This morning I was reading a post on a Yahoo group that I follow, and I found it both interesting and disturbing. I don't normally contribute to these interest-group discussions because they usually bore me, to be frank. The photography groups often focus on photo gear talk (yawn), rants about how microstock is killing the stock photo business (stick a fork in it?), advice about legal issues in which you realize, in the end, if someone wants to sue you you're screwed anyway, and ones like the one that I read this morning that bemoan the state of the photo business today. Now being older than dirt, I think I have a particular perspective on some of this. When I first learned how to use Dektol, Ansel Adams was still in his 60s :-) [Use The Google Luke!].
But I had a bad reaction after reading this particular post, in which a very well-regarded photographer, whose work I like very much, announced that he was going to lecture to some high school students and inform them of the "realities" of photography as a career. The implication in his words was that he was not going to be very encouraging.
I think reality is a good thing. It's very underrated :-) My response in the forum was: please don't go overboard!
A little story... Out of high school, I was hot to become a musician. I attended a music school in Boston, one that is very well-known as a Jazz and Pop music institution. There was nothing out there waiting for me when I got out. I was a trumpet player, and the gigs consisted pretty much of playing in a road band, doing local society gigs, getting one of the much-envied NY studio gigs, or one of the 4 seats in a hand full of symphony orchestras around the world that payed. Each year, that school was graduating around 100 trumpet players. You can do the math! I never remember being bitter or feeling that what the school did was unconscionable. I ended up playing Boston society gigs for a couple of years until I realized that I needed, and at that point, really wanted a change. As it happened, a change in the music business was happening then that is very much like what is happening now to media arts. Rock was overtaking the music niche that once was occupied by that which required brass. And then, thanks to digital technology, the music business experienced a total upheaval, as we all know now, although this latter event happened well after I was out of the biz.
But today that school is larger than ever, turns out more graduates than it did in my day, and is thriving, but in a very different space than it did then. It's still a music school. It's still commercially oriented in its approach, which differs and always has from the more traditional conservatories. It has evolved.
But I never looked at it as a trade school whose purpose was to train me for a business. It is and was an art school. When did we become so focused on college being useful only if it trained one for a trade or the business world? But that's another one of my rants... What's wrong with kids studying the arts? Yes, please do tell kids of the realities, as you see them today, of the business of photography, but please do not discourage them from studying the art of photography! Please have a larger perspective on the art of photography. That photographers could build a business around this art can really be seen as a recent phenomenon; recent being the latter part of the 20th century. The early greats of photography were not making big bucks at this. It was the advent of photos in print publishing and the explosion of other visual media that led to what we have come to know as "the business". We are currently somewhere in the middle of another revolution, and hopefully, in some way, the art will survive and we along with it.