What is Success Really?

Amy Stein wrote in her recent post about Jill Freedman, “It’s great to see an artist get her due after so many years, but it’s disheartening to know you can have the goods and still fall off the art world map.” I don’t know if a show at a gallery no one has ever heard of and a Times article constitutes “getting her due.” I am certainly not saying that she is not deserving of the recognition or that I am not happy for her. It is always good to see people get the recognition they deserve (the photographers not deserving are the ones I have a problem with . . . but who am I to judge . . . )

I have to ask myself, what are the real motivations and goals of this new breed of photographers? By this new breed I mean every photographer just out of college a lot of energy and a blog? What is their idea of success? a show? sales? a book? a posting on Jorg’s blog?

For a paycheck (if you can call it that) I work for two photographers, both of whom have several books and are collected in dozens of major American and European museums. They are both represented in a few galleries (like that really means anything), and had work at AIPAD this year. They are also now in their sixties with no savings and no healthcare and are uncertain where the money is coming from after the next few months. I guess the most important thing I have learned working for them is that it is always going to be rough. And, while good things may happen—sales, shows, books—the only rational reason for being a photographer is the irrational love and necessity of making pictures. I can’t speak for everyone, but the moment, my only goal is to be able to continue making pictures.


About Richard Boutwell

I am an emerging photographer originally from the Hi-Desert of Southern California, and relocated to Bucks County, Pennsylvania in 2002 for an intensive apprenticeship with the photographers Michael A. Smith and Paula Chamlee. I now live in Philadelphia, and concentrate on my own projects and writing.
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3 Responses to What is Success Really?

  1. Brian says:

    I think you hit the nail right no the head. The goal is to continue making pictures. That means being passionate about producing great images, but it also means doing what is necessary to support your ability to produce more work.

    Representation, selling work and having your art placed into important collections is a big part of sustaining a career over the long term. The days of the detached, hungry and passion mad artist are over. You need to find a fair division between your talent and the business of your talent. It’s about believing in your work and your vision so much that you do what it takes to do it forever. Success is not a single achievement, it is a lifetime of continued achievements and a lifetime spent doing what you love to do.

    And being mentioned on Jorg’s blog… that and $3 will get you a cup of coffee.

  2. patrick romero says:

    ..i’ve pretty much accepted a life of feast-or famine finances and
    paycheck to paycheck living w/this photo-obsession….

  3. James Grimes says:

    Yes, that’s the way it is. St. Ansel was in his 70’s when he finally started to maske money and put some savings behind him. There’s a tradeoff for being an artist and we have to decide if we are willing to pay that price.

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