I've always walked both sides starting with college at UC Berkeley where I doubled in both Physics and Fine Art. I don't see these things as mutually exclusive at all. The developments in art have more or less paralleled those in science throughout history. Great book by Leonard Shlain, called Art and Physics details this.
From what I have observed, the most important talent in being a good photographer is business and communication... is that art or science or neither?
It's also been my own observation, somewhat unfortunately. When I first hung out the shingle I had already spent maybe six years as a full-time employed photographer, cutting my teeth in an industrial photo-unit (invaluable) and then in commercial outfits for a brief time, where I learned who the local clients were likely to be.
I'd built up a nice little portfolio (nobody knew to call them 'books' then) of this'n'that, shots for some nice girls from the Glasgow drama college and I thought that was all I needed to take off into the wide blue yonder and soar with the eagles.
I had enough put by to last us for six months. We found some work quite soon, and I thought we were on the right track. Little did I realise that at the end of six months I’d be pretty much broke in cash terms, but was owed quite a reasonable sum. Irony, I thought, but years later I discovered irony had nothing to do with it: it was the way the advertising world worked. They gave you the job, paid you – sometimes – at the end of three months, but the local colour labs gave you a month’s credit. Period. Do the maths. One client, a knitwear manufacturer, didn’t want trannies, he wanted colour prints. I was delighted to get an order for six hundred quid’s worth (quite cool back in the late 60s) but I didn’t know he’d take over a year to pay me, bit by bit. That was 600 notes out of my pocket at the end of the first month. No wonder a lot of snappers have to fold.
I also discovered that quality often had bugger all to do with success. I went to see one art director in a big agency and he looked at the portfolio, said it was better than the stuff from the guy he was already using (which I already knew, and that was why I was there in his office), but that he still wouldn’t change. I asked why, to be told the other guy was much cheaper. And that’s a big
ad agency I’m speaking about…
So yes, you are right, and to answer the little hook in the tail, I don’t think that’s either art or science: it’s street smarts, and like talent, you have it or you don’t. I never did; I survived despite that massive little flaw. I realised later, after it was pretty much all over, that success doesn’t really depend on talent, how well you do your job, but on whether you are smarter than those who seek to hire you or, better, are born into the right world. Literally. You also have to be able to deliver, but how what you deliver is received depends on many things beyond yourself.
Would I do it again? Being myself, I suppose I would, but were I able to change my early circumstances, maybe/probably not.