Read his auto biography. Weston said he was too distracted, Cunningham said he was selling himself out.
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
AA paid the bills doing commercial work, my understanding is that his bread and butter account was a catalog, which for many photographers still holds true. Unless you have immediate success as an artist, or have enough money to sustain you, you will most likely use your best skills to support yourself. Often for a photographer that means doing commercial photography.
There is an up and downside to this, at least from my own experience. When I was in my teens my goal was to be an art photographer. I didn't have the need or desire to make a lot of money, I just wanted to do well enough to pay my bills and shoot what I liked. I assisted many photographers in my teen years and got a good technical background and made enough money to buy some modest gear. But then I started to get offers of magazine assignments, paychecks that would be 10-20 times what I was getting paid as an assistant (btw the more famous the photographer the less they paid). So at 19, while I was still assisting, I was also shooting assignments. This is a common situation when one is transitioning between assisting and assignment work. I'd be assisting some photographer on a magazine shoot, check my machine and find that I had an assignment the next week with the same magazine.
It got to a point where you are getting assignments often, and having to rent studios and drag all of your gear to a rental studio, set up with very little time, get the shoot done before overtime charges start and then pack it all up and get out. There was no room at all for a reshoot, no margin for error. Having to re-rent the studio to shoot it again could be a serious problem and it always looks bad when you are in a different rental studio every week.
Eventually you make the decision that in order to do the assignments efficiently and with the best quality you need a studio. Once you have that studio and the serious overhead that comes with it, you really focus on assignment work above all else because that overhead can become oppressive. So for the next 20 years, until I hit 40, I almost never picked up a camera unless someone was paying me. At 40 I came to that realization and decided to start shooting photos for myself. So in 1998 I made my first few tentative steps into B&W landscape photography. Four years later I retired from advertising photography completely.
I have mixed feelings about the years I spent shooting assignments instead of shooting my personal work. Part of me feels like the most productive period of my life is past me and that I have missed so many images that could have been meaningful. Another part of me feels that the extreme technical requirements in my commercial work made me a much better photographer and having worked with some excellent Ad's and designers added to my skills. And I probably would not have had the resources to equip myself as I have and to travel as much as I do if I hadn't spent 20 odd years focused on building a business. But I still wonder about the body of work that I never did. Anyway, that's my experience on the personal work v assignment conundrum.
I'll share a message I just wrote to a fellow Apug'r. I actually take the 5 'C's' quite well (complaints, contributions, criticism, compliments & cursing).
I do appreciate all of the time everyone took regarding my initial post on the topic.
Did I screw myself out of something big? Mmm...maybe. Could I have gained more experience and opened new doors? Possibly. Would it have then continued to keep the door open for me to work with a film I'm just not crazy about? I think so. That was the determining factor for me.
I didn't slam the door shut on the company who approached me for the work, I politely declined their offer to work for them for this particular assignment. I give them a bit more credit than having an under-experienced art director who was 'surfing' the net for a portfolio. My work has been seen...our montage has gotten around. I've had other contacts as well. This one was just, well...big!
So...I take all that's been shared with me in stride and say again that apug has some of the finest talent there is. You guys (and gals!) are amazing with your insight and willingness to share. Even if it's not all wrapped up neatly and packaged with a little pink bow!! For that, I'm grateful. Thank you.
Oh...there was one comment posted that I did want to respond to:
The only thing I wonder - if you feel you made the correct choice - why are you asking about it here?
Because I felt like it!!!
Last edited by Dorothy Blum Cooper; 08-30-2006 at 10:21 AM. Click to view previous post history.
I, like many others here, prefer to shoot B&W. But there's a lot of color work I love as well. Depends on who's doing it - of course someone like Alex Webb comes to mind when you think about color journalism/documentary.
As far as the job, absolutely I would have done it. While I respect your decision in terms of your personal feelings, I think the people approaching you were interested in your style/aesthetic/look whatever you want to call it. They were able to see that translated into color, not too unusual when you think about it.
If it led to more color work with this client, you'd still be able to say no later on.
No one meant any ill will I'm sure. Your experience sparked a discussion about something I think many in this field have faced at one time or another and were willing to share for all readers to benefit.
I hope they call you back.
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
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Oh...no ill intent taken. I was just chiming in.
No one meant any ill will I'm sure.
You did what's right for you. Put it aside, and go on. Life's too short to worry about "could have been."