I think this is a relevant place for this topic, because this section is semi-dedicated to the most expensive and singular use still cameras produced.
The market for those cameras has historically been professional photographers, so it makes sense this is a place for a professional discussion. Now with stuff like PODAS that doesn't seem to be exactly the case, or the sole directive of the camera makers marketing plan, but they wanna sell stuff and I don't blame them for exploring every market.
I actually would like to see this section include video production, just because it has become part of our professional life. I've shot video in combination with our still photography for years and though I don't see it as the end all and savior of the industry, I do see it as another service to sell, another medium to tell a story and actually find it quite interesting.
Without boring everyone, including myself the simple answer is the economy is in a severe world wide downturn. No sector is immune, (except government executives and wall street) and the only reaction to this type of economy is to do more, offer more, get better.
That or get gone. We all know this.
Then again a lot of this industry has always been about smoke and mirrors. I get around to a lot of places, here a lot of stories and once you open the hood, you realize it's not always what it seems to be. Some photographers under the radar do better than you would think, some over the radar do worse.
Some photographers made their money as doctors, then became very good photographers, some have trust funds that are loaded with gold and lost it all, some began their life and career sleeping in their cars, using broken cameras and $50 lights and moved upward to do very well. None of this really matters as long as the imagery they produce is good. That's the only definition, to shoot damn good.
Lately I'll admit all the talk about doom and gloom effects me, hell it effects everyone in every industry, but if I've learned anything in my life, it's not to worry about what other's do, just do the best that I know how to do, in the way I know how to do it and try not to let the noise effect me. The last one is difficult, but for everyone that can't succeed, someone always does. That's the message I've always told myself.
As far as hard work, 14 hour shoot days, I have no problem with that, because I like to work, am compensated well and if I have to throw some sweat equity at it, it's not big deal. Also when I work, I work with my partner, our crew, who are my friends, people I respect and spending 14 hour days in that environment is not a chore.
If I've given the impression that I work hard . . . then that's correct. If I give the impression that I don't enjoy working hard, even have fun at working hard, then I miscommunicated.
I also have to stay away from the pundits that keep telling us where the industry is going, because I've yet to hear a clear cut, real world answer of how the web will become the all encompassing advertising/editorial vehicle. There is still room and growth in traditional media, even expansion of their markets through the web. Heck, terrestrial radio is in a resurgence and I just saw a figure that 95% of all Americans tune in to some kind of radio station daily, whether it be in their car, or on the web. That's interesting in the fact that one or the earliest forms of "modern" media is showing growth.
I've gone through everything everyone else has. First it slows up some and you get that kind of sick feeling in your stomach, then you complain about what's being demanded, then you just realize hey, nobody told me life was going to be easy, so you roll up your sleeves and hit it.
I've also come to the realization that It's none of my business if the New York Times or Forbes loses 20 million a quarter, or makes 50 million a year. My role is to shoot the most compelling images I can given the subject, budget, circumstance, deliver the imagery and go on with my life. After a photo, a video, leaves my hands, it really is none of my business anymore, other than I hope it has success for the people that pay me.
I think I know that the web can make photography (or if you want to call it image creation) more viable and open up more opportunities for editorial and advertising to reach a world wide market. What use to be a local magazine can have a world wide following. What use to be a small confectionary shop in the East Village can now go international. It's the same for our industry, it's the same for this website and forum.
Now the real bottom line is why I did this gig in the first place. It wasn't to get rich, (though I've always made a good living), it wasn't to get famous as I have no desire for anyone to really know me. In fact the only reason I've ever advertised, printed a portfolio, built a web site, entered a competition, is because those are standard vehicles for getting your name out and getting work. The only reason I ever moved from Texas to Chicago, Chicago to SF, SF to LA, LA to NY is to keep things fresh, but most importantly keep what's in front of my lens interesting.
In reality, I wish I had started my career under a pseudonym, maybe a name like B. Cooter, then I could have a separate, non photographic life under my real name.
I did this gig because I fell in love with the photograph, later became a business person so I could work, talk and communicate in a professional manner and I'm under no illusions (never have been) that this is anything but one of the world's most difficult industries to have success.
To me those last 7 words are a positive reason to become a photographer, not a negative.
Technology hasn't changed that, in fact though there are more photographers than ever before, there is also more places to run our photographs than ever before, more clients to present to. The trick is learning how to get compensated for it and if you keep moving forward, keep pushing those times will come. Of this I have no doubt.
P.S. I've been working on this personal series about everyday workers. I've shot still and video and the stories are fascinating and inspiring when you ask this simple question, "detail your working day".
Everyone is effected by the economy, everyone is working harder for the same or less, everyone, is doing their best to keep their spirits high, provide for their families and make the best of the situation. Professional photographers are no more immune to this than anyone else and maybe I'm naive, (actually I know I'm NOT naive), but I believe in the end everything works out even better than before.
We can look at the changes as a negative or embrace the positive. I know that sounds like some kind of corny line from an Ipad ad but let's get real, I'm writing on a computer, not a yellow pad, I'm sending this out to thousands not dozens and I'm sharing my thoughts with people I hope are willing to share back.
About 8 years ago I was in a lab in LA and a photographer I knew was working behind the counter. He said the business had changed, he didn't want to do it anymore, had a whole list of reasons, mostly negative. I just looked at him, smiled, wished him well and had the best 8 years of my career and I feel the same way today I did 8 years ago.
I don't believe the golden age of image making, story telling, advertising is over, I believe it's just starting to get interesting.