This morning I enjoyed reading Stephanie Buck‘s article, Our Parents Discovered Leisure. We Killed It. on Timeline.com, and I highly recommend that you check it out for yourselves. I won’t get into rehashing all the thought provoking points she makes, but I do want to share how I approach my photography as leisure and not as a “side hustle.”
Earlier in the year I was approached by web developer Troy Darc to create a catalogue of product photos for his clients’ websites. He is the classic entrepreneur. He’s a multi-faceted creative with a head for business, and he keeps himself hustling on several projects in several fields to not only build a body of work he is proud of, but to put food on the table for his family. It’s no surprise that when I, a “nine-to-fiver”, began expressing that I was uncomfortable accepting commercial photography jobs, that he remarked, and I am likely paraphrasing here, “you’re good at it and who doesn’t want to make a little extra money?”
I like money as much as the next guy, or at least the goods, services, and security it provides, but my photography is my leisure. Sometimes I treat it like work, and it can often stress me out when I’m not careful, but that’s just because I want to improve, I want to be better.
I feel there is an immense amount of pressure in today’s society to “do what you love” professionally, and to turn hobbies into “side hustles.” When it comes to photography, specifically, there is a sea of photographers out there willing to sell you the secrets to become a “pro-tog” just like them! (HINT: It has a lot to do with selling recycled “tips” and “tricks” about how to sell “tips” and “tricks.”)
There seems to be this contagious delusion, especially on social media, that monetization equals validation. Monetization does not equal validation, unless your goal is to monetize. If your goal is to produce good work, don’t allow the media to trick you into thinking its integral worth is linked to your remuneration. Crap sells for huge amounts of money all the time, often inexplicably (eg Nickleback). Some of the greatest artists never earned a dime from their work (eg Vivian Maier).
For me, photography allows me to step out of the hustle and bustle of society, and to look inward through observation of the world around me. Photography is, in away, my escapism. I regard photographs to be, often, documents without context, and that creates fantasy out of reality. It’s a form of catharsis, it’s my leisure. I don’t want to burden my leisure with the chore of meeting the desires of paying clients, or having to market it.
If you want to turn your photography into a paying “side hustle”, or even go pro full time, then I encourage you to do so. I’ll just repeat some good advice from Zack Arias, do it with the least amount of equipment and don’t use credit for anything! I just want to encourage you to stop and ask yourself, do you need to monetize? If photography is your hobby, will turning it into a part-time job enhance that or turn it into a stress filled chore? I know my answer, photography is my leisure.
All photos are Portra 400 shot with the Nikon F100; developed and scanned by Indie Film Lab in Montgomery, AL.