As Photographers We Should Take Time To Be Thankful

As Photographers We Should Take Time To Be Thankful

With many of my fellow Americans preparing to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, let’s take a moment away from turkey and dodging awkward conversations about politics to give thanks to those who provide us the motivation to persevere.

There is no such thing as a self-made man/woman. There might be some that would disagree with that. Those people would be wrong. No matter what the latest self-help financial prophet may proclaim, we all need a little help along the way if we are to achieve our dreams.

No matter how gifted we may be as a photographer, everyone needs someone somewhere at some time to give them that first break. Someone has to look at you and say “yes.” Maybe it’s a photo editor offering you your first assignment. Maybe it’s a model allowing you to take her picture even though, up until that moment, your portfolio leaves a great deal to be desired. Or, maybe it’s your family and friends who don’t work in the photographic industry at all, but offer you the emotional support (and sometimes financial support) you need while following the long winding path to success.

One of my favorite podcasts is How I Built This on NPR where host Guy Raz has on an established entrepreneur each week to discuss how they built their business and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. Given the nature of the show, it’s no surprise that many of his guests have obtained monumental amounts of wealth throughout their careers. After about an hour long discussion, he always ends with the same question. “How much of your success do you attribute to hard work and personal talent, and how much is a matter of luck?”

As a firm believer that success is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, my own initial inclination is to believe that the scales would tip greatly in favor of hard work. But, just as quickly, I inevitably find myself considering the other side of the equation.

Yes, we work very hard as photographers to keep our businesses afloat and grow them in a time of turbulent change. Yes, the concept of our offices every really being closed or the word “weekend” tend to take on different meanings when your life becomes your business. It takes hard work to succeed in your passion. Very hard work.

But I also have to think about the luck I’ve received. Not luck in the sense of a flipped coin, but luck in the form of the sweat equity I’ve inherited from those around me.

I was raised in a comfortable middle class life. I was raised that way, not because anything was special about me, but because my parents put in the hard work to provide a better life for their children. My father was the youngest in a household full of children. His father supported them by working odd jobs far less glamorous than finding the perfect way to light already beautiful people. I’m sure my grandfather had no particular passion for construction or pushing a broom on the graveyard shift, but he did what was necessary to feed his family.

My own father has long had a passion for photography, and, while we’ve never really discussed it, I’m sure he would have loved to have had the option to have pursued it as a career. But, in his financial position at the time, such creative pursuits were not exactly a practical option, so instead, after a stint in the Army and surviving the Vietnam War, he went to medical school and built his career as a doctor. I’m sure he didn’t always appreciate being on call all hours of the night, or the regular 60 plus hour work week that prevented him from being able to spend more time with his children. But he knew that those children were precisely who he was working for, and that knowledge helped him press through more than one sleepless night.

I don’t lay out that brief dip into my family tree to be self-indulgent. Hopefully, the opposite. One thing I’ve learned is that as self-centered as we all can be (myself at the top of that list), if you live life only for yourself, you’ll be leaving a large part of life behind. Regardless of our background, we are all interconnected and not only owe a debt to those who have helped us along the way, but also are responsible for those who are coming along behind us.

My father literally put his life on the line in the military to provide a better life for me. My grandfather put in the hours behind the broom to sacrifice for him. My great grandfather kept a family safe and together through Reconstruction. And his father was born a slave.

All of these people sacrificed their dreams so that one day I could be here to follow mine. So when times get tough as a photographer, as they always will, I can draw motivation not only from my own personal desire to succeed, but from the debt I owe the men and women that came before me that made it possible for me to be here. I owe a debt of gratitude to the friends who supported me during my early days as I was still learning my craft with words of encouragement and inspired me to keep developing my work. I owe a debt of gratitude to my clients, all of them, not just the big ones, that have given me an opportunity to add my voice to their brand. They not only offer me a living, but they offer me added confidence to keep growing as an artist and pushing me further.

And, I owe a debt to those younger artists and future family members out there who have yet to cross my path, but I may one day be called upon to help. Just like my parents, I have a responsibility to put myself into a position to not only help myself, but to help them as well.

So who has helped you along the way? As you sit down to dinner this week, hopefully surrounded by some of your own personal inspirations, take time to be thankful for all those who have helped to get you where you are today. If they are sitting there in front of you, take the opportunity to say “thank you.” If they are only with you in spirit, take a moment to think about all the sacrifices they must have gone through just to help you pursue your passion.

Luck comes and goes. Hard work is, well, hard work. But knowing the debt we owe to those who have come before and the responsibility we hold for those who come after will help push us through even the most difficult of tests, and inspire us to be the best photographers and people that we can be.

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55 Comments

Edward Blake's picture

I can never see anything but genocide when Thanksgiving rolls around.

Edward Blake's picture

I assume history really isn't your thing.

Edward Blake's picture

So, in other words, you know full well what the answer is, but you just want to be a dick. But hey, you're so learned that you think history can be boiled down to a soundbite. Here:

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=why+is+thanksgiving+a+celebration+of+genocide

Edward Blake's picture

Yeah, my link to "let me Google that for you", which if you click on it will take you to pages and pages of essays on the subject. I'm honestly not interested in your trolling, nor am I interested in spoon feeding you.

Seriously, wtf is wrong with you? I know the answer, but I am going to ask you anyway. Social media is very effective at making me detest people.

Piss off.

Tim Ericsson's picture

Way to shit on a thoughtful, sincere, and beautiful article relevant to photography.

This is exactly why you suck so much and ruin what could be a productive comment thread with you combative, simpleminded vitriol.

Tim Ericsson's picture

I feel fantastic about myself, thanks! But not because I’m “protected” by FStoppers. They’re not the fucking mob or something. It’s a photography website. You’re so insane!

Remember that, Bo-Jack: this is a photography site. Stop ruining it with your nonsense and trash. You’re the troll. Stop being such a douche to everyone and taking out your own frustrations about your life on a photography forum: it’s depressing to see and nobody cares about what your simple mind comes up with, you pathetic little man.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Edward Blake's picture

Remind me how the Native Americans are doing again. Remind me about the frequent breaching of treaties by successive US governments. Remind me about how the buffalo were exterminated and the reasons for that.

So, you aren't trolling,but you asked a question so you could subsequently 'challenge my politically correct anti-American view'. <rhetorical> Do you ever pause, look at what you have written, and realise just how stupid and contradictory it is? </rhetorical>

But sure, I should craft a referenced essay just so some barely educated moron can pick a fight with me.

Edward Blake's picture

Jesus H Christ. Thanks for proving my points.

Edward Blake's picture

I don't need to prove common knowledge, half-wit. And more to the point, there is absolutely no requirement that I humor your trolling.

Edward Blake's picture

Not only are you too lazy to read a single thing that may be found on the internet, you are also too lazy to watch a YouTube.

Frankly, there is absolutely no help for you.

To think that once upon a time I would have written a referenced essay; but that was before the Internet was populated by morons.

Edward Blake's picture

Yeah, you don't even know what a proper noun is. I'm not feeling too bothered by your view of me.

Tim Ericsson's picture

I love that you correctly capitalized “Native American” and he knowingly left “native” not capitalized to try to pick a fight.

What a sleazy douche move on his part. And so transparent and stupid!

Edward Blake's picture

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

~ Hanlon's Razor.

Edward Blake's picture

The truly awesome thing, Tim, is that once I relaxed it simply became a source of amusement. I mean, the guy is so utterly desperate to provoke a fight, and the fact that he isn't getting one is driving him mad.

Tim Ericsson's picture

He needs the attention. Probably doesn’t get it anywhere else. I’d pity him if he weren’t such an ass!

Edward Blake's picture

You are likely onto something there. It seems to be an interesting blend of neurochemical payoff, ego reinforcement, and a failing politico-socioeconomic construct. The more time goes on, the more fascinated I am by the root cause of the behaviour.

Tim Ericsson's picture

He’s not worth arguing particulars with, Edward. The guy is too stubborn and stupid. He’s made the same arguments all over this site before and has been banned numerous times.

I absolve you of interacting with this troll! 😊

Edward Blake's picture

For an expert on North American history he seems to be remarkably ignorant.

*sigh*

Tim Ericsson's picture

You’re right. You don’t “seem” to be remarkably ignorant. You are remarkably ignorant!

Tim Ericsson's picture

Absolutely I could! But I’m not going to, because I know you’re to stubborn to accept when you’re wrong.

Tim Ericsson's picture

No I’m not. You are!

Edward Blake's picture

You don't get it both ways, you're either knowledgeable or not.

In any case, go back up to the link I provided, and spend the next couple of weeks reading essays.

Edward Blake's picture

Here, this is nice and simple for you, peanut:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uFfREh7G3ck

Edward Blake's picture

Here's another nice simple one for you (I can do this all day):

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ociHVDWxDaY

Edward Blake's picture

Yeah, you didn't start this.

Troll.

To be fair, "insane" is a legal definition, and I would go with 'psychological disorder'. I'm just as content to go with 'dumb as a box of rocks'.

Edward Blake's picture

That's the spirit, princess. I'm sure you'll live.

Tim Ericsson's picture

Perfect! Looking forward to it! 😘

Edward Blake's picture

Apparently you also do not comprehend the meaning of the word "troll". Tim has attempted to prevent an argument, whereas you have spent the last day trying to provoke one.

To be clear, the word "troll" is defined thusly:

Trolling – (verb), as it relates to internet, is the deliberate act, (by a Troll – noun or adjective), of making random unsolicited and/or controversial comments on various internet forums with the intent to provoke an emotional knee jerk reaction from unsuspecting readers to engage in a fight or argument

In any case, you really aren't as intelligent or as interesting as you believe you are.

Tim Ericsson's picture

Thank you! Someone gets it.

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