Yesterday, Michael Schmidt, a renowned German photographer (who, amongst other things, was instrumental in bringing a lot of US photographers to Germany), spoke to a group of students I am on the road with (as part of the Hartford Photo MFA program). Amongst the many things that he said he noted that today most photographers seemed to be thinking about their careers (gallery shows) first and about their photography second. He argued that was the wrong approach. Schmidt said that one’s career should merely be a by-product. What really mattered was the work.
Make no mistake, I’m not saying photographers shouldn’t strive for a gallery show. But I’m with Schmidt, what truly matters are the images. Isn’t there something incredibly rewarding about producing a great image every now and then, out of one’s own, very personal engagement with this world? Why would one want see that as less important than whether the results of those truly precious moments (that, let’s face it, also come with a lot of hard work) are packaged appropriately for commerce?