Changing directions and adding new material to your repertoire may be rewarding – and necessary to grow a photography or illustration business these days. For some, it means exploring new categories or redirecting efforts toward different markets. An artist may be established in the editorial market, for instance, but recognize opportunities in the advertising market.
A common mistake made by some commercial artists is to adapt their work and vision to fulfill a market’s needs and desires, rather than creating work they’re passionate about and seeking a market for it. The former demands second-guessing, and generally this means compromised rather than vision-driven portfolios.
Photographer Heath Robbins attended one of my PhotoPlus talks about 15 years ago, on the subject of diversity and passion. My talk was radical then, as the popular trend was to choose a specialty and shoot it for an entire career.
Heath was shooting still life with an emphasis on food. He dreamed of more complicated productions and conjuring narrative stories. I urged him to develop a conceptual body of work and follow his heart’s desires. He added lifestyle to his repertoire and followed his passions, and today Heath photographs this AND that AND that AND that…diversity meant creating a new body of work, appealing to a market that he had yet to explore.
Some artists may be overwhelmed or fearful. Many believe creating something new means giving up what they already have. Perhaps it’s all about confidence, competence, safety or reputation, or perhaps it’s all just a fear of change.
Change is difficult for many people, but I’ve always welcomed change. I’m energized by it. If I just did one thing over and over, I would not only bore myself, I’d fear my work would bore others. Creative growth may lead to career growth. One cannot grow a career without change.
Of course, change demands risk. Some of us are motivated by standing at the edge. It makes for a more dangerous journey. You can fall.
But in order to grow, we must be willing to let go. We must learn to suspend security. You cannot grow without risk.
Artists may be so passionate about what they’re doing that the energy may whoosh through their body and take over their heart. That energy may lift them off their feet, upset their balance or generate fears of failing – or even fears of succeeding.
There are those who are addicted to the energy, so much so that the energy – not the manifestation of the idea – is what excites them. Some become addicted to ideation.
I love ideas, but I’m not willing to be thought of only as a dreamer. If the dream moves me, I’m going to manifest it, no matter what.
Something dramatic has happened to our industry during the first decade of the 21st century. We do not have to do one thing for the rest of our careers. I’m not so sure that would be a wise decision for an artist anyway; as artists, we’re interested in many things. We have the opportunity to be this AND that, rather than the conventional 20th century wisdom that demanded artists choose one thing and stick with it.
In our business, the word ‘or’ is no longer necessary. The ANDs are connected by the thread of vision. Your motivation in a new market, therefore, is your passion.
Sell the thread rather than the content or categories of your work, and that will separate you from your competitors. Your vision makes you unique. Your passion will make you succeed.
Ian offers teleconferences, workshops and career coaching to a wide range of artists. He’s created a new 2-day offering called The Heartstorming Career Redirection Workshop, which is based on the concept that our passions remain more or less the same throughout our careers, however it is vital to take new actions to bring them into being. Heartstorming
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