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Mike, thanks for starting this discussion. I’ve been thinking about this for some time now. Not the who question. I enjoy taking pictures, so I guess I’m taking them for me. The question I’m pondering is, what next?
The recent editorial in LensWork No. 161 Feb 2023 by Brooks Jensen resonated with me. He talks about the “Plateau of Despair” and describes different routes for photographers after they reach a certain level of competence. Some sell their camera gear and take up something new (only to hit another plateau years later). They give up because they decide they have nothing more to say with photography. Some move into publishing, teaching and sales – teaching as judges, tour leaders, workshop leaders, publishing books.
Jensen suggests that reaching this plateau “is not a bad thing.” He says it’s “when the art life begins.” It’s “when you can do something that’s not just gathering another cliche image another calendar shot, another bunch of likes or award ribbons.” He says it means that “you are ready to practice art and do work that is truly your own.” Make the transition from pretty pictures to artwork.
Of course, that is all easier said than done. But I found his editorial inspiring and an indication of a possible direction forward.