I’m back home after the Flash Forward festival in Boston, and I thought I’d talk about inspiration and innovation rather than write an account of the final panel on “The Future of Photobooks.” The photobooks panel is on Flak Photo's Vimeo so if you missed it last week you can watch it there. I don't need go in to detail about it.
But I do want to talk about the whole concept of the photo book. It seems that people cannot get over the old paradigm that “book” and “gallery” somehow make you more important, or will validate you as a professional. Can’t you see that isn’t true anymore? What might have been two of the stepping-stones towards professional accolades and esteem is no longer a sure thing.
Photo books were never moneymaking ventures for publishers as few people buy them. But for the creative person, it did elevate you to a level of importance, because why else would a publisher put out your work (if it wasn’t valuable)? But just like the fact that people are expected to work for free, and making a living as an editorial photographer is harder than ever, things have changed. And isn’t that obvious?
We live in an amazing time of opportunity, where a person can take much more control over the direction of their life and their career. So instead of thinking that change is bad, try thinking that change is the best thing that could ever happen to you.
More and more photographers are publishing their own books, reaching out and growing an audience for their work and ideas. Instead of waiting for someone else to do everything, photographers all over the world are making a direct impact. And that’s what real creativity is like. It burns so hot that you have to find an outlet for it. So you do it yourself.
I find myself drawn to those who keep moving forward, blazing new paths for themselves and for the rest of us. Photographers are shaping the world of photography right now. Not magazines, or newspapers or any other old media. Through crowd funding projects, self-publishing, creating new methods of collaboration between corporations and photographers, or NGOs and photographers, the way is being lit for all of us. But you have to want to be a part of that.
Many photographers are floundering, unable to let go of what they once thought to embrace what is. The result is frustration, panic and simply depression. I can understand that. When the earth beneath you shifts, and all you expected and planned for falls away, or changes, it is hard to regroup. But I have found that moving forward is the only answer.
It is no longer necessary to exist in a bubble of your own making. Collaboration seems more possible than ever, and the smartest solution to the situation today. If I don’t know how to do something, I can find someone who does know, and will maybe join with me. If I have an idea I need to flesh out, there are people out there I can talk to. Here’s how you can use social media: put your questions and concerns out before the international world on the Internet, and see what happens.
I have always had to steer my own ship, whether by choice or necessity. But the older I get, the more I realize that choosing my direction and not just doing what’s expected is part of my DNA. And so, rather than bemoaning the way things turned out for myself, I have seized the opportunity to be even more creative in my life.
As a photographer, you choose to work in a creative field. But I wonder if there are some who don’t realize that it is just that creativity that should set them free. You don’t have to go to school, get a job, and settle into your life. You can do and try anything these days, because the boundaries have fallen.
We are all experimenting right now. Or we all should be. The steps that might have led to a comfortable career are fading, and if you’re waiting for the dust to settle, and someone else to determine what’s next, I’m afraid you’ll find it too late for you. I want to be shaping whatever is to come next. That to me is the real creativity.