That’s right, the greatest photographers in history are unhappy people. Didn’t see that coming did you? Let’s define unhappy first of all. I am not talking about the “I have a corporate job that I hate, a mortgage I can’t afford and a wife/husband who doesn’t really love me” kind of unhappiness. No, real photographers are unhappy about what they see around them in the world and how it works. They are unhappy with average, boring, common and uninteresting .They aren’t fond of people pleasing. They see reality as it is presented to them by media and society, but they want to go beyond it. Explore it, or depict it in ample compositions, often satirical and unsettling for the common man. Think David LaChapelle.
The greatest photographers in the world love challenges. The love to be challenged by someone they hold in high regard, but most of all they love to challenge themselves. They find limitations to be extremely dislikeable. If you were to make a great photographer shoot a certain subject without allowing him to move, he would then change lenses, perspectives or exposures.
They are often regarded as stubborn, selfish, egocentric and with serious attitude problems. That’s because they are never ever afraid of having and sharing their opinion. To them, the real problems are with the world, which doesn’t really have an opinion of its own.
Real photographers like to make their subjects uncomfortable. They want to shake their character and get passed the social mask and deeper into the core of their being. That’s how great photographs are born.
They have no respect for visual clichés and they never care about originality. They know that no matter what subject they photograph, there is nobody else in the world that sees it exactly like them and nothing changes once they press the shutter release.
They like to make you think and they want their photographs to make you asking questions, around you and in the mirror. They respect a good looking photo just as much as a good looking shirt, but there are plenty of good looking shirts in the world and not so many photographs that make you ask questions.
They have great respect for fellow artists, for film, literature and can’t live without music. They are unhappy for the unhappy: the people who hate their jobs and working for others and the people who don’t “have time” for photography or art in general.
Many of them don’t like working with magazines and being dragged in art galleries to host their own shows, but they understand that in order to exist as artists they have to make compromises.
But they are happy every time they feel their work is appreciated and it doesn’t really matter where that appreciation comes from. One of the greatest joys for any photographer or artist is when they feel their work has had a small significance in someone’s life. It’s a privilege not many have and it is one of the most powerful fuels that keep them going.
Next time you see an unhappy photographer; don’t assume that he is automatically a good one. However ask yourself if it’s him who has a problem or the prefabricated reality he wants to get behind and uncover.