What was bred from frustration has grown into a passion. Who would have known? Certainly not me.
Several years ago I began to build a curriculum to offer as a seminar style course with the idealogical approach that I could somehow do something to stem the devaluation of photography and photojournalism. I knew in my mind that a middle aged man appealing to small classes of dedicated photographers would have little or no impact when the likes of GettyMart (aka Getty Images) is hell bent on discarding the value of content in exchange for the value of data. But frustration is a strong motivator, so I poured my time into creating the course. As fate would have it, the workshop has grown into more of a mission for me than I would have ever imagined.
Yes, I’m the David to GettyMart’s Goliath, but that’s fine with me. I can deal with being an underdog and don’t really care if I don’t change the entire world. My passion now is to hear from those who spend an entire weekend locked in a room with me that it was time well spent, and that has been the case since the beginning so it’s all worth every minute.
As I look back now, I can draw conclusions that were otherwise mere conjecture before I began teaching the workshop. First and foremost, the vast majority of schools, colleges and universities that offer degrees and/or certificates in photography are failing miserably! Okay, maybe miserably isn’t the right word. Perhaps catastrophically is far more accurate. How in the world do so many universities justify awarding photography degrees without requiring a core set of business classes? It’s unfathomable. The reality is that the newly minted photographers will almost assuredly graduate into a freelance career. Don’t believe me? Just do some research on how the nation’s workforce has exploded into a “On Demand” labor market. And photography is smack dab in the middle of such a market. I had a student from my alma mater take my workshop and just shake her head after realizing how ill-prepared she was to take on a freelance career after accumulating debt in pursuit of her Journalism degree. Sure, she had the creative skills but literally had no idea on how to develop clients, build an archive, leverage that archive for licensing revenue, analyze and negotiate a myriad of contracts, submit estimates and invoices, create a social media strategy or even how to set-up her business with tax implications in mind. In other words, she had no idea how to proceed after graduating. That’s just not right.
I tell my students that they must be a good photographer to earn a living, but if they are a good photographer with no business skills, they will not be able to sustain a career. The problem with most of the universities is that they employ too many tenured faculty with no practical experience whatsoever in the transformed profession. If a professor hasn’t been consistently and actively engaged as a freelancer in the past 7 years, then they are more than likely to be of little help beyond the skills based classes. So the universities and colleges should mandate a interdisciplinary major with a cores set of business courses.
Another conclusion I’ve reached is that the workshop is far more energetic than I even imagined. The discussions are lively, there is laughter and anger and astonishment and, in the end, complete exhaustion. As one student aptly stated, “It’s like trying to drink water from a firehose.”
This course is a struggle to market as it’s hardly as “fun” as a Portrait session with good looking models, or a Travel workshop that takes you through the streets of Florence. But it’s a passion now, so I’ll keep pushing it in an attempt to pass on some of the things I’ve learned from past and present mentors and teachers; stay humble and treat all your clients with respect, give back to the profession, use what is useful, discard what is useless, add what is your own and above all else, value yourself as a professional. That means adhering to fair assignment and licensing rates and not falling victim to “exposure” compensation.
(For specifics on the workshop, please click on the Business of Photography Workshop link in the main menu above).