The Assignment

11Zowie Cover 1960_edited-1

When I used to read photographic magazines they all wrote about photographers going out on assignments. Some were domestic, some foreign, but all were exciting. There were photos to show what had been done and advertisements dotting the page to show what equipment you could buy to do the same thing. Not surprisingly, the photographers were all dashing and romantic…with the possible exception of Weegee.

As I grew up I realised that the assignment system required an editor to order it, a publication to print it, and a cashier to pay for it. Having none of those, I wandered off like the vast majority of amateurs and took pictures of sunsets, deserted alleyways, and flowers. I went to Albany and Busselton. I took pictures of the river. I could have been better, more artistically occupied in throwing lumps of coal at stray rats.

Now I have realised that if there is no-one ordering and paying you, you get to follow your own muse. The thing is to find it. To begin with, it isn’t in photography magazines or camera advertisements.

It is in whatever really calls to you – and here you have to analyse this for yourself. Start with considering what television shows, movies, or books really appeal to you. Isolate three of these and then think what there is about them that you like. Colour? Action? Costume? Emotional drama? Sex? Mystery? Whatever it is, THAT is the thing that you want to seek in your own photographs. You needn’t find it in the exact reproduction of the TV or movie images – that would be impossible in many cases and stifling in others. But you can certainly translate the appeal of a book into an image on your own terms.

The great thing about finding this sort of inspiration is that there are innumerable others out there who share overlapping interests. The entertainers, costumed societies, small world makers, adventurers, etc. are all waiting for someone to illustrate their desires and dreams for them, to them.

Your viewers were once hard to reach – publications were pretty exclusive when they had to make money from advertising and breaking in was hard to do. You had to pound pavements, typewriters, doors, or heads to get a chance to show your work. Now you can open a WordPress or Blogger or Flicker account and go for it straight away. You can link your pictures to posts and beat people over the head with these on Facebook. You can offer images for sale and have them stolen while completing easy household tasks. You can promote yourself as an icon, superstar, mentor, or wunderkind as much as you like and you don’t even have to turn on the ‘reply’ button if you don’t want to.

Best of all – the equipment you need to do this is really quite simple. The sellers of new gear would not have this so, nor will they generally reveal it to you, but a little experiment will show you how simple success can be. All you need is something you want to see or say.


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