A Self Critique On A Comment I Made Today

Today I was talking to one of my classes and realized I was saying a few things without the disclaimer I was thinking inside of my head: I was talking about jobs and about age and such.  At one point, I talked about how people my age tend to identify satisfaction with job title, and that put a spotlight on age. First, this is a generalization, of course, and often artists and photographers sidestep age and gender issues.  That disclaimer should have been stated for the record.  Second, I didn’t add all the context needed, which really started to annoy my subconscious this evening.  I don’t like it when my brain gets sloppy…so here’s how I was connecting things in my head.

I recently read a research study talking about satisfaction in comparison with generation, and it found statistically, the further back in time you go, the less people equate personal identity with job title.  Your job was your job, but you had other hobbies, interests, a real lunch break and basically…a life outside of work.  Compared to 50 years ago, we statistically work more hours, have less hobbies, less upward mobility, less lateral mobility, less possibilities to retire in less than poverty, etc.  Also, there has been a gradual shift to the idea that who you are is what you do, and that limits our idea of personal success.  There’s a great Ted talk about some of this and related things here:

In photography, our conflicts with title and success can be exasperated; there are less and less full time photographers and more people who have to combine skill sets; photographers/videographers/image editors/marketers/bloggers/sales person, etc.

In the study I was talking about in the second paragraph, people were also connecting their jobs to their identities more because of things like facebook, where you are constantly flooding with posts about other people’s happy, successful lives, and in comparison, yours seems less so.  So really that part isn’t generational in and of itself, but it is a fact that there are a lot less people who troll facebook over the age of 45. But I’m sure there are 80 year olds out there clicking away on the like button.  Anyways.  When those things were combined, the constant social comparisons and the added work hours that reinforce that your job is, infact, your life, the younger generations are less satisfied with their lives in general.  It’s partly due to unrealistic expectations, but that was part of my sloppy point–it’s all relative and young whippersnappers need to re-evaluate the term “satisfaction” in a more realistic way since it doesn’t seem like the public is going to get out there and revolt on work/life ratios as they have in France.

How does any of this relate to photography?!  Well, the point I had round-about been trying to make was that photographers starting out in the business don’t usually get the jobs they want, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent.  Instead, try to see each job as a new skill, a way to improve and reflect and learn from what you don’t like and how that informs what you do want to do.  Don’t toss in the towel when the gig isn’t all you want. Instead take in the full experience, get new skills, and make the connections inside your head.  Learn from your own flaws and failures.  I try to do that every day, even if it’s in a small way…like this post. :)

I remember the day I realized I just wasn’t going to make a living as a wedding photographer. I didn’t have the right personality, and it was me, not the job. I looked at my own performance and critiqued myself.  I was a wedding photography assistant who would never be a great wedding photographer.  Was I personally satisfied by the experience? Yes and no…depending on how you look at it.  I wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted to do, and therefore didn’t have that job title/success equation we often use, but I was able to grow from the experience. I learned a lot about on-location lighting and how to wrangle emotional clients. I got to meet other professionals.  I got to add another line on my resume. And more importantly, I got one step closer to realizing what I did want to do and who I was as a photographer. And THAT is what each photographer can find satisfying from any gig.

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