In defense of doing things exactly the way you want to.

People are amazingly well inventoried with advice.  Not actual experience, per se, just advice.  If I listened to everyone's advice I'd be stuck in a practical job hoping to eck out enough good performance reviews to be able to sit tight and make it to retirement.  With any luck upper management would have not pillaged the pension funds and I would be smart enough not to invest in my own employer's stock.  If I took everyone's advice I would have made photography a nice hobby.  But I would prudently research all the options first and then buy a system and stay the course.

If I had a real job I would be tired when I came home.  If I had a real job we probably would have felt that we could afford silly things like cable television.  And instead of printing photos from Russia I could be catching up on Madmen, and re-runs of Seinfeld,  and watching a recent Cohen brother's movie from the safety and comfort of my couch.

If I listened to everyone's advice I would have sold stock in 2009 instead of buying it.  And I would, no doubt, have flipped houses several times by now and gone from a comfortable place in a nice neighborhood to a McMansion that I could never afford now that the bottom has dropped out of the economy.

If I listened to my corporate friends I would never waste my time writing a blog and if I listened to my accountant I sure wouldn't write it for free.  If I listened to the high school counselor I would have ended up as a mechanic, even though I've never been able to figure out hand tools.  

But most of the advice I get these days is about trading in my chosen career for something safer.  Something with employer supplied health insurance and a regular paycheck.  I'd love to get my first novel published and start on a second one but all my friends and advice givers want me to keep writing books on photography because it seems to work out okay.

And when it comes to photography everyone seems to know just what's in style and how to create great art.  I know that the two photos above don't rise to the level of great art.  Jana and I did them for the fun value.  We shot what we wanted.  I shot the way I wanted.   Because I've learned a very, very important lesson in life.  It's short.  We never know when it will end.  We don't know our own expiration date.  And I've watched so many people put off having true, belly laughing fun until it's just too damn late.  Photography is a young person's pursuit so if you want to do it you need to get right to it.  And never grow old.  

There's a safe way to do just about everything and there's the fun way to do stuff.  The ven diagrams rarely intersect.  I may be delusional but I think it's better to do what you dream you might want to do in retirement first and then get around to the serious stuff.  

I have a professional friend that just closed his photography studio.  He's not cutting and running.  He's not going to live his life out in a quiet state government job.  He's all in.  He sold the house.  He sold all the gear that wouldn't fit in one camera bag.  He's 50 years old and his avowed goal is to become a professional vagabond and see the rest of the world.  Crazy?  You bet.  My advice to him?  Go for it.


Michael Ferron said...

Love that first shot. Candid style expressions are my favorite. (Doesn't hurt that she's beautiful)

My happiest days were when I had just enough $$ for my next meal and a cold beer. No one could squeeze blood from the stone as there was none to give. You are free and untouchable at that point.

The Photophile said...

I have no advice for you... or for myself for that matter! Lets just keep having a blast while the rest toil for their corporate "slave" masters! Woohoo!

Let us know how it goes for your "crazy" friend.

Patrick Snook said...

Great stuff, Kirk! Brave and true. I'm reminded of that book you recommended, a while back . . . something like "Art and Fear".

Keep posting and snapping away.

Kirk Decker said...

(Kirk, I don't want to hijack your post, please feel free to take this idea and run with it if you wish.)

Let's all play the vagabond photographer game! Sorta like the desert island lens game, except that while no one really wants to be on a desert island with just one lens, everyone has entertained the idea of being a vagabond photographer. Of course, the camera system is easy, but what about that wide format printer, your color calibrated monitor, and the quad core computer you just bought to run CS5 with? Can we cut the chains to our computers and monitors, and find greater freedom with the computers at the public library? Unshackle ourselves from RAW, and have our jpegs 1hour'd at CostCo? (Profiles for every CostCo printer are available online.) Will there be room for a photo album in our duffel bag? I think a vagabond photographer might have a small van, or Honda Element, but not an RV. What are you putting in the Element Kirk?

Daniel said...

Great Read. Scott Kelby's Thursday Guest Blogger had something similar to say: Just get out and do it.

Best Wishes and Happiness to your friend.

The Photophile said...

Hey Kirk Decker, I'm already a vagabond photographer, and the philosophy fits my lifestyle too. Let me explain, I live in a 21 year old caravan, I drive a 21 year old car, my favourite camera is... yep, 21 years old, but it's not the oldest, my Olympus Trip 35 is 41 years old! No kidding! The F801s usually only has a 50mm f1.8 attached.

I haven't had a salaried job in 13,5 years and I couldn't be happier.

So is it possible to live a great life outside of the soul sapping materialistic, digitized system of the day? Hell yeah! That said, I am writing this connected to the internet via my multi processor computer, via a high speed wireless modem, while looking at my high res LCD screen... damn, there's no getting away from it all.

I scan my own negatives so that I can put them on my computer, and download them to my blog via my wireless modem, all while sitting in my old caravan with my classic LandCruiser parked outside. Old and new collide beautifully!

This is my idea of heaven compared to the 14 hour corporate days I had to work before I got smart!

Desert island?, hey bring it on!

kirk tuck said...

Kirk Decker, you're thinking too big and too comfortable. My friend is heading to Guadalajara to catch a non-US flight to Cuba. He's gonna start there because he wants to see what it's like before the StarBucks and Kentucky Fried Chicken arrive in the weeks after Castro's death. Next stop for him after that is Africa and then maybe India. One back of cameras, one bag of clothes. He's a Canon shooter. Just dumped all his 2.8 glass for f4 glass. Less to carry, maybe sharper.....That's a real vagabond.

Fabian | The Friendly Anarchist said...

One more reason to never miss a post on this blog. The best advice is not given, but lived. To me, seeing the work and lifestyle reflected in your posts always are exactly that.

Brian Carey said...

The first portrait is gorgeous!

Rick Moore said...

I had the "leave it and go" conversation at a party just last night. It makes my feet itch and I am in my 60's. I am close to scratching that itch.

Bill Millios said...

For what it's worth, I told you to finish the novel.


(Another vagabond wannabe here.)

Anonymous said...

I'll have to admit that I chose the practical path and am bewildered by the corporate world I work where I try to keep up with what ever it is I'm supposed to be doing. I started off studying art but at some point I lost my way and listened to all those voices that said the practical things like you mentioned. But I figured out my mistakes and am trying to correct for them even if I am a little late. I work hard to not be too tired for my passions even if it is hard (because I really am tired at the end of the day.) Not only does this post resonate with me but I also find it very inspiring.

Brad Martin said...

I could not have read this at a better time, Kirk. Thanks.

kirk tuck said...

Thanks for the feedback. As I look around I see people loosing their jobs at company where they've worked for ten years or more. Blind sided. Lawyers, accountants, radiologists. People who thought they had the most secure careers. Banking on no change they established big "burn rates" and then, "BAM". No job, no way to maintain the burn rate. And their retirement is in jeopardy. And they did everything "right". Even if I join them in geriatric poverty I can look back and, like Sammy Davis Jr., say, "I did it my way...."

Quit now while you are young and smart and do what you dream. You really don't get a second shot...

Vincent said...

Hi Kirk, own your minimalist book (love it!), read your blog (not always agreeing), shared (with your credit) the hilarious, but o so familiar 'client' video on facebook, but I think with this one I cannot but 100% agree with this post!
Keep it coming, it's a pleasure reading your posts! Oh, and if I may give you an advice....stick to Nikon! ;)

Cheers vincent

ps, beautiful pics and model btw

DA Bateman said...

Kirk, I have read enough of your blogs To fully advice you to get your Novel published!

If you want, or lean to a full time fun flex job, try getting signed on to a publication house. Write more novels that you enjoy. Or just self publish them and try to sell them to us on Amazon (through your self store) and this Blog.

Your photo books do well, because the 400x people here like your writing and you photography. But there are a lot more people who read books than shoot with Canon 5DmkII. So pitch it to the soccor moms or the people who shoot EPL1 and you will do very well.

Still no health care in writing, but you may get an other pay check that might be more regular.

Anonymous said...

I gave up trying to have a "career" years ago when I was overlooked for a managerial position that went to someone way less qualified.

Now, I work so I can play hard and explore photography and find interesting places and people to capture.

I'm not as daring as many of you in that I'd find it difficult to give up some of the creature comforts that I currently enjoy. I admire that boldness and find it inspiring...

Rick Moore said...

It is getting easier to rationalize going native now that my retirement funds are non-existent and the chance of recouping a savings that could last through my quickly coming oldness has dwindled to zero. What the heck, I am going to be broke one way or another. When you got nothing you got nothing to loose.

kirk tuck said...

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..."

--Janis Joplin

Rick Moore said...

I was thinking more along the lines of Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone". Last stanza, second to last line.
"When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose"

Nothing wrong with the Texan's view. Must be something we inherited from our ancestors.

cidereye said...

Great piece Kirk, write that book too!

Agreed Rick on the Zim, next line really covers the whole picture though:-

"You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal"

Life's not as complicated as govt's want us to live, maybe we are due another decade like the 1960's all over again? Reject the system, hippies, peace & love? Makes far more sense than the average modern life. :-)

Curt Schimmels said...

First, I've commented on the first image before, I very much like it because of its environmental nature.

As to the subject of your post, I feel like you rail against corporatism on a regular basis, and I get that, but without some of it, you would never have these tools you use to do your work. Some even see their participation in the creation of a tech tool like a camera or a laptop as a part of their own creative process, regardless that they may be doing so in a corporate environment.

You've also commented on how you see people choosing "safe" paths, that seem to have turned on them, where they lost everything. There are many sides to this, and while I certainly know people who turn to safety, I know a lot of lawyers, accountants, and radiologists who do what they do because they love it, not because it is "safe." Nothing is life is guaranteed, and we should all understand that, regardless of the path we take. BTW, I know plenty of people who followed their bliss who were not able to make that work for them, so that's not a guaranteed path, either.

Can we just love what we do, without feeling the need to compare to someone else?

kirk tuck said...

Hi Curt. Thanks for the counterpoint. I don't think anyone who is passionate or happy or satisfied with what they do for a living needs to change anything. I love that many of my friends love the challenges of engineering, medicine, and even sales. I'd never expect them to switch if they were fulfilled. I guess I must meet a lot of folks who aren't so satisfied. I'm telling THEM not to wait until it's too late.

As to corporations doing good stuff you are undoubtably right. I guess people like Apple and the Four Seasons and Target get a lot of stuff right. And I get to work with the things they've brought to society. But there's plenty more that need a good poke with a sharp stick. Computer companies that lie and take the cheap road out and mess up people's live and businesses with defective products. Then there's the folks at places like ADM and Monsanto and Halliburton and (endless list) where greed and expediency overwhelm any benefit they may have brought to the table in their original iteration.

The bottom line is that corporations in general have been able to buy so much mindshare and squelch so much competition that I can't give them a carte blanche pass based on the products we like. They spend billions to bend our mindshare to their selfish (by the very nature of capitalism) needs. They have the resources to control the debate. I'm just doing my part to point out that they've destroyed as many lives as they've saved, killed as many innovations as they brought to market and demanded more from their loyal employees that I think most of them deserve.

But I agree with your premise. You can love a non-art job. You can thrive in a corporation. If you're having fun it's silly to leave the party.....

Rick Moore said...

Kirk, Just setting the record straight. I understand that you are too young to remember this but Janis Joplin is not the author of your quote: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose...".

The song was written by Kris Kristofferson; he is the author of "Me and Bobby McGee".

kirk tuck said...

Cool. Credit where credit is due. Kris Kristofferson, Rhodes Scholar, musician, song writer.

Cindy said...

That was good to read... thank you!