Do IT for the Money or Don’t

Today’s post will probably pose more questions than it answers.

Don’t Do It for the Money

Has anyone ever said to you, “Don’t do it for the money”, in reference to photography? Or even some other artistic endeavor of yours. Are you guilty of saying it? “I don’t do it for the money.” I am wondering why this saying seems to occur so much within the artistic aspirations of life. Why does the culture of the United States seem to devalue artistic expression? After traveling the world, I truly believe our culture places less focus on the arts over many other world-wide cultures.

My dad always told me to stay away from being an artist when I was younger. I heard my wife say it once to my daughter. Do we as a culture value stock brokers more than someone who captures photos of the current plight of the polar bear? Does a stock broker make trades because he loves the stress associated with building his client’s retirement portfolio or does he in fact do IT for the money? And would the stock broker EVER say he doesn’t do IT for the money?

The Conundrum

Did Steve Jobs do it for the money or did he do it because devices like the iPod and iPhone were his creative outlet? A long time ago when our economy crashed I read an article in Newsweek that sited lack of creativity focused classes in schools for the generation who was responsible for the crash. Essentially, they never learned anything about art in school. They were really intelligent, but their intelligence was completely book learned. When the crash happened they didn’t know how fix the problems because there weren’t any solutions in any books. No one had a creative thought process to move towards rectifying the situation.

“If I may…Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now…you’re selling it, you wanna sell it.” ~ Dr. Ian Malcom, Jurassic Park.

We have now devalued the arts to the point that we don’t even teach it in many of our schools. The United States feels that it is more important to teach our kids to test well as opposed to being able to problem solve on their own. It then makes perfect sense that many people disregard the arts and artistic expression in today’s day and age.

Ferrari or No Ferrari

Do you ever think you will see an artist driving a Ferrari? How about the stock broker?

With this thought process in mind, why don’t photographer’s shoot for money? Has our own statement of “I don’t do it for the money” deprecated what we do? Or is it the artist way to look away from the money as to not deflate the creative pursuit?

The reason for this entire post is that I am in fact guilty of saying that I don’t do it for the money – as recent as a week ago. I know the horror, right. I am questioning why I said it because the hard cold reality is that I am a photographer for the money. I pay my rent, my insurance, even my utilities with the money that I earn from being a photographer.

Now I think there is a hazy line is drawn here because I absolutely love what I do. Which then poses the question of would I do it if there were no money in it? Well, I don’t drive a Ferrari, so there isn’t a ton of money here. There is however, life experience. Have you ever seen your 7-year-old’s reaction to seeing an alpha male wolf a hundred feet from your truck? I have. Have you ever suffered with two other people on a grueling 30 mile mountain bike ride in 95 degree heat before? I have. Have you ever had the opportunity to watch your 1-year-old test the feeling of sand beneath her feet as the sun sets over the Caribbean Ocean? I have. These are experiences that will carry on in my mind for the remainder of my life.

Do It for the Money

While money will get me to some of those locations for those experiences, I could realistically throw a backpack on and walk there for less to nothing if I truly wanted. Maybe that is why photographers and other artists don’t do it for the money? Deep down inside we know that we don’t need a cent to live our lives the way we want. There is a freedom in that. I think it is that freedom that in turn makes us creative.

My desire to be a photographer outweighs my desire to make money at photography. However, the creative monster inside me fuels the desire to even try to become successful at business as well. It becomes an evil game of cat and mouse, marketer and photographer.

If I sit back and think about the need for the Ferrari, I quickly realize that what I truly NEED is to watch my son wheelie his bike down the street or my daughter drop into two feet of blower powder yelling at me to ski faster. Those needs prove to me that #adventureisthejourney. They also prove, that while I don’t do it for the money, you can bet your ass that I am going to try and sell my memories to all those who have never realized they NEEDED them – the stockbroker. Wink. That is what marketing does for those big companies. It makes you want to go, to obtain what you don’t have, to wish you were someone else.

I have vowed that after this post I will never say that I don’t do it for the money. Nope, never again, because I do it for that and so much more.

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