Yes, if you're going to bend over that ego pump handle you need to do it with galleries in business for a profit.
I believe that's the case for any art form these days, including in major art markets (NYC, LA, SF etc).
E.g. a painter showing at a Chelsea gallery is going to be out thousands, not just to produce the paintings, but for promo materials and PR. The gallery usually takes half the sale price in commissions, too. You need to show frequently and sell fairly well to keep up a career. Only a handful of artists can support themselves, and sometimes a studio with staff, by selling work.
Thus, the majority of artists have other jobs, usually something in the field. They're studio assistants, retouchers, gallery staff, art teachers, and so on.
Photography is a little different in that there's an overtly commercial element, but apparently crossing over from commercial to fine art is pretty tough as well. The commercial biz in major markets is also really tough in its own right, so doing commercial photography in order to do fine art may not be an ideal choice....