Old man sitting out in the street of Janitzio knitting
Is it possible to stop being a photographer. Or to phrase it differently should you ever become a photographer. I have some times said that I would be better of if I took up knitting rather than being a photographer. I have also stated that if your enthusiasm for photography is not enough or about 180% you should take up knitting or plumbing. You would be better off. At least here in Norway where plumbers sell their time at higher price than is national average amongst photographers. On the survey for most interesting jobs amongst young norwegians it was no surprise that photography was ranked lower than plumbing.
I my self came late into photography. You could say that I was a late bloomer. It took me some time to find what I wanted in life and I tried several things other than becoming a photographer. I had been told there was no future in photography and besides there where no photography schools in Iceland that I wanted to go to and I was not sure where to head then if I would go to school.
I was an amateur photographer for a while, and while I was, I watched several of my friends leave the country and study photography. Even though I was interested, I was not certain that I wanted photography as my main job. I guess my entire life I never have been dead certain until one dreadful morning after a long bar night in spain I decided that photography was the way to go. Being a bartender or a bar fly was not a future I liked all to much, even though I liked being a bartender.
I headed home to Iceland to work and save up some money so I could go abroad and study photography. As my mother was in the advertising business and the photographers I admired most at the time in Iceland all where in the advertising business it seemed kind of logical to head in that direction. Even though my longtime favorite amongst photographers was Elliot Erwitt and I had been doing a bit of street photography.
Some how fate turned my life upside down just as I was about to head for Bournmouth in England to attend school. Instead I headed to north of Iceland where I had gotten a job as a press photographer. This turned out to be one of the best schools I got along the road and prepared me for lot of what was to come.
After staying a while in Akureyri North Iceland fate turned my life inside out and I moved back to Reykjavik. This time to become freelance magazine photographer and prepare for school. With a help from a good friend and at the time one of the best photographers in Iceland I prepared for school in Sweden. I was going to study advertising photography at last.
But once again my life was turned upside down there. Photoshop and digital photography was coming and there where al sorts of experimentations to be done there. Oh what a fun. All the work I had until then been doing in computers and the magazine I had been reading about the future of computers and photography was finally becoming true. SO now I was doing art photography with all kinds of experiments.
Still when graduated I realized there was no future in Art photography and certainly not in a digital medium that nobody understood or even saw as photography at that time. It did not stop me from doing experiments but I started working as an advertising photographer at last. And there I did my first mistake. I should have understood that there was no future in advertising photography either.
Having said that is kind of strange after having worked for 15 years in the business. The problem though was that I was like a heroin junky waiting for the effect of the first fix once again. I had ambitions. HIgh ambitions. Actually unrealistically high ambitions and when I got my first real shot at the market two years after coming home and succeeded I was high. I had made something unique, interesting and it took me hell of a time and sleepless days and nights and I absolutely loved it.
But then the downfall came. I got more jobs, and some of them very interesting. So fine indeed that I have gotten international prices for them, but most of the time it was just bread and butter jobs of little to no interest and with ambitions from the buyer below zero. It was difficult to sustain a living and keep up the spirit at the same time. Frustration grew and I was spending a lot more time on my jobs than I was getting paid for. I did not want to compromise even though I new at the same time I was because those that I sett my standard to where on 1000 of dollars budgets not 1 dollar budget as the most common budget in Iceland.
When a fellow photographer and the one I saw as my main competitor, beside being a good friend, suddenly announced that he was quitting after only three years in the business , I was taken by surprise. But he could not take it. One maybe two good jobs a year where not enough for his ambitions. I held on to the hope of an other fix. The another friend and fellow photographer quit for the same reasons and I should have taken the hint. Then the third one quit and the forth one quit and I stayed on trying to fight it. There had to be a fix out there somewhere. And the once a year fix kept me going until one day I gave up. Not because I did not like photography but because I did not like the lack of ambition from the buyers. There are lot of pro people in the advertising business in Iceland, but there are very few pro customers.
At the same time fate intervened once again and suddenly there was a market for my property way above any thing I had dreamt of and I saw a chance to jump ship and become amateur photographer again. Or maybe I became full time professional amateur photographer if that is possible. I could get out and set my self to new standars. Test my self for real. Daughter being old enough to have moved away from home and nothing that realy tied me down any more. For two years I traveled in North America and Central America with Benzi, the dog Tara and my wife. Fantastic time and I was going back to the roots of basic photography even though I was working only digitally for the first time in my carrier. I was back in doing street photography.
This was some thing I liked and wanted to keep that way. But once again things where not as I planed and this time things became fare more different and difficult than I had imagined. Iceland crashed and whit it the police crashed my eyes and suddenly I was left with not being able to be a photographer and jumped to Norway where I got work in an archive working with old photographs licking my wounds.
Fortunately my wounds healed and I finally got my eyesight back but it took three years and three years are a long time for a photographer. Long enough for him to loose all clients and become outdated far beyond what any one would think. A long distance runner does not come back and expect to be at the top of the fline after a three year brake. Photography is like sport. If you do not train hard you become stale and cant perform. You cant give your best and if you cant give your best you should take up knitting or plumbing. Photography is not ordinary work. Photography is a lifestyle. Photography demands sacrifice just like any other medium that you want to be good in. And I mean good as in way above average. This is why I last month stated that if I would not succeed in my sales campaign I would quit being a photographer. It means I cant devote enough time for training to get a second chance of coming back to work fultime and garantee the best outcome for clients at the same time put the utmost demand on my self.
And that at last brings me to the question at start and the answer to it. Is it possible for some one That has spent 30 years around photography doing almost all aspects of it being a photographer to quit just like that. And if so what will he then become. If you have studied photography as the only formal education in life, are you then a photographer for life when you graduate or do you become some thing else, and if so what do you become?.
As I said to my friends I guess Ill never stop taking pictures, but I will not be professional photographer any more, nor will I be a professional amateur photographer. I just cant find that 180% will in me any more to do it. What it will make me I have no answer. Maybe you do, but I that said if you are not more than hundred percent into the game then you should take up knitting what am I going to do. Well the answer is here and here. But will it make me any thing else than a photographer. I don't know. I don't think it is possible to stop completely. I mean an alcoholic is an alcoholic even though he has stopped drinking.