Combatting the Oppressive Sense of Isolation Many Freelance Photographers Feel

In talking to friends and peers who are photographers and have been photographers for many, many years, the undercurrent that permeates conversations these days is the overwhelming sense of isolation many of us feel. While this has always been a loner's sport the recent economic upheavals have played havoc with our sense of being connected to the world outside our studios. In recent years the stream of jobs and contact with assistants and suppliers provided an almost daily intersection with people.

The first erosion of this feeling of belonging came as an unintended accessory to our embrace of PhotoShop and post processing. In our haste to control our digital files (and to leverage the fictive cost savings of electronic image massage) we inadvertently killed off the labs.

Our logic driven (but totally misguided) demand for the lowest price on everything we bought for our businesses effectively killed off most of the good camera stores. With the labs and the retailers gone we lost two points of intersection that were part of the fabric of the freelance life.

Now the recession has taken away a large percentage of our human contact with clients. I don't know about you but we're booking fewer jobs and the ones that come in seem to be produced and negotiated and delivered all on the web. Once again diminishing human contact.

It's a recipe for depression and anxiety if I ever saw one. And unlike our Latin and European counterparts who have rich history of men socializing over coffee during the day or drinks in the late afternoons our Calvinistic society demands efficiency and frowns on time spent that can't be quantified and its productivity measured.

In order to preserve our sense of well being I think photographers must adopt new strategies to reincorporate ourselves into the every day fabric of communal life. We need to leave our dark caves and reconnect.

I have a ten point program and I'm following it as well as I can:

1. Coffee outside the house. Find a coffee shop or diner with a fun crowd and go there for your coffee in the morning. (yes, I understand the accountant driven "Latte Factor" of economics, but have you priced psychiatric care lately? Believe me, two bucks for a cup of coffee is a bargain.)

2. Have at least one lunch a week with a friend, peer or comrade. Complain, celebrate, talk nerd talk. Connect.

3. Have at least one lunch a week with a client or potential client. Having to shave and take off the sweat pants and put on a reasonable outfit will at least make you feel like you still get the drill.

4. Join a group of runners, swimmers, bowlers or whatever. The health advantages of regular exercise are enormous and the mental health advantages of doing your "whatever" with a group are even greater. Interesting thought, put together a "walking group" and do it as many mornings a week as you can muster.

5. Have a project to work on. My fall back is to plan and put up shows of my work. It puts me in the public and is a workable, sustainable goal.

6. Find a cause you feel very strongly about and donate your photographic talent. You'll get practice, exposure and move the game forward for your cause.

7. Help someone else get their project done. You get karma and you might learn something new.

8. If you've been thinking about getting into video but clients just don't get that you're the next Fellini or Spielberg you might want to find some actors and do your own project. You never know where it might go.

9. If you need more clients do what the lions and cheetahs do and find out where the clients hang out. You'll have more fun hunting if you look in the habitats appropriate to the species. You're sure not going to find busy art buyers on those flickr forae!!!!


10. Stop making lists like this and get out into the world. Life is still swirling around and if we stop tying our self image so tightly with our business success we might make better art, meet nicer people, and be a lot less isolated.

Just some thoughts on a bright, Tuesday morning.