Sunday, August 25, 2013

How do I set myself FREE?

I have several blogs that I frequent on what is pretty much a daily basis. I had been telling myself it was for inspiration as I have gone from trying to be a working professional to retired or semi-retired photojournalist.
In my foray for inspiration this morning, I went to the blog burn ( that is run by Magnum photojournalist David Alan Harvey and is usually the first one I look at. For those that don’t know the name, trust me, at some point in time you have been amazed by one of his images.

In his latest blog entry, "Summer of 13", Harvey asks the question of his readers/viewers, “how do you set yourself free?”

As I make my shift to retirement, the question struck me as something I really need to address.

For twenty years, I photographed hoping that one day I could do photography as a professional, i.e., someone who made his living just with photography. When my wife and I decided to give up our day jobs and strike out to the Florida beaches, I hung out my shingle and began a 10-year odyssey as a professional photographer. Initially, I did portraits of real estate agents, got gigs with local resorts, etc.

But one day I walked into the offices of The Walton Sun and walked out as a new freelancer for this little free weekly newspaper. I progressed from freelancer to contract photographer and, finally, was hired as the first (and what would be only) fulltime staff photographer of the Sun. But, in 2008, as the recession of 2007 continue to take its toll, I had to look around for work as I could see the layoffs beginning at the paper and that the commercial work was also drying up. In the end, I took a fulltime job in a previous career field which paid the bills and provided benefits. But that job provided nothing fulfilling to the soul. I continued to shoot the local events like I had for the paper but there was little to zero chance of publication.

Then, four years later, that company started layoffs as a result of contract cancellations. Nearing 65 and retirement looming on the horizon, my wife and I decided it was time to leave the beach and get closer to family.

Today we are settling in to our new community and I am trying to figure out “what do I do now?”

Then, Harvey ask the question. And it struck me that I did not need to figure out what to do now, I just needed to do it.

Like the lady in one of the retirement planning commercials says, “I don’t know how much money I need to retire but I know how much I will have.” That pretty much sums up where I am today.

So, how do I set myself free to do my photography the way I want. When I first moved back close to the kids, I thought I would still want to work. And I wanted to work again as a photographer. I joined a local photography club hoping to get some contacts. But that has proven fruitless as my background and desires are so vastly different from the other club members.

So, again, how do I set myself free?

Thinking on this question, I put myself into the frame of mind that I remember I was in when I was most happiest photographing. The place doesn’t really matter. The equipment doesn’t really matter. BUT the subject matter does. Just capturing life as it happens is how the images that I am most happy with occur.

The first image I remember taking that I was happy with was a photo of my wife. She was around 30 years old with long, flowing blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes. But the image was taken with black&white film (Kodak Tri-X which I still shoot today in my dad's old rangefinder) in my very first SLR, an Olympus OM-10 with a simple 1,8/50mm lens.

We were just horsing around. She was playing with my glasses (I had only begun recently to wear glasses) and I snapped several images. The light was simple and not set up. It just was what it was. But that image has stuck with me all these years and I am still amazed at her beauty both then and now.

Some images were ones that were shot when freelancing for the local newspaper. Some of the photographs went on to be published. Several also won awards in the various Florida press associations’ yearly contests. The image below took first place in the Spot News category in 2005.

But many images, that I on occasion recall, were never published. But they have stuck with me. Sometimes I have a reason. Sometimes not. Quite often it is because of the person in the image but sometimes the image just triggers an emotion. This image of the circus big top, for example.
For someone who grew up in the '50s and '60s, it conjures up the old thoughts of travel around the States (if not the world). Every week in a new city and new experiences.
So, how do I free myself? Quit worrying about getting paying gigs and just enjoy the act of photography again. If paying gigs come, fine. If not, that is fine too. I would like to display some of the photographs I have taken over 35-plus years somewhere. (Again, if someone wants to buy one, fine. If not, hopefully they will enjoy the experience of viewing the photograph and coming to their own conclusions about it.)

Up until now, for the last 15 years, it has all been “how can I make money with my photography?” It is time to let that go. At my age in a new location, it is just not any fun to try to market myself.
It is just time to have fun.
And, as always, make a comment!! Let me know what you think! Until next time, keep on shooting.....


  1. What a refreshing and enlightening article. Keep on doing what you are doing!