In Their Own Sweet Way


Photo by Barry Schwartz

People will surprise you every time.

Part III of The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography features a series of oral history interviews I conducted with 32 photographers. Susan Carr, the editor, and I wanted to know how people built and sustained their careers.  We had a particular interest in how they handled marketing, identity, and new products and services – so that’s what we named the three chapters.

We decided from the start to include voices at every level of experience, covering a wide array of specialties. Since every photographer – indeed, every creative entrepreneur – builds their career their own way, it made sense that each of the photographers I interviewed should represent themselves in their own words.

I was surprised how often the photographers upended my expectations; but I should have expected it – these are creatives, after all.

I found middle-aged photographers who use social media as a cornerstone of their marketing, and people in their twenties who are not even really on Facebook.

I spoke with a young photographer who concentrates on using the phone and getting face-time with buyers (otherwise known as “meetings”), and a middle-aged photographer with a decades-long career, busy and booked eighteen months in advance who acted just like the young photographer by working hard to get meetings.

There were people who stumbled into success, but were smart enough to analyze what happened, and replicate.

There were people who failed and were forced to reinvent their careers, knowing they might well fail again and have to reinvent themselves all over.  And it worked because they understood what might happen, and that it would certainly happen again.

Nothing written here could be as compelling as what the photographers told me. This is not news: being compelling is no small thing if you’re going to have a creative career.  That personal story is conveyed by a personal touch, and that touch is replicated in their work, in their attitude towards their work, and in their relationships with their clients.  They surprised themselves and kept on going.

Which is why they have still have careers.

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