Every once in a while you have to stop and scrape all the extra stuff off your plate and start clean.

I've been doing too many disparate things this year and I've found, to my dismay, that I am not a good multi-tasker. I am not able to shift from craft to craft, from camera system to camera system. From industry to industry. And it's been hard for me to shift from my role being behind the still camera to the role of being in front of the video camera. I got too scattered and too distracted. I tried to be too many things to too many people and the thing that suffered the most was the time I had available to spend taking my photographs and writing the stuff I like to write without the slightest even ephemeral pull of a client's gravity impinging on my thought process. I was drowning under hats and subtle currents.

But we're all done. The cameras I agreed to test have been returned. Collected by FedEx only an hour ago. The Craftsy.com courses are complete and online. A recent book project politely declined. A workshop left unscheduled.

And I feel free for the first time in a long time. I don't compartmentalize well. If there are ongoing projects on my plate I find my brain including them in an inventory of subroutines that uses up precious brain cells I can hardly spare. Not having the compartments occupied has given me a huge sense of relief.

At a time when executing a profitable career as a photographer has become ever more difficult financially I find more and more of my peers have done what I have recently done and jumped on every opportunity that's been presented to them, in and out of their field. They've become workshop leaders even though most of the best shooters I know are loners and the least adapted to enjoy working with groups of people to help them improve their craft. They embrace the books. They look for sponsors. In short, their (our) careers stopped resembling a straight line of intention and became a series of part time jobs that are remotely aligned with imaging but in the end have little or nothing to do with moving our own work forward. The jobs set up new barriers to becoming the artists that we always hoped we would have the courage to work toward being.  Distraction is my number one nemesis. I'm fatigued by distraction.

I have a certain amount of fear that belts will be worn tighter around here if I only do the photos and videos and writing that I want to do but it seems like a challenge I'll have to deal with because I need to be committed and working toward a goal or a series of goals for my photography to work for me.

I'm using the gear I'm comfortable with. I'm looking for projects that seem to leverage my way of working. I'm looking forward to more personal work. I'm looking forward to the equivalent of swimming without floaties in the career I always wanted in the first place.

I'd rather labor well in obscurity than feel like a hollow actor in a role that doesn't fit. I feel like I'm coming home again to my craft. Not as an "expert" but as a beginner.

I'm not selling anything here today. I'm not suggesting you buy this camera or that camera. I don't care what kind of lighting you use. I'm not impressed by any camera. I am writing this today to say that the real challenge is to peel back the layers of distraction and fear we create that keep us from doing what we love. Life is too short for everything else.


Frank Grygier said...

Amen! But wait! I will miss the photography rock star.

Charles Haskell said...

Very well said. Now comes the hard part -- execution.

Old Gray Roy said...

Well done Kirk. And if (when) the distraction bug bites again, you will no doubt refer back this post for reaffirmation.

Kirk Tuck said...

Frank, you generally have a ringside seat for anything I do. Safe travels!

Me, Myself and I said...

yep. it's life tht needs to be lived...
everything else is a waste of time y energy
and I trust you will reap the benefits by daring to be

atmtx said...


Looks like you made a decision and you are happy with it.

Yes, life is very distracting unless we are vigilant.

Carlo Santin said...

It's a constant balancing act. The money or my artistic vision? The money is important. Let's face it, bills have to get paid, I have to eat, make a mortgage payment...but I can't let that inner spark die either, because when that's gone then I might as well be.

I don't have any answers.

Gregg Mack said...

I'm very glad to see this! Be true to yourself. Do what you love to do!

Peter F. said...

Gee, I don't understand any of this... I think I am glad I am a hobbyist as, by definition, I only have to please myself.

(I can't wait to read your next post, Kirk, as I have no idea what direction you'll be going in....)

Peter F.

Dog Photographer said...

nice post

Claire said...

Noooow you're talking Kirk ! That NX stuff was never you in the first place. I mean you put on your best fairness face and did the camera and system as much right as you could, but as a faithful reader it always felt a bit...off, and not in line with the rest of your, wonderful, work.
The Craftsy courses are great. Yet I can very easily imagine the kind of stretch it was for you to make them.
Now please give us more portraits.Please talk about video is you wish too, because although I couldn't film my own feet to save my life, and I'm overwhelmed by the sheer idea of having only to start tackling it one day, it is always interesting and intriguing to read your thoughts about it. Please finish that darn novel you've made us want by mentioning it, I've been waiting for it much longer than for my Sony A7, and I doubt your novel will be available on Monday (my A7 will).
Keep blogging the way you do, sharing about swimming and working and cmeras, and older photos of Belinda and Ben and everything else you do so well.
Your reader, faithfully.
P.S. oh and please feel free to keep on juggling with cameras, it's very enjoyable to witness ;)

A. Costa said...

"...And did you exchange
a walk on part in the war
for a lead role in a cage?"

I think you just went aware to having avoided that trap...

Kevin Blackburn said...

Thank you this was a piece that came to me at just the right time at the fork in the road of a great career and what the hell is going to happen next. Just a few days ago I made the decision NO I am not going to teach workshops NO I am not going to do video training. YES I am going to be a photographer doing the work I love the best I can and if the belt gets tight then so be it. That is better than being scattered with no defined identity, Thank you for the insights.

Shawn McBride said...

I really appreciate your posts. They serve as a reality check on the "Forget this, I want to be a photographer!" thoughts that creep in occasionally during the day-job doldrums, and remind me that I'm really happy to practice this craft as a purely artistic pursuit.

Anonymous said...

I've just posted my valedictory text on my website and I'm excited about the future - whatever it is and wherever it may take me. One instinctively knows when it's time to move on. Keep up the swimming and running, physical fitness is important, the "engine" trumps everything!

John Krumm said...

Wait! You haven't validated my EM1 purchase yet.

osv said...

if I was in your shoes, i'd create a kirk tuck youtube channel, and monetize it with google adsense.

i'd wire myself with a mic, lock down a couple of cheap camcorders on tripods, and give the assistant a camcorder to follow me with.

i'd give the segment a quick video intro, maybe even in the car on the way to the shoot, then i'd just go about the shoot largely as if it wasn't being taped... close the segment with a quick summary of what was learned and accomplished.

you would be creating what we call "evergreen" how-to content, that may only generate a trickle of income, but a bunch of those, over the years, add up.

watching how pros work has value, so people will watch... the audience learns how to pose the client, and how to handle the inevitable disruptions and equipment malfunctions that come up.

spending time on things like new equipment works for websites, because it's quick and easy writing, but it's not evergreen, so it will only drive traffic for a year or two.

I have websites and a youtube channel; these things drive traffic to each other, and in your case, it would also drive traffic to the craftsy vids.

anyway, I appreciate the content you have out here, thx for posting it, I hope that these ideas help.