ev·o·lu·tion : a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change, growth or development.
I have always held the meaning of evolution to be among the most important principals of life, and especially life as an artist. I have lived a pattern of change around every five years, and of relevant creative evolution around the same. Now more than ever, embracing change in the photography industry is a do or die necessity. Keeping up with the rapidly advancing technology is a full time job in itself. Growing artistically is just as important for artists to stay in business as it is to maintain our sanity and feed that insatiable desire to create.
It has always baffled me how resistant most people are to change. OK, so sudden change can be uncomfortable for sure. As we are set in our daily routines, a sudden change can be like throwing a stick in the spokes of a speeding bike. However, after certain change is made and time has passed, people will generally ease into a new routine and realize that it really wasn’t that big of a deal after all. Life goes on, either with you or without you.
Evolution, however, is different. Not all change is necessary. Evolution is. Evolution is the process of life that we are all part of whether we like it or not.
I grew up shooting film. 110, Polaroid, 35mm and 220 roll film. Shooting weddings in the 90’s, the verbiage of the day was that unless you were shooting medium format roll film, you couldn’t consider yourself a pro. As the art of shooting weddings evolved, we saw more “daring” photographers like myself shooting 35mm with a mix of 220 and taking flak from our colleagues – until it became accepted. Evolution in reverse? When digital cameras hit the market, I remember the arguments between both camps, those who embraced them and those who resisted. Technology evolved so the industry evolved along with it. Photo-Darwinism – most survived and some perished.
Nearly every two years, I change the tools I used in my studio with the purpose of evolving in my work. Going from huge softboxes to Octoboxes to shoot through umbrellas, using reflectors on location to TTL OCF and now OFC with my Alien Bees shooting on manual. Last year I switched from Canon to Nikon systems (long story). But the one self-imposed rule of business that I let go for myself was growing too big and taking on a higher volume of clients than I ever wanted. I was often working seven days a week and averaging fourteen hours a day to keep up. I became a machine, and although my work continued to evolve, I felt like I was doing the same thing over and over every day. I burned out. It was bound to happen.
So here I find myself again at that point in my career where evolution is bringing about change. After eight years in my commercial studio, it was time to rejuvenate myself and move forward in new directions with my work. Closing my 2,000 sq/ft studio was bittersweet after all the work I put into building it, but it was the next step in the evolution of my career. Like fashion where everything old is new again, I have gone back to working from my home studio and have started moving away from the consumer market and more toward commercial art, with the emphasis on editorial location work. I cut the number of products offered in my price book in half and cut my session load in half as well. It may seem like I’m going in reverse but the reality is that I’m once again evolving in a positive, profitable direction.
I was delighted to get a surprise gift from my friends at WHCC a few weeks back of Sarah Petty’s book “Worth Every Penny”. As I read through the first four chapters, I had the feeling of getting punched in the gut because quite a few of the things she says never to do – I had been doing, and I knew it before reading it too. That was also part of my decision to make sweeping changes. Sarah confirmed it for me. Since moving back home, I have been seriously stressed out – which is normal with change. However, with every day that passes, it gets better and better. I’m spending more time with my family, I’m starting to sleep regularly, and I’m finding a new passion in my work again. I am evolving.
So here is my question for you; are you resistant to change or do you embrace it? Are you aware of your evolution as an artist? Are you conscious of the evolution of your business? Are you strong enough to realize at times there needs to be change and even stronger to make the changes?
One last thought: my dad once told me about business, “learn from the mistakes of others because it’s far too expensive to learn from your own.”
See more of Joey’s images in the Gallery.