It was 20 years ago today (well, two weeks ago and more like 30 years, but now I’ve ruined the headline)
Good grief! It’s official! As of May 31st I’ve been a freelance photographer for 20 years!
If I’m honest, the anniversary rather passed me by as I was in the middle of various projects and assignments from which I have only this week started to emerge, blinking into the daylight. Hence it taking me two weeks to acknowledge the milestone at all.
So, gosh, what does one say at such a momentous time? And don’t forget, I was a staff photographer before that (and freelance before that again) and have been a professional photographer for 30 years now, so even I have to admit that’s some kind of achievement.
Rather than celebrating with a cake, I marked the occasion by doing my VAT return and accounts. I mean, what could be more rock ‘n roll than that?
What this anniversary does beg me to do is look back and expand on the lessons I’ve learned over the years. Well alrighty then.
Any photographer who has been going more than a decade will tell you they’ve had to weather a lot of storms and I have to say I’m sometimes amazed (and not a little grateful) that I’ve not only weathered them, but by many standards done pretty well.
Plenty of photographers have fallen by the wayside in the face of everything that’s been thrown at us, starting with news publishers making early (and often fateful) decisions to cut back the expensive parts of their businesses – journalism and photography.
Then came THE INTERNET and everything got turned on its head, not all of it especially constructive it has to be said, but increasingly I’m finding that there’s a return to basic principles which the internet and digital photography cannot change.
Indeed I’ve been feeling increasingly positive since the darkest days of the global recession when it looked like lack of client budget, the rise of micro-payment stock image sites and a general willingness to abuse copyright would conspire to terminate my industry altogether. There were certainly plenty of voices proclaiming the death of photography, yet I feel we’re at the start of a resurgence now.
A new respect for high quality, creative, original, unique photography means that simply by having stuck to my principles, not only do I find new clients regularly searching me out, but regular clients repeatedly returning for more work.
All this means I also have the capacity to feed my other passions; personal projects, documentary, working with film and exploring new ideas. The biggest lesson is, I believe, that sticking to my principles and passions has been what’s kept me going.
And then comes the inevitable question, “what about the next 20 years, Tim?”
I have no crystal ball, but I’m positive I’ll still be working hard as a photographer right up until ill health or the ultimate full stop mean I can no longer hold a camera. Who knows? That could be 30 or even 40 years from now, but it’s possible I’ll not be blogging by then. Perhaps you’ll hear about that milestone through some other medium yet to be invented, maybe through the cerebral implant we’ll all be fitted with by then.