Build your own thing
|Andrew McKenna||Oct 20, 2019|
I reckon most folk who start a business in photography bought a camera, enjoy taking photographs for a while, build up their skills to a level and then test them out on family and friends.
Eventually those family and friends get married, have children and the basis of a wedding/portrait business has been formed.
I didn't follow that path.
Not out of choice.
I simply didn't have that in my life. Still don't in fact.
The people in my social circles formed bands rather than getting married.
And that's still the case today.
As that was what I had access to so that was what I photographed.
The challenge is how to make things like that pay your bills.
I have earned money from this but not the type of consistent income that you'd need to, you know, pay your rent with or pay a mortgage.
And before you say it, photography is not and never has been my hobby. I have always approached it as work, as a career, as a craft.
I think of all of the other photographers over the years that I've met shooting music and I don't think there's a single one who's makes a living out of photographing music and only music.
At least none of my generation or younger.
Maybe some of the older ones did.
There aren't enough paying outlets remaining for photography anymore.
There probably aren’t enough paying outlets for writers either.
It must have been great to have been around in an earlier age when you could have worked for Sounds, Melody Maker or NME. Though to be honest I never liked NME. Probably because of the hatchet job they did on the Scottish band Bis.
This band grew up in a town that looked like mine, went to a school that looked like mine, sang songs about things I recognised.
We're almost an identical age and yet they were dismissed as irrelevant and wrong by the NME editorial of the time. As if saying 'how dare they find success without our backing'.
And that felt like they were dismissing me as much as giving a bad review to someone they didn't fancy.
Which is possibly what made me so much more interested in Scottish artists.
If I had been able to start my business from the position of having a day job I would have done things differently.
I would have started my own website/publication paid for by subscription or sponsorship.
Then I'd have photographed, interviewed, filmed and recorded artists. Maybe even putting on little gigs in order to do that.
And then with the revenue coming in from that I'd do something radical.
I'd pay folk for their creative work.
Writers, photographers, etc.
That idea has been in my head for 10 years. Maybe this is finally the platform to make it happen.
On a smaller scale at least.
In that time I've photographed so many different artists.
Not quite to the point of having photos of a generation but close.
I do have an image library that nobody else has and I want to build one that no one else can ever have.
Despite what you may think I don't really want to be shooting concert photographs.
Sure they're fun to do and they are a challenge. You do get a buzz from it, I do at least.
But sometimes you also get treated really badly.
It's hard to create something unique in concert photography. Especially if there's a handful of other photographers and you're all working under the same lights and are restricted to the same areas.
Or if the lights are out and you struggle to actually see who's in front of you.
The photo I've used for this post is of Mónica de Nut who was singing with fellow Galician singer Mercedes Peón's band. Which I photographed in January.
Surprisingly this is the first proper gig I photographed at the famous Glasgow Barrowlands. (I've photographed other events there that weren't gigs)
Between 2007 and 2013 I didn't set foot in the Barras. I had planned to but those gigs either got cancelled or downgraded to a smaller venue.
I still have ticekts and passes for things that say “Barrowlands” that actually all took place in the O2 ABC.
This photograph is part of a series. I photographed that festival as much as was physically possible. 13 nights in a row.
I made some really great work that I'm proud of.
Ultimately I’d like to be able to print them all out and put on a show.
How, when or where I do that I don't know yet. But you've got to keep doing things that challenge you and things that keep you visible, right?
And for the title of this post?
That’s the answer isn’t it?
The solution to the creatives problem.
Make a thing, do cool stuff, build an audience and ask them for support.
It doesn’t matter your what business you’re in, the same rules should apply?
I reject the idea that if you are passionate about something that you cannot make a living from it.
So I am just going to keep doing this until it works.
This substack newsletter thing is an experiment. It is not a photography blog, I’d lke my posts to be about something.
I don’t know if it will work or if I will gain any kind of traction. It is at least a worthwhile creative excerise.