Sometimes when I think about what to put here too much, I’m at a loss. I can’t force myself to write. Usually, when I drop an article in here, it’s in relation to something I’ve done, read, or saw. This blog is very reactive and not proactive right now, I guess. This post is definitely reactive.
A few minutes ago, I read a blog entry by local shooter Scott Alexander on how he’s burnt out on his primary subject, erotica and fetish, but not for the reasons you would think.
In the blog post, he sums it up eloquently:
But it’s more than just being burnt out from this business. It’s so many different things. I tire of people looking at me sideways or making assumptions about me and my life. I tire of the judgement. I tire, when meeting someone new, that because someone else has said something to them, they’ve already made up in their mind what I’m all about and don’t even TALK to me with any kind of respect. I tire of not being taken seriously.
In a nutshell (correct me if I’m wrong Scott), it seems he is tired of being judged as a smut-peddler, when there’s so much more to what he does.
Now, to a lesser extent, I encounter this on occasion when I talk to people about what I do, regardless of whether I meet them inside or outside of the club environment. Without sounding pretentious I like to think that I put my own spin on the images I capture. Since I have the luxury (haha) of running my own site, I have complete freedom to capture the images how I want them. Of course, I have to make some concessions with the client (that is why you will see photos that look like “typical” club shots), but I do have the flexibility to shoot what I want as well.
Part of the reason I can do that is the amount of time I’ve been rattling around Miami’s club scene, which, by my watch, is around 15 years at this point. That’s an eternity. I’ve been around longer than almost every venue in town, and most promoters and DJs. I got started in this when the post of ‘club photographer’ was a rare thing. And since it was rare, I was able to set the tone for myself, i.e. I wasn’t under the gun to shoot 100000 images of drunk girls, and as time went on, even the people who wanted me to do so, ended up conceding, or moving on to someone who would shoot 10000 images of drunk girls.
In a nutshell that explains why I’m not rich off of photography and have to do web-related odd jobs to pay for things. Making money from producing just the photos (or any art for that matter) you want is extremely challenging.
In this modern era, I would probably not be able to score a single club-related photo gig if I was starting out. Simply because there’s too many people/sites willing to shoot 10000 drunk-girl images for cheap, and almost zero demand for any sort of artistry in the photos captured. Nightclubs just want photos for social network promotion. And hey, they’re running a business, and it costs an obscene amount of money to run it. FYI, a large nightclub costs around $30,000 a night sans DJ fees just to operate! So yeah, they kind of need people to show up.
Fortunately, I’ve got work via my veteran status and longtime connects, but if I had to do it all over again today (with the same eye/mindset), I probably wouldn’t do it at all.
However, many would and are doing it. They will shoot 10000 photos a night of drunk girls with their cameras on “P” or green mode. Fire away, give ‘em the little card, and move on to the next target. And annoy the DJ while they are at it.
And unfortunately, since this type of photographer is ubiquitous to the club scene, I’m sometimes lumped into the same mold as they are. Much as Scott is probably lumped into the same mold as whomever does the shooting for Bangbus, even though their material is worlds apart.
I see it sometimes, when people ask me what I shoot, and I try my best to sugarcoat it. “Yes, I shoot special events, concerts, and nightlife…”. Which basically means I spend time taking photos in loud, hot, smoky rooms filled to the gills with drunk people.
However, even in those loud, smoky, drunk rooms, there’s ample opportunity to compose and capture aesthetically pleasing images. The image up top is one example.
This would be another. In my humble opinion, this isn’t a side of nightlife that people normally notice. And I like to capture that, to show those rare moments when something visually amazing happens for a split second, in a place most people consider just a loud, hot, smoky, drunk room.
It’s why I carry sample images on my iPhone of what I’m able to do. If I can hold someone’s attention for five seconds before they run away, since they judge me as being “That guy with the camera in the club…”, I usually show them just what I mean. Then their opinions change.
However, on occasion the whole issue does get tiring. Which is why I’ve branched out into shooting scenics recently. Now, it’s not to force myself to shoot something I don’t like. I really do like scenics. On occasion in the past I’ve shot some rather stunning ones. But nowadays, I’ve actually begun to market myself as being able to do that as well. The nice thing is, I’m able to spring that as a surprise on the unsuspecting critic.
Plus it’s pretty relaxing. I actually took this photo and then just sat down under the bridge for an hour afterwards.
This last piece has actually sold a few copies over on my FAA page. And when I show it to a critic who lumps me in with the likes of the unscrupulous run-and-gun shooters, they usually get quite embarrassed.
However, even if they do walk away, I don’t mind. I still find enjoyment in shooting nightlife and events. The varied situations, the challenge of shooting in dark rooms, the dynamics, and getting to see some friends of mine all contribute to that, even after fifteen years. The burnout feeling comes and goes, but for the most part, it goes. Sometimes when I want to just stop, I’ll find some glimmer (no kids, ‘glimmer’ is not the name of a new drug!) that keeps me going. Aside from the fact that I can’t argue with the money, of course.
I’ll be at Space tonight/tomorrow morning around 3 AM for one of the few good DJs left in the scene, Roger Sanchez. If anyone from here reads this and is there, come and say hello. I’ll explain more in detail time permitting.
Scott, if you’re reading, don’t take any guff from those swine. You’ve got a great body of work, and it speaks for itself. If anything drop on them your collection from driving across the country and back on a scooter. That was amazing.
Sidebar: I drove across the country once. It was in a moving van equipped with an first-gen iPad 3G, 3 diverse smartphones, a cooler full of rations, and spares for everything. Halfway through I wanted to blow up the moving van and take my camera backpack, iPad, and some clothes and go buy a cheap scooter and finish the ride that way by going the scenic route. I’m gonna figure out how to make these sidebars on the side, soon.