December 9, 2005

Thoughts on Not Being a Photographer

Back when I was a student in middle school, high school and college I loved photography. It was my passion to be a professional photographer, although I didn’t exactly know what Professional Photographer meant. My open minded parents encouraged me to pursue a photography degree and I excelled in the making of images. Never once did I doubt my passion or lose momentum, until my senior year of college.

My final year of college I was burned out on photography, the critique process and making images with “meaning”. After being attacked, or at least it felt that way, for four years by the Chair of the photography department I had the love of photography sucked out of me. It has never fully returned.

The passion began at a camp called Horizons in Maine. That summer, when I was 14, I fell in love with making images. The instructors encouraged me and even pulled me aside to say that I “had something special.”

Well, 22 years later I can barely pick up a camera without getting depressed and having a near anxiety attack about photography. Now that I’m at the Houston Center of Photography I am around photography and photographers every day. They are ordinary people, like myself, who have a passion for image making – like I once had.

But what I am finding is that you can’t just make images – then you are considered a hobbyist. You need a lengthy biography, exhibition and award list before anyone will look twice at your work. Don’t even bother trying to talk about your passion unless you can drop names of artists like candy from a piƱata. As I get older the ability to make images seems to get further from my reach – like trying to light a candle with no wick.

Why so melancholy? I was reading through the bio of one of the photographers who will be featured in the Houston Center for Photography auction in February 2006. Turns out he taught at Horizons around the same time I attended the camp. His bio is six pages long which validates his work. But you know what? His images are ones that I could be making. It breaks my heart to no longer be a photographer. Guess that’s why the professor back in college pushed me to the wall – if you can’t take the heat get out of the game.

My image of Holywood Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland, 2004