Is it ever worth it to sell out?

Merely writing that title before I begin writing makes me worry this will become a soapbox post. Or is that monologue-in-waiting just a defense mechanism welling up to cover my deeper insecurities about whether I am attempting to sell out my own vision to money or notoriety? Translated: am I letting my attempt for extra cash for new gear or my pagerank on Google edge out the reason I shoot in the first place?

A friend recently asked me in an e-mail: “interesting to see something of what you are up to [in photography] … though I recognise that the photos don’t represent life per se.” Meaning, I have striven for many years not only to capture life around me, but to dig deeper to try to find moments which can be captured which show us a glimpse of reality, Truth, and beauty. And when I say “beauty”, I do not mean simply a pretty picture; I mean beauty which points to something much more “real”, much larger. Maybe that is the beauty of a kiss, or better yet, the beauty of the ten thousandth kiss between a couple now battling together against cancer.

Whoa, there. Pull back on those reins big fella. I need to get back to the original question of selling out. Yet I still feel it is helpful (if only for myself) to define again why I do photography before I try to decide what selling out would even look like in my case. How would I recognize it if I were letting go of my vision or style just for cash or fame?

You now have a peek of why I am in photography, though I will not bore you with the long explanation. Now the question is, am I selling out? I have been thinking much about my friend’s comment. Am I pushing the commercial side of my photography too much? Am I orphaning that deeper purpose and meaning?

We just moved, not only to a new city but a new country. A lot of things have changed, especially who I shoot and how. I can still keep my vision alive, but in the process with so many things changing, it is easy to focus too much on pushing the website out into the social networks or marketing a particular kind of photography only because I want the business.

In the end, no, it is not worth selling out. I will do my photography even if I cannot make a living from it, even if nobody ever sees those photos. My grandchildren will certainly be surprised when they start digging through my computer and photo backups (my children will not at all be surprised). There are commercial pursuits that fit in quite well, and that is fine; I am going to need some money to keep up my gear anyway.

And by the way, I am speaking to myself on all this, not diatribing for all of you. What I do have to say to you is this: figure out why you want to do photography. I am not attempting to make photography out to be a god on whose altar all other things must be sacrificed. That would be too lame to put in print, besides being completely untrue. No, if for the right reasons, I would gladly give up photography. I do have a mission with my photography, though, and that mission, though not higher than some things, is certainly higher than money. And as for notoriety? That is riding a fine line before pride anyway. Pride. Oh, I have been there before. In fact, as I read all the above words, I feel like I am there at the moment, but I sure want that to change.

Phew! You probably think I am a little unfurnished upstairs, but that is ok, I guess. Oh, this is not the best blog post to show potential clients is it?

Cooper Strange Written by: