So you want to be a photographer?

The question of cash for writing reminds me of Paul Theroux; a while ago I read his book ‘Sir Vidias Shadow’. Some writers, as Paul Theroux reveals about himself in this book, often have a sense of having to ‘hide’ (or at least not reveal, solidly) the fact that they are writers until they achieve some form of recognition (this is also true for photographers as noted by Robert Adams who felt apologetic for being a photographer until he was earning money).

Saying that one wants to write, or one intends to be a writer is not the same as saying, with confidence and absolute self belief, ‘I am a writer.’

Publishing a book is one kind of recognition; a form of ritualised initiation, receiving acceptance from a successful writer is another (Naipaul accepts Theroux as writer). Any writer would be satisfied with this, but a little something is missing: would our writer not want to establish absolute certainty? Money may or may not be forthcoming – but gladly accepted if and when it does, it is the cherry on the cake, a final recognition; a medal of achievement from the reader. Money means that a writer can do writing all day and everyday if it so pleases him. When someone asks, ‚”What do you do?” you reply with comfortable finality: “I am a writer”

Had Theroux not achieved his recognition, would he have eventually stopped writing, I wonder? Probably not, but would he have called himself a writer? I propose, he would still be calling himself a teacher of English.

Ultimately it is the reader who bestows the title and money is one gauge of this, but writing from the heart does not require a title, nor recognition – except, surely, by at least one reader.

There is another perspective though, one where writing is a necessary skill for everyone. A journalist is a writer, a traveller can be a writer. Sebald, a master of writing (and found images – which he splices amongst his texts) himself, finds scientists to be better writers that bona fide ‘writers’. Come to think of it, my favourite books are not written by writers but by journalists, scientists, investigators and the new writers of the age bloggers.

It seems this line of thought may also be true – we all now have a camera of sorts – for photgraphers. So you want to be a photographer? Perhaps this is good advice:

Don’t, whatever you do, take a fine arts degree in photography, take a science degree (or a degree covering your subject matter to be, anything but photography) such as zoology, ecology, biology, agricultural science, or perhaps even an athropology degree, – being a doctor, too, would be ideal. This way your profession will pay for you, take you to interesting places and while your out there you can do photography.