In response to my last post, in which I suggested (half seriously and half tongue-in-cheek) that if you wanted to become a successful landscape photographer you might consider moving west, Carl Weese commented:
I think you are leaving out one of Gladwell’s assumptions about being in the right place at the right time, and that involves his working sense of “Success.” In the context of the arts, this would be that the work must gain audience. I don’t think Gladwell would count an artist as successful simply for making wonderful pictures–you’d need to gain audience and make lots of money to be successful in the context of the book.
Carl, of course, is right. If Gladwell were to fix his gaze (and analysis) on photographers, the “successful” ones would be those that have a reasonably large audience and are making a good living doing what they love. Unfortunately, most of us don’t fall into that category. Well, we may be doing what we love, but our audience is small and our customer base is smaller (or nonexistent). Without specifically saying so, I was speaking to those photographers who measure success using criteria that is much more modest than that used by Gladwell.
Aside from all that, Carl makes another point that is, in my opinion, far more important. ” If you want to work with the flat plains of Nebraska or the intimate woodlands of New England and Appalachia”, he says, ” you’re pretty much going to have to create your own audience”.
Now for me, that pretty much hits the nail on the head. The first part of that sentence goes directly to the idea of what it is you want to photograph. Using myself as an example, I can say that I love the southwest. Photographing there is easy for me because I enjoy the desert and I’m just blown away by the topography. Even so, if I could photograph anywhere I wanted to, I’d pick the Maine coast. For whatever reason, the place seems to speak to me. When I drive up there and cross the Piscataqua River bridge and hit York Harbor, I feel like I’ve come home. No other place that I’ve visited has that effect on me.
Assuming I could spend all of my time photographing there, the only thing left to do would be to “create an audience”. I might even learn to enjoy winter.
By the way, if you’ve never seen any of Carl’s work you might want to visit his site at http://www.carlweese.com/. Carl is one of those “northeastern” photographers and yes, he has an audience. His work tends not to be of “grand landscapes”, but it is certainly compelling. His images of old drive-in theaters, for example, will cause you to stop and look if, like me, you’re at an age where you remember visiting them on warm Saturday nights.