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End of 2016 reflection – The American Dream?

So in the past few months I’ve done a lot of thinking about my photography, and coincidentally watched “Hope Floats,” one of my favorite movies…  One character, Justin Matisse (Harry Connick Jr.), who didn’t make it big when he left his hometown, returns home to paint houses while designing and building his dream home. The scene that stood out to me is the one where, in response to Birdie Pruitt (Sandra Bullock)’s comment that “you could do so much more,” states: “You’re talking about the American Dream. You find something that you love, and then you twist it, and you torture it, try and find a way to make money at it. You spend a lifetime doing that. At the end, you can’t find a trace of what you started out loving.”  That’s what I had been doing with photography.

Partly this was because I was exploring whether photography could be my retirement career, but then I realized that I’m going to be fine financially without the money, so I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a photographer if I don’t need to make money out of it…

I used to take photographs because I couldn’t help it, it was who I was, then I started taking photographs that I thought would do well as stock photos, and that changed things, so I stepped back and started questioning myself when I took photographs – Am I doing it for myself, for stock photos, for some sense of obligation, because I should want to take photographs since I call myself a photographer?

I’m glad I took that break, I feel more honest with my photography now.  On a wonderfully leisurely trip to Paris I took about 1500 photographs in 11 days, including this one of an entertainer at a farmer’s market, where I hung out for a while:


More on the trip to Paris in another entry some day…  I haven’t had the urge to clean up and submit the photos, but part of the reason for that was that this Fall I worked up to 60 hours a week at my day job, which with my other responsibilities left little bandwidth for photography or exercise. I’m starting to exercise again, and I plan to continue to take photos as I’m moved to do so but processing them will wait until I find/make the time for it. In the meantime, one advantage of the stock photography business is that, without submitting anything in the past 8 months, I’ve made the same income from stock photos in 2016 that I did in 2015, funny that.

I did get two sets of photos (car details and some already-framed travel and nature photos) accepted to two coffeehouses in 2017 through the Ann Arbor Women Artists. I’m delighted that my framed photos will get a chance to get out of the house, who knows, maybe I’ll sell one or two of them.

In the meantime, I invite you to use this blog to find some suggestions to improve your photography, learn from some of my photography adventures, get some photography business tips, and should you decide to pursue stock photography, check out some tips here, and maybe even try out some of these stock photo sites.

Best wishes on your photography adventures in 2017.


About Susan Montgomery

I'm a stock photographer, with focus on editorial, classic cars, travel, and nature.


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