When It’s Time to Change

Giving Back to your community, your profession, your colleagues, to whomever – it’s a good thing. It creates community and it’s something we need when facing the challenges within the new marketplace.

But what about Taking Back? It may be more important than giving in this state of unsettling business practice. We need to find ways that empower and let us play on level fields; ones that allow us to thrive in healthy working environments. I’m not a believer that great art comes from great suffering.

I recently had the opportunity to sift through old letters while archiving materials from ASMP’s founding members. The struggle to be taken seriously as professionals was just as prevalent 50 years ago as it is today. I can’t say I’m shocked that in the early years, those in the business world were trying to define the process of taking a photograph and deem it a commodity. What does shock me is how we are still fighting that battle.

So how can we be taken seriously as image creators? And how can we bring in enough income to live comfortably so we are free from the stresses that block creativity? This has been a common topic since we embraced the digital image and it will continue to be until we learn to navigate the evolving markets.

It’s time to talk about our legacy. It’s time to demonstrate the visual sophistication we inherited from those who came before us and show how our work can float high above the image that’s good enough. Maybe it’s time to resurrect The Print as a deliverable. Even though I’m completely into the technology that enables us to compete, I think paying tribute to the old ways may be one of several strategies we need to adopt.

What am I going to do this fall in preparation for 2016? I aim to educate my clients, to sell ideas, to sell quality, and to differentiate my work from what the masses are pumping out on Instagram. Will it be easy? Probably not. Will it be successful, well, it won’t if I’m the only one thinking this way (and surely I am not).

So in addition to working towards sharing photographic enlightenment, I’m going to toss the challenge to everyone reading this and ask what you can do to regain the clout we need as image creators and then tell me about your successes and failures.

Previously published on ASMP’s Strictly Business Blog.

John Welsh is a photographer & storyteller from Philadelphia as well as a director on the National Board of ASMP. He’s a leftover photojournalist who STILL can’t believe the many failed newspapers he worked for actually thought it was good business to give their product away.

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