Sunday, December 21, 2008

School Dayz 'n' No Pay

Photo: 2nd Year in College/E.Coli Outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario, 2000
Current Location: Windsor, Ontario, Canada / 42° 19′ 60 N, 83° 1′ 60 W

I remember clearly my first day of college, alone and confused, lost in a sea of unforgiving fate. Sitting in the lecture hall, my eyes would wander from row to row, aisle to aisle as I search for rhyme and reason for my chosen path. All I wanted was to shoot, to compose images and tell stories. To challenge myself, and my soul.

But sadly, all I got were lectures, hence being in a lecture hall and not a studio. Theoretic formulas about film and fine-art populated my mental psyche--in one ear, out the other. Textbooks chronicling the lives of dead filmmakers quickly became my most prized possessions--costing more than my hand me-down 88 Olds'. Sitting in the middle of a lecture, I'd dream of movie magic; a marriage of picture and sound flickering in the darkness. But the chronic voice of a professor I chose to vaguely understand kept echoing in my proverbial mind, especially when he said "Don't do it for the money!"

"Don't do it for the money!" he said a second time. And just like that, the room awoke to a rude awakening. "If you're in it for the money, you're in the wrong program. Drop out now!" he continued. Eyes glazed wide open.

For me, it was no surprise. Money was never my motive. All I wanted to do was shoot.

Living off student loans and eating one meal a day, I'd spend my nights in the studio--trying desperately to perfect a craft that had no rules. Sleeping under a desk for two hours, I'd awake the next morning to attend class--dressed in a free Kodak t-shirt I'd worn three days straight. F-stops, shutter, and film speed became my only language. Photography became my only obsession.

As photographers, I'm sure we've all lived this sort of life in one way or another. We know the value of our success--and the prices we pay for our perfection.

For those of us who truly enjoy what we do, money has little value. We seek something much grandeur than that, something that permeates deep within us. It's an image. An image that takes the place of a thousand words, one that we hold closest to our soul--regardless of what anyone says--regardless of what the rewards may be.

Internationally acclaimed photographer Joe McNally said it best:

"We run when others walk. We work when others play. We adjust our schedules to accommodate theirs. We present the flimsiest of reasons to insist that we be allowed to keep doing that which we need to do, something for us that is as necessary as breathing. Paid or not, it is what we do."


Dan Denardo said...


John said...

Thanks for sharing with us your passion, how everything started :)

It is when you get the deep down satisfaction from what you are doing - and not bothered by how much it pays you - that's what we call the perfect job.

By the way, you have very excellent English. Now where did that come from? You could be a photographer cum storyteller, you know? :)

Ron said...

Thanks, John for your comment.
Just like picture taking, writing comes easy when you're expressing your passion. If you asked me to write about horses or some odd topic, I'd be completely lost for words. But when it comes to writing about things I love, the words flow pretty easy.

DUTA said...

Your words do a great service to photography as there are people who wrongly think it's just a matter of "pushing the button".

And indeed, " a picture is worth a thousand worde" - no doubt about that.

Ron said...

Duta, thank you for your very kind words. It means a lot to me.

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