THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

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by Tony Corbell

For those that know me, it should come as no surprise that I’m using a Beatle reference in the title.  I sort of like those guys and always have. In fact, I started collecting Beatle “stuff” in 1964 and still avidly collect and have made numerous trips to Liverpool, England, to maybe just feel closer… and take a few pictures. But as I thought about this article, it really does seem to be about the road we are all on. As Arthur Rainville has said numerous times, it was never about the destination, but always about the journey. It is often long and winding and even lonely for some.

Photographers are weird. There, I’ve said it.  We are looked upon as artists, terrible business people, and we would rather go out and take pictures than just about anything else when given the option. This is what separates us from attorneys. engineers, teachers, chefs, steel workers, and accountants. When we get off work, we still go work at our craft. It’s what we do and who we are. Most other people do not do this. I’ve often said that we are not only the purveyors of our craft but we are also consumers of our craft. Our best friends are usually photographers, we get our inspiration from photographers, and we are exhilarated by new technology for photographers. Sure, there will be some who long for the good old days of a simple camera and a roll of film.  But we are not there any longer.  We have moved on. And I am delighted about that.

History tells us there have been about three major paradigm shifts or changes in the world of photography since its inception. Certainly, many more than that have come along with subtle changes. But the big stuff that has had the most impact has been when Eastman Kodak manufactured “safety film” in rolls for the consumer, the advent of color film and papers, and finally the explosion of digital photography.

The thing about a long and winding road is that no matter what is going on in the world, it is always here. The road is here, the scenery will change, equipment, technique, ideas. Next week or next year there will be something new again. The newest camera model from Canon, the new favorite lens from Tamron. Or the new GFX100 from Fuji.  100mp !!!!! And there will always be more new versions of our editing software. But these things are all the many tools of our craft and not our craft.  We are the ones empowered to work this craft. We are what drives these new releases. It is our work and we are working pros, have to do it well and professionally, to create memories, magic and mayhem and everything in between. It’s up to us. All of us. We are the ones that get to define ourselves. So, the big question is, “what are you going to say?”

Here is where you come in. Are you ready? This is your challenge. Change.   That’s right, change. You have to first be willing to change. You have to want to keep up. You have to do everything you can to stay on top of your game because last calendar year, more than 400 billion photos were taken that were never printed in a commercial lab (estimate from PMA). And you have to do it NOW. My intent is not to frighten you but to alert you. As long as you are on top of your game, you’ll always find work. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be possible and there are always those who need your services. It won’t do a lot of good to complain about all of the consumers with cameras or the emerging new photographer clueless about charging for their work, because that will never change. So maybe we could all just quit complaining about it. Lets just change and move on up to another level, to a higher level of professionalism, a more focused look at ourselves, our branding, how we communicate with our clients, the look of our studio or how we print our pricing/investment options for our clients. Let’s finally make a decision to move further and further away from “the other.”

So with this in mind, let’s all take the following pledge: “I do hereby promise to stretch, push myself, learn my craft well, and produce the highest quality work for my clients. I will do my best to fulfill my clients’ wishes and represent our industry with pride and professionalism. I will study hard and continually work to hone my skills to be found worthy to be on the top of my game.”

Tony Corbell’s photographic works have been featured in publications throughout the world. Along with co-instructor, Rob Hull, he will be teaching a class at Texas School 2020 titled “Between Light & Shadow” which explores the three key elements that comprise light. Students will learn how to find the right ambient light and how to use lighting tools to create the light that will set the mood for your photo. Learn more about their class at www.TexasSchool.org.

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