I have been a photographer for years. I didn’t start out to be professional, and yet, that’s where my path led, so I walked it.
According to some, the qualification for “professional” is making a certain amount of money. It depends on who you ask, a professional photography association, group or the officials of the state or the lords of the land.
I started out taking photos of horses, ranches, equine events and showing a world many don’t get to see.
“Do what you love and the money will come.” I followed this axiom. I believed, prayed and meditated on this idea.
I have had my work on many covers, been in art shows and so many events over the years I’ve forgotten. I’ve been invited to remote ranches and rare events to offer my view, my vision.
I have spent hours and hours, that has turned into weeks and months, studying photoshop which is our digital darkroom. I’ve spent countless hours in the heat, travelled to different states and spent every last dime I had on building my photography business.
And worse yet, I had not been paid, had my work stolen repeatedly world wide and even by a company that has made its name with amusement parks and cartoon characters to huge monetary success. Not because it was so good, but because it was convenient and they could.
With all this, and having taken 50,000 of my images off the internet, I learned many hard and hurtful lessons. I now have a difficult time sharing my work. Each time I do share it, I take a deep breath and mentally let it go, hope I’m not hurt by the results and am pleased when someone else likes my vision too.
To watermark each image distracts from the image, but to not watermark it makes it prime pickings. To just give it away takes the sting out of not being paid, however, to not get a credit for a photo shared diminishes all my hard work in creating that image. Worse yet, someone else - a stranger - taking credit for my work.
But then, after all, it's just a photo. Right?
Its a photo I spent my entire savings creating. After my divorce and my photography wasn’t supporting me, I went to work as a bartender, waitress, and many other jobs I hated to survive. Not thrive, just eat and house myself. I was struggling, but not ready to give up my photography pursuit.
I shot weddings and portraits, which I hated. I said I’d never do any of it, but I had to prove I’d do whatever it took to make myself successful. Prove it to the "Universe", to friends and most certainly to the gods. (I say "gods" to keep my options open. You never know who is listening.)
No one answered me.
I was not successful with photography. I had to go back, take jobs that I hated and even went back to school and worked for minimum wage. I gain attention, but not the capital to continue. Money is vital in this game. If you want to see how people treat those who will do whatever it takes for their art, work for minimum wage. People are not nice. Low minded people will always default to base behavior. I am not a low minded person, so I see when other misbehave or create evil in this world.
After so long standing up to the horribles, I began saying, take my image. Use it. What do I care? I’m done fighting. I’m done standing up for myself against those who have no respect for art. I felt beaten.
Then, one day I woke up. I woke up to the disrespect I was showing myself. I’ve hurt myself deeply. Now I know. I cannot un-know. I might not be nice now, but I will never again disrespect myself or my artwork. I will fight for it. I have not stopped and will continue. When my idea is stolen, my photography, my art... in any way, I will call you on it. Not understand the law does not give you a free pass for being selfish or greedy - for stealing. And when someone takes what is rightfully yours, it's called theft.
To all those who say, “it's just a photograph”, try duplicating it.