What Is Your Purpose?

Why are you a photographer?

What do you want from photography?

Does your photography have a purpose?

When I get in the photography frame of mind and stuff my camera pack with gear, I find myself asking, “what do I need to get out of this.”

For me, to answer my constant internal questions, I think I have to go back to my childhood to understand how I arrived at where I am today.

When I first picked up a camera, I didn’t know what I liked about it, but I knew that I liked it. Perhaps it was the technical aspect of taking a small machine and creating something with my eyes and hands, with no concept of how to do it, other than knowing that I needed to do it. My mind would not let me continue until I understood every technical aspect of how a camera and film worked.

I moved around though. At one point in high school I was really getting into making motion pictures using a Super 8 film movie camera. I found a group of friends who had the same interest and together we made movies. Silent movies that we’d show in class. We’d select our favorite music and play tape recordings while the film rolled on the projector screen. Everybody involved loved it. Teenage creativity run wild.

I think my first thoughts were based on my attraction to solving an engineering problem. I can confirm this by following my own footsteps into the future from my youth. There was always a camera available, I was always taking photographs. I played with the mechanical toys and developed the film and explored ways to take photographs that were more interesting to me than the previous photographs I had made. I remember the excitement and anticipation that came with every roll of film and canister of movies I waited on impatiently to be developed and ready for retrieval at the local drug store. I’d save my pennies to pay for the processing of the negatives and prints. Each package far more important to see than the previous. It was always about the next photo or movie.

I also discovered at an early age that I like to blog. Back then blogs on the Internet didn’t exist. Blogging was done via diary. I kept a diary, not knowing why, but trying my best to document the things in my life that felt important to document at the time.

Photography and writing took over an area in my head as a teenager.

I never asked and never knew why I was doing it. It just felt natural to me.

As I grew older, I maintained my interest in photography. I recall during my time in the Navy, the first introduction of microprocessors and electronics in cameras. The Canon AE-1 was the talk of the town. I was still hung up on the vintage 35mm camera technology though. My father picked up a stereoscopic 35mm rangefinder at a yard sale and gave it to me. It had a 3D viewer made from Bakelite. The color slides were like other slide transparencies only two wide with enough change in perspective between the images to give that three dimensional view when inserted into the viewer. I was the only person to ever look at the photos I took. It was all about me and my need to take those photos and the need to learn more.

Raising a growing family while in the military required that I put my photographic desires on a back burner though. The cameras were relegated to family photographs and documenting our family adventures.

It was 1981 when I found my first real purpose to photography. I went to work at The Wall Street Journal as a Satellite Communications Engineer in the Production side of the newspaper. By this time, I was trained and skilled in radio electronics and that is where I anticipated I’d further my career. But, that job at one of the largest newspapers in the world was about far more than being a radio engineer. Newspapers are in the business of printing photographs and stories and all the equipment and technology used to accomplish that was now my responsibility and at my disposal. Photography, digital imaging and printing on an industrial scale became my soul purpose in life. I was so devoted to it I allowed it to consume me and it was a double-edged sword. I went into middle-age in a state of internal conflict and my single minded obsession destroyed my personal life. I hadn’t found a balance between work life and a personal life and it was unsustainable. I paid a heavy price for my obsessions and it cost me 10 years of happiness.

But through it all, there was still the fact that I enjoyed photography and wanted to keep my nose to the back of a camera. I had to find a way to make that work within the framework of my personal life.

In the early 2000’s, digital cameras were coming on to the market and I decided to get in on the action. By 2005, I knew that my time with The Wall Street Journal was coming to an end. I revisited my thoughts on what my purpose in life should be and I moved on from the reality that I was going to have to solve my own issues in my own way. Being a Satellite Communications Engineer wasn’t going to be my future. I did it, I was good at it but that’s not what I wanted for a future. It was photography that took the helm and I turned the rudder of my little ship of dreams towards the light, founded a photography business and retired from the corporate newspaper world. It was the best decision I ever made in my life.

As a kid, one would often be asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I always struggled with that answer, as I don’t know that I was ever certain what I wanted to be. I followed a career path and learned a lot of things over time, but it was that sense of purpose that eluded me.

I now know that being a photographer became my purpose in 2006. I met a lady whose sensibilities aligned with my own, I had found the complete meaning of my life and a person to share it with.

Today, I can answer all the unanswered questions of my past. Why am I a photographer, what I want from photography, what is the purpose of my photography?

It’s simple. I want to be happy.

Now that I’m in my retirement years, I have found my happiness in life and I get to share it with a person who has found her happiness in life. Everything in my life has led me to this point.

I don’t know a photographer who isn’t trying to be happy about what they do. I’ve never heard a photographer complain that they had to go take photographs. We all do it for different reasons, with different viewpoints and subjects, but I do think the bottom line is that we all just want to be happy.

The Facebook Hole

I’ve been a member of Facebook since 2009. I’ve created Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups and have put a lot of effort into maintaining a presence on Facebook for a long time.

I read the articles about how Facebook has been leaking user data and giving lip-service to member privacy and for the most part I’ve ignored them, but I’ve concluded that I can’t ignore it any longer.

Most recently, and I have no explanation for it, I’ve been getting friend requests from around the world. People I don’t know who know people I don’t know. I’m not talking about a business page, but my personal Facebook page. I went into the setup to turn off the ability of people to send me friend requests. Well, it can’t be turned off. So, I have no choice but to be constantly bombarded by people on Facebook whom I’d never know in real life, but because they are a friend of a friend of a friend that I don’t know, they get to ring my doorbell. Enough is enough.

I’m also constantly fed advertising, and notified of things I have no interest in. It’s become a constant annoyance and a continuing distraction from what I want to accomplish on Facebook.

Couple this with the knowledge that Zuckerberg has knowingly and willingly leaked mine and every other member’s private data to the highest bidders, and hearing Zuck talk about the future of Facebook regarding political ads that are known to be false or fake, and the constant deluge of fake accounts beaming at me from every known direction, I’ve decided that Facebook is not going to be part of my future to any large degree. Couple that with the scrutiny his actions is receiving around the world and the fines he’s been levied, and his total disregard for the privacy of the user base, I’m getting pretty irritated with the guy.

I’ll do my writing here on this blog and share the link to Facebook. That’s where it will end.

My blog is going to be my primary means of communicating with the unknowns of the Internet. There is no user feedback, no hate mail, no advertising, no notifications associated with my blog. Just me writing and you reading.

It’s time to change the way I do things on the Internet. I’m tired of being the target of thieves and liars and greedy mo-foes.

 

My Soul Isn’t For Sale

A while back, I wrote a photography article with the intention of sharing it with an overseas based website. Sort of a favor to the owner, something I felt was worth doing.

I posted the article on my own blog and forwarded it to the owner of the other website, with my permission to use the article on their site without compensation. Their readers weren’t my readers and I saw no problem publishing my work in a foreign country.

It was no big deal to me. I like sharing my work. It was an interesting article that I felt had some literary value somewhere out there amongst the plethora of Internet ramblings. So I thought.

The response from the foreign website owner was something to the effect, “I can’t use this, you’ve posted it on your website and Google will penalize me for it being a duplicate.” They went on to ask me to rewrite the article into something more of a technical gear-head piece that didn’t resemble what I had originally wrote.

My first thought of course was “who cares what Google thinks, I don’t work for Google”, “They’ll penalize me as well if that’s the case.” I was also a little miffed about the fact that I wrote the article specifically with the intention of fulfilling a commitment I had made to the foreign website owner, and now they were irritated that I didn’t write some canned techno-jargon article that is so common to the internet photography press. None of this was elaborated upon prior to my making the commitment. If they had indeed read any of my online literary masterpieces, they should have been quite aware that I write human interest stories, often with a photography theme. I don’t write canned technical or commercial articles designed to get web hits from consumers. After a few less than collaborative words between ourselves, it soon dawned on me that we had no common ground on the issue of what my writing was about. They wanted some commercialized drivel from me that they could use to promote their own web presence and I wanted to write about my view of the road in the photography world. Ultimately, it ended our relationship and on a sour note.

No good deed goes unpunished. Lesson learned. I moved on.

More recently, I took a position as a writer for a large Internet Photography Website. I had submitted samples of my previous work, expecting to be ignored. To my surprise they took me on and even published my first article without hesitation. I made the commitment to them to write more articles on a schedule and was looking forward to seeing how commercially viable they would be in a world filled with redundant writings on the same subject.

Well, the publisher sat on my articles and never published them. That happens. The problem with the articles was that they were human interest pieces with a photography theme, not photography articles with the hooks needed to sell photography gear. Obviously, they didn’t read my previous writings and were expecting me to bend my writing technique to meet their need to get web clicks. I should have known better too. I knew the Website was geared towards fluff pieces, depicting the wonderment of new photographic equipment and how to photograph lightly dressed young women in a studio. Their editorial content wasn’t about older people living a life in photography away from the environment of faux fashion and gear worship. Different demographics.

The point of me reliving these disappointments is to emphasize how the Internet publishing world has become straddled by the need to present advertising to the consumer and not really about finding interesting or unique literature to read on any specific subject.

A large reason for this stale status-quo is Google.

Google and the other Internet behemoths, have taken advertising into a new realm, to the point that if what you are publishing on the Internet doesn’t meet certain Google requirement or you aren’t handing cash over to Google to get placement in web searches, you’re not going to get a lot of search hits no matter what you do.

When you think about it, just about every electronic gizmo that connects to the Internet is designed to deliver advertising to your face. You can’t control it. Log on to Facebook and check your news feed. I’ll bet you have something thrown in there in the form of paid advertising.

Years ago, I jumped through Googles’ hoops, modifying and configuring my websites to adhere to the current Google standards. Those standards would change frequently and with those changes I’d initiate a new round of hoop jumping. Nothing I did ever changed the amount of traffic my websites generated. I quickly discovered that I could get a page one Google search listing on any workshop advertising page I generated, a link nestled in among other paid placements. They would generate a few more page hits, but what they weren’t generating was actual income. It was a lot of work, this constantly jumping through Googles’ hoops. I now refuse to give them money for AdWords paid listings, money I had realized was wasted on my endeavors, but quite lucrative to Google.

Did you know that over 70% of Googles’ 110 billion dollars of revenue comes from AdWords paid advertising? They make billions of dollars, the rest of us pay up thinking it’s going to promote our business, but for the vast majority of the small publishers and business owners who live and work in niche markets, it’s a waste of time and money.

Google has rounded up all the cattle and put them in a pen. They want to control what your website looks like, what content you publish, and all of your advertising exposure. And website operators pay for them to do it.

To this day, I get occasional emails from Google Analytics telling me what’s wrong with my website according to Analytics. They point me to a page on one of my sites that has been fairly static for years, just an online brochure. But something about their analytics has changed and they want me to jump through some hoops to make it more friendly for their search engine.

Thanks Google. I’ve been patiently waiting for more guidance on how my website is supposed to help you make money.

The fact is, most people on the Internet aren’t there to read for enjoyment. Unlike the days when a magazine or publication could provide interesting and unique points of view without having to resort to marketing blitzes and advertising saturation, today, we are on our own to find our readers and our place in the world. A place where we aren’t pushing products and services. A place where we simply do what we do for artistic and literary freedom, away from consumerism and fake promises. A place where you won’t be seeing the same thing, wrapped in the same package, and sprinkled with the same glitter. A place free of click bait.

As for large corporations with millions in sales and with a large consumer presence, they may have the advertising revenue. In the wide array of competitive products, keeping your name on the minds of the consumer is mandatory.

Small Website operators, publishers, and small businesses around the world have given into Googles’ need to make billions in profits. Google isn’t the least bit interested in what your website is about. They just want you to give them money.

Nope, no paid advertising for me. No paid Google ad placement for me. No Facebook advertising for me.  I’ll continue to rely on organic web hits and being who I am on the Internet without shouting louder than the next guy.

Why? Because my soul isn’t for sale.

Running A Photography Business Just Got Harder

The NPPA  (National Press Photographers Association) is reporting that the American Society of Journalists and Authors Inc have recently filed a lawsuit against the State of California over a new California law that they claim violates the rights of Freelance Photographers and Journalists, which results in serious harm and threats to the livelihood of those who work as freelancers.

Here is the link to the actual filed lawsuit.

A typical freelancer works as an independent contractor for a client. Copyrights to the images/video they create are the property of the photographer/videographer unless the agreed upon contract specifies that the client receives possession of the copyright. Think wedding photographer for example. If I photograph a wedding, I agree to supply certain products to the client but I own the rights to those images and how they are used outside of the agreed upon terms wedding contract. If the client wants to own the copyright, they must negotiate a price for that ownership. If we don’t agree on transfer of ownership and rights, I own the work.
 
This law would automatically give complete ownership of the original images to the client and strip the photographer of any future possible income from those photos, such as additional sales or products to people coming to them down the road for copies. The end result is it will drive up the cost of my wedding photography substantially as I’ll have to negotiate an agreement to work at a much higher fee to compensate for my loss of future income. Nobody wins and photographers will ultimately be put out of business because they are trying to protect their sources of income.
 
Typically, if a photographer works for a company, anything they produce while working for that company is automatically the property of that company.
 
Freelancers don’t work for anyone but themselves and what they do is contractual work, on a case by case basis. Normally, a photographer agrees to provide services and products to a client and the original creative content remains the property of the creator, unless the creator agrees to relinquish their copyrights. This would be what is called licensing. This law removes licensing from the equation. Technically, anything a wedding photographer creates in pursuit of working for a client now becomes property of the client. This may not be limited to the actual photographs or video, but could in theory also include any intellectual property created to produce that content, such as special processing methods or software or set pieces or backdrops, anything created by the photographer in pursuit of fulfilling the clients needs. A photographer would have to transfer the rights to all the applied knowledge and techniques used for a client, thus preventing the photographer from using those creations for future jobs. The client now owns all the creative material created from the work done by the photographer. So, lets say I create a specific photo editing technique that I wish to use again, say an Adobe script or I write a program that does something specific for that project but may be usable in other ways or for other projects. I can no longer use that without the permission of the original client because my intellectual property rights no longer exist.
 
Another aspect of this; for example, would be a wedding photographer who archives their wedding photos from all their clients. Some day down the road a family member may approach the photographer to get replacement copies or additional copies of the material, the photographer no longer has the rights to that material and can’t legally sell it. The photographer no longer has the incentive nor right to save those images for future use. That future use must be provided by the original client as they are now the owner of the material. So Bill and Mary, my wedding client, have to be the source for all future requests, and what is the likelihood that a typical wedding client is going to maintain a viable archive of their wedding or event? The photographer no longer has a reason to maintain the archive because they can’t derive income from it down the road. It no longer belongs to them. Bill and Mary get divorced, but Mary’s aunt can’t get photos of her now dead husband from the wedding because Bill and Mary got divorced and have no clue as to what happened to the original wedding photos.
 
Everybody loses.
 
The new California law takes the right to negotiate a contract for ownership of the intellectual property away from the photographer/videographer and automatically grants the client ownership of the intellectual material. This law could also have a serious impact on the music and other aspects of the publishing industry. I’ll need to read up more on this.
 
The California law, if not challenged, will do serious and permanent harm to independent professional photographers and videographers by taking the fruits of their work from them and giving them away without an agreement to do so.
 

I’m not certain of the origins of this new law, but California has a large freelance film, photographic and  journalistic industry and stripping creative content providers of the ownership of their creative property amounts to theft of services by the state, for the purpose of what? I’m not sure what the purpose is other than to damage an already fragile economic environment for many of us.

What this means to me is that I won’t work for anyone in California.