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SocialDocumentary.net, Kickstarter, and a Life in Photography

August 8, 2014
PlateGlass3271

Installing plate glass in Siberia, 2010

I thought my construction picture from Siberia would be a good lead for my friend and colleague Glenn Ruga, who is reworking socialdocumentary.net with fresh ideas and a fresh design. Saturday, August 9, 2014 is the last day of the SDN Kickstarter campaign. There is still time to jump on board. A pledge of $100 or more will even get you a print by Frank Ward (me). Check out SDN on Kickstarter and help us out. I say “us” because I have the pleasure of being on the SDN board. Your pledge doesn’t support anyone on the board. It will help support documentary photography and photographers worldwide.

Isfara, Tajikistan classroom

My photo class in Isfara, Tajikistan, 2012

Every day that I teach photography I realize that documentary work, and all creative photography, needs our support. I look into the faces of my students knowing that traditional careers in photography are few.  A successful life in photography is now more likely to be marked by a strong web presence than a portfolio of tearsheets from magazines and newspapers.

Khorog, Tajikistan

Classroom, Pamirs, Tajikistan, 2009

The old saying that a photographer is best served by a good pair of shoes still holds true. I will also add that some alchemical combination of ego and personality will serve you better than the best combination of camera and lens. An easily bruised ego and an introverted personality won’t get you far in the photo world. But, a delicate ego or an introverted nature is no problem on their own. Richard Avedon used to sit in disguise where he was having an exhibit primarily to satisfy his ego. Introverts make great photographers, but you have to make the outside contact to get the assignment or sell the picture.

Swimmer, Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal, Siberia, 2008

So it comes down to a willingness to bare your soul. I’ve had projects that have left me in tears (Bosnian refugee camps), or swearing that I’d never go back (New England Barrooms). And that brings me to the primary requirement for a life in photography. You have to do it because it is what you are driven to do. You keep on going back no matter how miserable it makes you feel or how broke you are. A job on the side may help if you are too broke, but a photographer is never too broke-down to make the picture.

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