendency to be dazzled by spectacle rather than reward substance? We see some popular photographers out there gaining recognition not necessarily because they have exceptional work but because people know who they are.
It’s rare that photographers who are true artists, those making compelling and unique work, are also good at marketing. Most often the artist’s focus is solely on their art and the marketing of their work suffers. On the other hand, those people who are constantly pushing into the spotlight are often more interested in basking in the glory rather than making art and in this case the art suffers. In a perfect world a photographer should be able to negotiate a fine balance between the obsession of art and the need (and sometimes the obsession) of marketing. We find this balance hard to achieve ourselves. When we push marketing our creative energies get used up. When we push our art, our marketing suffers. It is a tough balance. How do you make the most of both? And do you believe marketing your personality (e.g. becoming a celebrity) is necessary to make a living at photography?