Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Quantifying success

A successful shot with my Sony A6000 in York, UK this week.

What is success? For some it is simply lifting their head from the pillow each day (works for me) for others it may be gaining that promotion, or their team winning the league.

For the most part though, us humans equate our success to the amount of money we have made, or what we are worth...

Bill Gates is worth more money than some nations... Success? He's demonstrable man. 

Sir Paul McCartney is worth half a billion pounds, but he still cannot afford to buy the rights to his songs back. Successful?

If we equate success to how rich we are, then we will never be successful enough!

Forbes rich list each year proves this. Watching on as people scramble to see who's the richest out there, and then being in awe of them... whilst feeling unsuccessful! 

But is success really to do with finance? Or is success more of a personal thing? For me it is definitely the latter...

When I began Photography over a decade ago, I never dreamed I would become as decent, as competent as I have. I never imagined for a second that people which I had admired for their talents over the years would call me up and ask me to photograph them!

The fabulous Cheryl Baker, Photographed in 2015

I never imagined I would exhibit my work!

From my MA Photography exhibition 'This view from here' 2017

Success? For me, yes! 

As a photographer (and teacher) I have to earn money to exist in our capitalist world, I hate that, but it is where we are at as a society.

I do not however approach my photography or teaching with money in mind, or to use what I may earn as a measure my success. If I did, I would be deemed, and I would deem myself unsuccessful...

Having an idea for an image, following it through and creating what you intended, and often better than you intended, using your hard earned knowledge and experience, having people enjoy your work, to me that is success.

Selling the work or being paid for creating it is simply survival in a capitalist world, not a measure of success.

Money means you eat, not you succeed as a creative. 

When people ask what I do, when I say I am a photographer, 9 times out of 10 they ask 'Have you photographed anyone famous?'  When I reply yes, often the reaction is 'Ooh you must be worth a few quid then' You reckon?

Why is it never 'They are a great actor that must have been a great experienced?' 

I am never faced with such a reaction. My success, as a creative is always equated by others financially.

The fabulous Actress & performer Tupele Dorgu, Photographed in 2015. 

Lots of the most famous and celebrated artists and musicians lived and died financially poor, yet rich in content, and in my view were highly successful. Yet only now does their work make money, changing hands at auction for often millions of pounds, and deeming them successful in this capitalist world. Take Vincent Van Gogh as one example. 

Vincent Van Hogh 'Starry night' Image source

Van Gogh produced 2000 works during his life, but only sold 2! Does this mean that he was not successful? Of course not, he just didn't make any money from his art while he was alive, the art and therefore Van Gogh was still as success! 

I often speak to artists and photographers who are desperate for recognition, for acceptance, to prove they are successful. I myself have been one of these artists. Most of these people are producing awesome work and as such are already successful. 

Success depends on your own desires. Money enables you to survive, but it does not guarantee you creative success.

Did you make an image you were happy with? Did you learn from the process? For me that is real success.

For the homeless Ex Service man who is forced to live in the street, getting through the day without freezing to death is success. 

Homeless man and his dog, selling the 'Big issue' Sheffield, 2015. 

Don't misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with becoming a multi million pound earning Photographer, artist or whatever, bloody good luck to ya! But in doing so it does not mean you are more successful than the guy who just shot their first well exposed, in focus image!

So the next time you see a Photographers work (including your own) don't simply equate the work to how well its sold, how much the artist, photographer or you were paid, how widely it has been published or exhibited.

The image was created, and that for most artists is beyond a success.

Cheers all


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