There was a recent post on The Online Photographer titled “How to be a Professional Photographer” where Mike Johnston commented about how difficult it was to make a living as a professional photographer. There were a number of comments both in support of his post as well as lamenting the difficulty of the profession. There were also a few humorous comments.
The joke that I’ve always loved about being a professional photographer goes something like this: An amateur photographer is someone who has a good job so they can buy nice gear and travel to exotic places to take photographs. A professional photographer is someone whose spouse has a good job so they can buy nice gear and travel to exotic places to take photographs. Somehow that’s never worked for me – I couldn’t get the spousal support I needed to pursue my passion. I’m kidding, of course!
Kirk Tuck chimed into the conversation with a thoughtful comment and a post on his own blog. Most of Kirk’s post was his usual well-reasoned commentary. He is a professional photographer with a lot to be proud of. He has seemingly mastered the business side of the business while staying current with technology and changes in the marketplace. His is a voice to pay attention to when it comes to operating a photography studio as a business. The statement that got a little under my skin, however – probably because it is a bit of a sore subject for me – was when he said that “retirement is only for people who didn’t like their careers.”
Of course the publishing world is full of people writing about how everyone should be pursuing their passion/finding their North Star/determining the color of their parachute, etc., and that if they aren’t living their dream they need to (after buying the author’s particular book, of course) set off on their own path of self-discovery and do their own wonderful passion-inducing thing. Wouldn’t that be lovely? In my opinion, very few folks are fortunate enough to even figure out what they are passionate about, let alone have all the skills and (to a certain extent) good luck required to actually make a living from their work. And that assumes they figure out what they are passionate about early enough in their life to actually do something about it!
The rest of us get jobs. Even if it is banking or insurance or hospitality or something that isn’t terribly glamorous, hopefully our jobs provide enough of whatever kind of satisfaction we are looking for, pay enough to cover the rent and save with a little left over to spend on something fun. If we’re really fortunate we are able to keep our jobs long enough to call it a career while saving and investing responsibly so that at some point we can walk away from work and do something – anything – else. Not that our work sucks or that our careers have been a failure, it’s just that instead of “pursuing our passion” we found a good enough job that we were able to do long enough to finally be able to walk away. That’s not failure, it’s a different kind of success!
Retirement is a subject I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and preparing for. I’ve had a great career and am proud of what I’ve accomplished over 40 years in banking. Even though I haven’t been “pursuing my passion” by someone’s arbitrary standards, I’m very happy with the direction things have taken and am looking forward to being able to explore the world with the person I love without the constraints and distractions of work. And that is something I’m very passionate about!
Last day at work – for both me and Kathy – is May 25! 🙂