Professional photographers are a weird bunch of people. We choose a profession with few guarantees, an expectation of money running hot and cold, certain sectors where our lives are at risk (check out this page for the number of journalists [photojournalists included] who have died in wars since WWI), and a general understanding that our lives are pretty much never going to be simple.
When I went to the International Center of Photography they had an orientation period in the beginning of our program. The very first day we were there all the students in the Photojournalism Program and the General Studies Program were seated and the heads of the program and a few staff from the school talked to us about photography and what to expect during the next year. When the head of the General Studies got up there the first thing he said to us was, “If you can imagine yourself doing anything else for a living other than photography, go do it. Leave right now and go do it because your life would be a whole lot easier.” He went on to describe how photographers are photographers because they can’t do anything else. Not physically, but emotionally and intellectually. We have a drive inside us that doesn’t let us do anything else. We HAVE to take pictures and document the world. Our creative drive won’t allow us to step aside and put down the camera just because it would make our lives easier.
While it may seem that becoming a photographer would be such an easy life, just taking pretty pictures for a living, the reality of a tough market, stiff competition, and a world where no one seems to want to give you a shot unless you’ve already proved yourself (the irony of the photo world still gets me) makes the romanticized glamor of the photo world melt away real fast. This drive all photographers have is hard to explain. It’s an all encompassing lifestyle. Everywhere I go I am constantly seeing how the light is playing off of the backgrounds or how it is falling on the faces of whomever I am talking to. I am essentially perpetually taking pictures either with a camera or with my minds eye, taking note of what I see so I can recreate it in the future for a photograph.
So yeah, we’re a weird bunch … we live our careers, our lives are defined by our work because our work comes from our very essence. It doesn’t matter what we are photographing, be it an expose on street children, covering a war, doing a portrait for a national magazine, or just taking photos of our friends, we put our hearts and souls into each image. We give everything into what we do and we wouldn’t … make that couldn’t want it any other way.