Sunday, September 5, 2010

Changing direction in uncertain times

Hi there loyal readers, for those of you who stuck around while I was away thank you. It really does mean a lot to me to know that I can produce something that is helpful to people, and that you appreciate. There's a couple of reasons for my absence.

One is that I've just been plain flat out busy. Like full-on crazy get up at half past five in the morning and get to bed at half past nine at night kind of busy. I wish I could tell you that I've been traipsing around the world on some glamorous assignments for travel magazines but, as we all know, not too many of those jobs are floating around these days!

What I have been doing is looking after my kids, writing a lot and reading a lot. I've mentioned it a few times on the blog before but I've been working through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I first heard of this book from my personal goddess Selina Maitreya. It's a 12 week course on re-discovering your creativity. Not that I think my creativity had ever disappeared but it was probably a bit jaded, and I was intrigued.

Anyway a big part of the course is something Ms Cameron calls the Morning Pages. It basically means that when you get up in the morning you write three pages of stream-of-consciousness thought. Whatever pops into your head you write it down. That means everything - warts and all. It's the one place to totally get to be yourself. No place for political correctness or worrying about hurting people's feelings. Just write down whatever you think.

It's supposed to help you connect with your inner artist and inspire creative thoughts to pop into your head. And I found it incredibly helpful. I admit to being skeptical at the start but, now that I've finished the course, I'm a total convert and get up at half past five to write every morning. I've come up with thoughts and ideas that really have me excited. I've re-discovered my passion for photography, and many other artistic pursuits that I enjoyed when I was younger but sort of fell by the wayside over the years.

Again, I don't think I ever lost my love for holding a camera and capturing images of the world. But. to be totally honest, the business side of things was wearing me down. I live in a town where a lot of the other photographers don't really understand copyright or usage (or maybe they do but just prefer to ignore it for simplicity's sake). As a result mention 'usage' to a local client and they tend to look at you very suspiciously as if you've just invented a new way to rip them off royally.

Add to that the increasing number of magazines that either don't want to pay for photos, or if they do the rates are so low and they want to take your first born kid and house as well (just kidding but it's not far off) and I was feeling pretty down about the commerce side of things. So you know what I did? I went and did something for somebody for free!

Now any of my colleagues will tell you that I'm the original copyright hard case. I defend my images to the death and demand respect for my work and my copyright. But going through the Artist's Way and writing my morning pages made me realize a few things. One of those was that I'm a generous person by nature. I love to think of really worthwhile gifts for people and I love to see the expression on their faces. I remember when I was in Uni there was a wondeful friend of mine who loved elephants. So I sponsored an orphaned elephant baby in Kenya for her as a birthday present. Needless to say she was pretty stoked.

Anyway I digress. I haven't suddenly decided that there's no money to be made in photography so I'm going to go out and undercut the entire market by shooting everything for free. But I did decide that there were some local groups who are entirely staffed by volunteers, rely 100% on donations to continue their great work and just really need a break. And I figured I didn't have lots of money lying around to donate so maybe I could donate some of my expertise.

So I rang up the people at the Frog Decline Reversal Project. I'd read about them in the local paper over the years and I knew that this was the kind of group that did really great work researching various diseases in frogs and I wanted to help. You know what. They don't really need any photography! Well the kind they do need I wasn't really qualified for - they wanted close-up pictures of very specific species of frogs. But they did need their website images watermarked because they've been getting pics stolen left right and centre.

So this last week I've spent hours individually watermarking, adding copyright metadata and attaching colour profiles to pictures of diseased frogs. Not the most glamorous of work but something that has made me feel more proud of what I'm doing than anything else I've done in quite a while.

And just doing this has gotten me thinking about lots of other possibilities for both donated and paid work. You see I don't want to go down with the sinking ship if the travel photography industry continues to dive. It may come back up again, maybe it won't. Either which way I don't want to be so attached to one photographic subject that prohibits me from pursuing other rewarding projects.

So I'm getting back to basics. Trying to re-discover what I fell in love with before I started taking money to do this. And I'm loving it. I've discovered that I want to be a story teller again. To photograph real people and real places and show people the beauty that exists all around us. And some of that will be travel related and some won't. And I'm cool with that. For somebody who's spent the last 13 years or so saying, "Hi I'm Paul Dymond, I'm a travel photographer" that's a big step. But it's an exciting one.

So, as this blog is my gift to all of you (plus it's cheaper than a shrink!) I want to thank you for sticking with me and I hope to continue to regale you with anecdotes, tips and general claptrap of this individual photographer.