It has now been five years since the global economic system nearly collapsed into ruin, and the ensuing half-decade has been difficult for most — apart from the infamous 1 percent — including professional photographers. The ease and accessibility of digital technology combined with the rise of the mostly free Internet have eliminated many of the ways photographers eked out a middle-class living. Even university jobs — once a stable and comfortable perch — have been replaced by cheap and benefits-free adjuncts.
What’s a struggling photographer to do?
The burgeoning model requires a Malcolm X “By Any Means Necessary” attitude. Photographers are encouraged to write, blog, teach workshops, engage in social media, secure sponsorships, develop exterior passions and basically do anything and everything to put food on the table. One blogger has called the phenomenon the “21st century hustle.” (O.K., that blogger is me.) But as much as this feels new and different, we can trace the Renaissance-man lineage back to the most famous American photographer in history: Ansel Adams.
Mr. Adams, ever the optimist, once proclaimed: “The best picture is around the corner. Like prosperity.” That sums up his future-embracing outlook, because when Mr. Adams committed himself to his career, there were few examples of successful professional photographic artists whom he could emulate. Ansel Adams’s career provides a road map to potential success while also serving as a reminder that everything old will be new again.