Last month I was mentioned on the always entertaining and sometimes educational website FStoppers which, if you are not familiar with I suggest you check them out. They did a feature on my friends Susan Roderick and Andy Strackwasky’s new TV show the Unknown Photographer for BlackRapid Tv. I will have to blog about that in the future also, but for now back to my scheduled post. FS News did a recap of Photo Expo NY and the author of the post, an extremely nice guy (of course, he is Canadian) and talented photographer Kenn Tam said: “one good thing about an expo is that it brings shooters together” and he mentioned a number of creatives. In this list was Mr Vincent Laforet, Andy, Susan and myself amongst others. When he mentioned me (thanks by the way) he wrote: “The sickly talented and successful Joao Carlos“. Recently FS featured one of my blog posts, “The Four Steps to Creativity”, again thank you Kenn. In his presentation of my post he wrote: “Joao’s blog is chalked full of interesting insight into his prolific photography career and what it takes to make it in this industry.
Over the past two years I have done countless TV, radio, print and online interviews and I love that I have been given the opportunity to showcase my work. I mean honestly, that’s what its all about. I take pictures to then be able to share my vision with the world, the greater the views, the happier I am. I have worked extremely hard in my fourteen year career and most of the time it was without any recognition in any shape or form.
I guess what I am getting at is how do you define what a successful photographer is or better yet how
do you define being successful? Is it Monetary? Is it the prestige of winning a handful of international awards judged by your piers? Or is it popularity contest by having ten thousand friends on Facebook and twenty thousand friends on Twitter and having twenty five thousand hits a day on your latest blog post?
Is it by being asked to showcase your work in international magazines and on websites, or is it by having an international agent? Or booking gigs with international clients and major advertising clients and having to wait six months to get paid?
When I googled “Successful Photographers”, look what the top answers are… It’s kinda scary in a very real way.
A survey of Getty Photographers pops up first with “why even successful photographers are unhappy today?” and how even the Master Photographer and American Icon Annie Leibovitz popped up in Wikipedia , and right off the bat they mention the she is super successful yes but she “essentially had to pawn every snap of the shutter she had made or will make” to make a living.
Next in third place someone trying to sell us the DREAM: “HOW TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER” and if you read further it gets even more depressing stating: “YOUR SUCCESS DEPENDS ALMOST ENTIRELY ON YOUR ABILITY TO RUN A SUCCESSFUL SMALL BUSINESS”. Almost nothing depends on the quality of your photography.
I find all of this quite disturbing and at the same time I FEEL LOST. I owned and ran a photography studio for almost seven years and we started out with only two of us and when we finally decided to close we had almost 14 collaborators and half were on staff full-time. The pressure to keep the machine afloat every month was eating away at my soul to the point where I did not eat, sleep or function properly. I was drinking way to much and I had acquired a number of other terrible habits and worse of all I had lost my passion for my art and was basically burnt out.
What’s even scarier about this (my reality) is that I was only 30 years old. So after a series of trips to New York I decided that I wanted and that I needed out. I was in a boat that was sinking fast and I needed to do something and I had to change the course of my life.
Today fourteen years later I look back and I realize that I have been looking at this the wrong way the entire time. I was programmed to think my success could me measured by my accomplishments, by not having dreams, but making goals for myself. And so i did that and each year I would start with the next years goals: I wanted a studio, I wanted better lighting, a bigger better camera, new lenses, I wanted to have my work in magazine A or B, I wanted to be on TV, I want, I WANT I WANT I WANT … all this time getting closer to each of my goals set by myself the previous year but still never happy, never fulfilled, never taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. I have been so busy planning, working, striving to become successful and totally forgot to realize that my success is not measured by my goals or my accomplishments or my accolades.
Yes I still want all of those things , but I don’t let them define my work and above all my identity and spirit. Today I realize that what truly makes me happy and successful is not looking at where I can go, but to see where I HAVE COME from and to see my growth and my evolution. I hope to one day have a family and be able to share my view of the word with my little ones and my partner. My success or my legacy if you wish is what will truly last through time will be the memory of the person that I was; the Man I became and the father I will be. If I can wake up every morning rain or shine and be content with the life I am living and sure of the choices I make, then I can say I am Successful.