3.06.2011

Ennui. Success. Anxiety. Work. Throughput. Satisfaction.



I should be happy, satisfied and feeling relatively secure right now.  Business is booming, my fifth book is just about ready to ship off to the publisher,  I've got money in the bank and we didn't panic too much during the "People to Goldman Sachs" wealth transfer of 2008-2009.  In fact, we made money in both our savings and retirement accounts.  So why do I feel more like the bottom photo instead of the top photo?

It's the age-old conundrum:  Am I better off challenged and struggling or am I better off trying to maintain whatever little lead I've accrued.....knowing that it could all come tumbling down with the capricious whip of fate? Or the duplicitous hand of a new generation of investment bankers? Am I happier wishing optimistically for better things in the future or am I more depressed knowing that there's a long way to fall?

I've been living the frugal mentality for the last three years.  Only buying what I needed to stay competitive.  Only spending on stuff we needed for maintenance.  Eating peanut butter and jelly and staying out of expensive restaurants.  But last week I decided that we're either recovering (as a national economy) or we were all going to die.  And I decided that, if there will be bread lines and riots in the street,  I couldn't possibly face them without a new MacBook Pro,  a new fluid head for my video tripod and a full set of Carl Zeiss lenses for my Canon camera bodies.  Forget frugality.  It's time to have fun.

But seriously.  I think my anxiety is tied to all the mixed messages I get every day.  The internet tells me financial armageddon is nigh.  But my clients throw me good work consistently.  And my stocks keep rising in value.  The web tells me that my chosen profession is the latest minimum wage job category.  But my rates keep going up and people keep paying faster and faster.  The schools are kicking teachers out the doors and Texans are nonchalant about class room with 40 kids.  But my kid's school district is resisting all the madness.  It's amazing.  We all understood that it was fear that caused the market (and the economy) to finally collapse.  Why can't we understand that it will be blind optimism that will bring it back?

Oh well.  Back to work.  


15 comments:

Aaron said...

I know where you're coming from Kirk. I too feel blessed with my career and life over the past few years, but have maintained frugality. I've found the good sides of it.

1. I'm still as happy as I ever was.
2. I spend a lot less time "out" and I spend a LOT more time at the gym. After 6 months I have a six pack and lost 30 pounds.
3. I have extra savings in the account to use for equipment if the need arises for a job, etc.

Nothing wrong with being frugal. Nothing wrong with new tripod heads either, just don't waste it.. :)

Jim said...

I beg to differ on your conclusion. It was blind optimism that led people to believe that real estate would go up in double digits endlessly. It was blind optimism that rated derivatives as highly quality investments. I believe in optimism but not blindness.

Ed Z said...

I hear ya, Kirk :-) I got tired of my scrimping and penny pinching the past two years, and went out and bought myself a Leica for my birthday (M4-P, with a Zeiss 50/2 planar - chrome of course). it's really rejuvenated my creative juices. Between that and my Mamiya 6, I'm seriously considering refocusing my portfolio entirely on film...

I feel like that little splurge has opened a whole new direction for my photography, hopefully one that will be even more profitable!

Glenn Harris said...

Great post Kirk. If you don't believe in your own business then no-one probably will either. No one can control the financial sector so we try to control what we can and invest wisely. Last year was my lowest for capital investment and all that was in lighting gear, not camera gear. This year will probably be much the same.

mr_chompers said...

I'm doing extremely well financially also, but the plural of anecdote is not data. I am very happy that you're financially secure, but one cannot take their own experiences as a universal that will work for others every time. There is a reason there are literally millions in financial trouble, and it's not just a lack of optimism, there is something seriously wrong in (the proverbial) Kansas.

Dean Forbes said...

Consider yourself extremely fortunate to be making a living doing what you love to do. Most of us are not doing so or wish we could.

kirk tuck said...

Dean I think too many people mistake the thrill of actually taking pictures with the reality of our profession. I would estimate that actual shooting or time with our subjects is less than (LESS THAN) 10% of the time we spend. The rest is marketing, asking for work, evaluating and negotiating contracts, lining up locations and models, compromising on locations and models because of budgets, doing paper work, asking (OVER AND OVER AGAIN) to be paid for the work already done. And as lovely as it is taking the photos you aren't always taking the kinds of photos you would if unfettered by $$ reality. You work often in the service of someone else's vision. And the leitmotif that runs thru it all is: Will I ever be hired again? Will I be able to save enough to retire? Will I be able to put my kid thru college? What happens when I get too old to carry all this stuff around.

I'm not sure I am any more fortunate than anyone else with a job. There are tradeoffs for everything. If you work at UT or Dell or IBM and your company or the economy has a slow month you still get paid and you still get bennies and you have the expectation that you'll be paid again next month. When the economy goes cold for freelance photographers ALL the money stops. The bills don't stop but ALL THE INCOME STOPS. It can be quite sobering, as many learned in the last three years.

Comes with being in business for yourself. Part fun, part sucky.

Trudy said...

Very interesting juxtapositions between what the world says and what your experience is. Most people feel this way, whether it leans toward good (as in your case) or leans toward bad (in many cases). Rarely is life exactly like what the media would prescribe it should be for someone based on arbitrary or factual facets of who people are.

"We all understood that it was fear that caused the market (and the economy) to finally collapse. Why can't we understand that it will be blind optimism that will bring it back?" <--Great comment.

I like what you wrote in the comment to Dean because yes, the bills don't stop and don't care if you are having a hard time or not. In fact, very rarely will anyone but you yourself care if you are having a hard time or not, unless you're lucky enough to have genuine friends and a good family. Everyone loves someone on top, but when struggling, amazing how that "love" evaporates like water droplets on a desert summer day.

Great post, enjoyed reading it.

kirk tuck said...

Thanks Trudy, and one of the advantages of having been around the block is being able to understand the fine line between success and public relations. Photographers who are generally worshipped by the public are those who've put the bravest faces on abject fear and overwhelming need.

neopavlik said...

I like the bottom picture better, has a painterly feel.

I've been in the surviving mentality for ~ 2 years and have been working/waiting for the thriving moment to break through ( I presume all the good things will come at once ).

I'd recommend treating yourself every so often but there is a neat quote by John Stuart Mills : "I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them."

kirk tuck said...

nopavlik, A thoughtful reply to be sure. As a student of Buddhism I get that desire=suffering but there is a difference between "you" as person and "you" as a manifestation of your business. While "I" could be happy with a comfy chair and a good book the "me" who is the business needs to stay competitive. At least that's my rationalization.....

Frank Grygier said...

My take is decidedly more Western. Work hard to fulfill your desires. Then the pain and suffering you feel will leave you until the next desire comes along.

Michael Ferron said...

Yeah I believe the news services help create deeper recessions by frightening folks with potential bad news. Everyone puts a lock on their wallet and so then the photographer doesn't get that extra portrait which results in the waitress not getting the $10 tip etc. A snowball effect.

GTR-5 said...

It wasn't pessimism, nor was it blind optimism that crashed the economy. It was the takeover of the real world economy by big finance, which you correctly describe as the People to Goldman Sachs transfer of wealth. When money itself was allowed to become a commodity it spelled the beginning of the end. I could go on and on, but Thomas Jefferson said it all beautifully over two centuries ago:

"If the American People ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation then by deflation, the banks and the corporations that will grow up around them, will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their forefathers conquered."

Not to be too somber, I'd like to thank you for sharing your wisdom on photography. I have two of your books and have learned a tremendous amount from them.

recyclethis said...

Kirk,
What did you shoot these photos with? Great article too!