When I grow up I want to be a ...


DFZ

I remember when I was in my very first year of school, our teacher Ms Tomson, sister to the world famous surfer Shaun, asked everyone in the class to tell the others what we wanted to be when we were big and grown up.

 

The usual answers from 6-year-olds sprang forth; ballerina, cowboy, policeman, soldier, fireman, teacher, doctor, etc. For me this was a staggeringly difficult question to answer because there were so many different things I wanted to do. How could I choose only one thing? Did we really have to pick only one thing in order to become qualified grown-ups? I wanted to be an astronaut among other things, but even doing that forever seemed to be a very limiting way of looking down the road of life ahead of you.

 

Some 43 years after that first year of school have passed and you know what? I still haven’t made up my mind what I want to do with my life when I’m a grown up. So far I have done a fair number of different things, trying to find one that fits with me properly. Since leaving high school I’ve been an electronic engineering student, conscripted soldier - and within that 2 year period alone I did about 4 or 5 different jobs at the army unit I was posted to, including being a driver, mechanic assistant, store man and even a postman - I was a bank clerk, computer programmer, information systems analyst, marketing manager, magazine publisher, insurance salesman, paving salesman (yeah, that was a bit of a downgrade but the money was alright), construction contractor, webmaster and a part time photographic safari host.

 

Somewhere in-between those post school years there was also the title of professional photographer. In fact it’s what I have done for the longest period of time in my life, some 9 years, beginning in 2008.

 

It’s kind of glamorous to go around telling people that you’re a photographer. Well, at least it used to be until I discovered that being paid to make photographs commercially actually involves some pretty hard work. For me the joy of professional photography died the exact day I took on my first serious professional assignment photographing thousands of law and auditing text books for a client. I had a simple brief to follow, but in my naiveté, what seemed like a lot of money for a simple quick turn-around job actually turned out to be a 6 week nightmare. Taking the photos was only 2 days of work, but the ensuing processing was nothing short of near lobotomising torture. I had to deep etch every shot, something I had thought was as simple as making the background white with a paint brush, but alas involved creating clipping paths, layers and other things I had never done in Photoshop before. But the worst part of that first big job was that the client asked me to save each of the three different file sizes they needed with the ISBN of each book. This wouldn’t have been a problem except I had to work off printed stock sheets they gave me, matching the title with an ISBN as I finished each mind numbing bit of deep etching. Have you ever seen how long an ISBN is?

 

For me true agony is mindless repetition. Imagine for a moment having to do the same thing over and over all day long and then repeating that every working day for the rest of your life. I think of factory workers who’s lives are an endless conveyor belt of whatever product it is they are assembling or creating. I think of pharmacists who study for 8 years to become qualified, only to stand behind a counter and issue pills prescribed by GP’s who also do the same thing every day; look into the dark and smelly body cavities of sick people and listen to things that go bump in their chests. Every single working day. How much variety can there be from one bout of flu to the next? Imagine being a dentist and having to carve out and fill up rotten enamel in people's mouths every day. No wonder they charge so much for the privilege. And what about the guy who tends gardens for a living? He cuts the same bushes and the same lawns, day after day, week after week. His work is never done because it just keeps growing back. Think about those who cook the same meals in chain restaurants all the time. What about accountants? They get paid (a lot) to look at spreadsheets and make decisions on what to do with other people’s money. Every. Single. Working. Day.

 

Is this what career life is cut out to be?

 

And so I have come to what I believe is the end of my career as a professional photographer. I can’t imagine doing this for another year, let alone the rest of what remains of my life. 9 years in one field is a record for me. By a long way. Yes, there have been some wonderful assignments and I still enjoy certain aspects of this job, so I will probably carry on doing those parts of it, but for the most part it's time for me to move on.

 

To what, you might ask?

 

Well, while I didn’t exactly set the academic world alight during my time as an electronics engineering student, I did go to night school when I was a banker and after only 4 years of studying part time I got a diploma in marketing management. Put that together with my technical skills in the field of digital developments and we have what you will now find on my main website; a smorgasbord of digital marketing services. Things I know how to do, but will be farming out to younger, spritelier creative minds in return for either commissions or a share of the profits. Think of me as a small creative agency that helps business people get marketing results in the real world.

 

That should keep me busy for a while. Anybody need a website?

Edited by DDFZ




Comments


No staying power, eh? :D

 

(This February entered my 47th year of full-time photography ;) - and I don't know if I can ever quit; I think the profession is just fading away around me instead.) 

 

Seriously, though, good luck in the new venture. :ok:

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Thanks Alan. It's just the way I'm wired, I guess. I have to do new things. I've actually been training for this new business for years without realising it. 

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I worked for only two employers in 42 years. Was rarely bored and mostly excited. Being paid extremely well helped, of course.

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10 hours ago, DDFZ said:

Thanks Alan. It's just the way I'm wired, I guess. I have to do new things. I've actually been training for this new business for years without realising it. 

 

I guess that's why I stuck with photography for so long - I do new things on a daily basis, plus I've completely shifted disciplines in photography at least five times over the decades I've been involved. Perhaps the most gratifying (and longest engaged discipline) over that time has been copy and restoration, which both quenches my thirst for historical knowledge and provides the novelty of every job requiring its own unique approach - there is no set rule-book for the best procedure in each case, and rarely any set deadline these days (Christmas and commemorative days being the exception).

 

That's not to say in the past I never had days I wanted to quit - my time in advertising photography provided those on more occasions than I care to remember (but I had a mortgage back then, so the quit option wasn't so straight forward). Worst task I ever had was a seemingly endless darkroom session in our studio darkroom designed to print just two to maybe ten prints in a session. Ford in their wisdom had supplied an incorrect spec vehicle for a dealer handout at a Friday launch - so we were supplied a correct version to rephotograph on the Tuesday with an order for 1,500 10x8" B&W prints. I was given that printing-by-hand task, which at best I could print and process 20 at a time with our set-up, including washing and drying. To make matters worse, the neg they chose needed a good deal of burning-in and holding-back in various areas, so my arms were almost constantly held out in front of me while my hands did the dodge & burn dance under the lens. There was no time to mess around trying to make a masking positive transparency or dupe neg to help that task as the deadline was firm, with venues all around the country booked and invitations issued. Never before or since have I encountered such days that went on forever and a weariness that took me days to recover from. That nearly caused me to quit, but in the end I went on in that job for a further four years before the constant pressure caused my final meltdown, and just over seven and a half years after starting I left advertising for good for a quieter, more retail-based existence. :)  For all the lows, there were some memorable highlights in advertising work - having the huge skid-pan at the GM proving ground all to myself with the hottest car they produced here at the time under me, foot flat or the floor and sideways drifting to "air-dry" the car after washing it for photography comes to mind as being one... :D

What was that about growing up?? :crazy:

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I think most companies will try and find your tipping point early on in your sojourn with them. When I joined the building society straight after the army the first job they had me and another inductee do was to file the company cheques in numerical order in boxes that seems to have been designed to inflict maximum torture on your forearms (they were just deep enough that you had no option but to rest your forearms on the edges while you rifled through the contents stacked inside). We did that for 2 weeks before they gave us something more interesting to do. And I stayed at that company for 12 years before taking voluntary retrenchment in 2001, by which time I had reached the lofty position of Market Development Manager and even had a BMW with a company petrol card. 

 

I've been thinking about chucking the "pro photographer" moniker for a while. I can't really explain why, but perhaps it's the over-saturated market I find myself in that has been the catalyst. Having to compete on price with so many other purveyors of the same services is not much fun. Earlier this year I also came to the realisation that I actually prefer building websites than I do making photographs for other people, plus I have been doing it for quite a long time, so it makes sense to head more in that direction (especially since its not quite as easy for others to follow me down that road).

 

But, truthfully, at the core of my being there is this burning desire to be a marketer again. That's what I studied for and the field I worked in up until the rug was pulled from under my feet (more than once). It was what I truly enjoyed doing, so it's that field that I will return to this year. I have a few clients that I have been helping with online marketing for a while and I am also beginning to pick up some new clients who see the successes those others have had and who want the same. With the various technical skills I have learned over the years I am able to offer a lot of different things for them, as shown on my reworked website. The money isn't a lot, but the rewards for my soul are, and that's a lot more important. 

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