Post Format

Partying Like Rockstars . . . Only if you have to!

How the public perceives photographer's spending their time

This graphic has been traveling around the web for a while now and I have to chuckle a little every time I come across it. I suspect the popular vision of what a photographer does and how he spends his time is perhaps informed by that old Michelangelo Antonioni movie Blowup that came out in 1966. The plot of the film centers around the life of a glamorous fashion photographer, inspired by real life “Swinging London” photographer David Bailey, who spends the night at a flop house to make pictures for an upcoming art book of his photographs. I suspect the film did a lot to inspire and feed the legend of what photographers do and how they spend their time as the pie chart on the left suggests. But legends, as the graph on the right will attest, are not always true.

I love to make photographs and regretfully there are only 24 hours in a day and only 365 days in a year to do so. My time gets filled up pretty much the way the pie chart on the right suggests. I meet with my publisher and I package prints being shipped to a gallery. I teach workshops and make photographic prints in a traditional darkroom. I write books and stay in touch with clients. And in the middle of all this frenetic activity I make photographs—lot of them. I even have help from a wonderful woman who has been working with me for the last 20+ years named Cindy. My days are full and long and I’m not complaining mind you. This is my work and I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything else, even being an astronaut like I wanted to be when I was 9 years old back in 1966. And while these pie charts were assembled from information collected from wedding photographers by the International Society of Wedding Photographers, the data pretty much holds true as to what happens in my studio and the studios of other photographers I know. What is interesting to note, according to the chart, is that photographers only spend 12.2% of their time making photographs. This means that approximately 45 days a year are actually spent behind the camera which pretty much confirms what my Filofax has to say about the matter. (Ahhhhhhh!)

Poster for the movie Blowup

On a similar note, I am often asked by people I meet at public events for my work (book signings, exhibition openings, and workshops etc.) if they should “give it up” and become a professional photographer. My dear friend Reverend Paul Cousins now retired, informs my answer. Paul once told me that sometimes people would come to him and ask in earnest whether or not they should become a minister. His answer, honed after many years of service and careful thought is, “Only if you have to.” In Paul’s case, he had this enormous sense of being called by God to do His important work which is why he first became a Baptist pastor and later a Presbyterian minister. And he worked hard for little secular compensation to provide a life for his wife and family and I believe he knew/knows that his reward will be in heaven. He’s not complaining either. So when I am asked by someone whether they should—for little compensation and all the fame, glory and sometimes heartache that a life in photography might bring their way—actually become a professional photographer, my answer follows the good wisdom I received from my friend Paul—“Only if you have to!”

Partying like rock stars. I’m still waiting for my invitation to arrive. d;-)#

Posted by

CRAIG VARJABEDIAN is an award-winning photographer who explores the back roads of the American West, making pictures of the unique and quintessential. He shares awe-inspiring stories of the land and the people who live on it . . . one photograph at a time.