The Rise of the Amateur: Opportunity for a free Print

“Hell is full of musical amateurs.” -George Bernard Shaw-

Camera Work was the center of the photography world at the beginning of the last century, and continued to do so until the f64 group forever changed the trajectory of photography. One of the biggest contrasts between contemporary perspective and Stieglitz perspective, to me, is one heralded the amateur, and the other champions the professional. Professional is synonymous with the best work. What interests me about Stieglitz is that he championed the amateur, the reasoning was the amateur could focus on just the artistry of the practice, and be free of economic considerations, at least in theory. A professional is subject to market forces, where the amateur is more likely to rise above these influences and focus just on the creating good art. The logic of separating creative and economic forces sounds good on paper, but I question the validity of the assertion. The Photo Secession is the only group of artists that I know of who collectively intended not to make their living from their craft, they collectively disdained of the thought.


For quite some time I have day dreamed of practicing photography as a profession, and taking advantage of being able to devote most of my working time to it. But, my realization was making a living from photography wasn’t what I wanted, it was the potential to use the time spent making a living to practice photography. Whether the money comes from photography, or not is irrelevant to me, it is the experience I am after. The rational part of me knows that there is no Shangri-La waiting for me in any profession, but the hopeless romantic imagines a free life of doing what I want, when I want. I imagine traveling to any location I want, collecting material for any project that I desire to devote my time to. That is not reality, but what can I do with what I have? No one now, or anytime in the not too distant future is going to take over my finances so that I can go out an play. Damn-it… I just realized that I am falling into that trap that I make fun of others for falling into. Instead of using the time and resources I have to create something, I am using the time and resources I do have to complain about the time and resources I do not have.


Reality check: I am out about 42.5 hours a week for non-photographic work, something like 56 hours a week for sleep, that leaves me about 69.5 hours a week free for whatever I want. Usually I want to shower, eat, have a social life and go to the gym. But still there is a good chunk of time that I can spend as an amateur, or I could lament the fact that I do not make my living from my creative work. I am just starting to realize how much time I have wasted thinking about what it would be like to have the lifestyle of a professional, instead of embracing that of the amateur. Right now as I am getting ready to post this piece, I am pretty sure that no one will notice. I do not post or update my site frequently, and most of my new work no one sees. In the future someone may look back at what I started with, but for now I am embracing the life of a creative vagabonder. Up until now I have brought little to the table, and have little to show for it. Let me try an experiment, being an amateur pretending to be a professional who shows up every day. The professional has the burden of responsibility, and commitments, whereas the amateur is free of this in art. The amateur is perhaps free to create anything they want, or more often nothing of what they want.


The past year or so little has been done on this site, little has been written, and the images are few an far in between. Except for some family and friends very few people have seen my work. So for the next year I am going to try an experiment: I am going to post a blog post, or an image every day until my next birthday. If I do not post for the day, the first person to call me out on it will get a small print of any image they choose. So it begins.


“Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.” -Dr. Ben Carson-