Photography is a business. Let us not forget this simple four word reality. It can be many other things to many different people, but at its heart it is a business. There are many ways in which it is a business and you will interact with at least one of them whatever your engagement with the medium is or how you perceive your engagement with it.
Obviously, the selling of cameras is a business and of course the associated ephemera is part of the same business. You need a camera if you want to make photographs so let’s put that to one side for the moment, it is the gateway to the business. Instead let’s think about all of the add-ons you are encouraged to buy that you may or may not need. Of course you need a lens, but how many you need is a mute point dependent on your needs, however, selling lenses is part of the business, just as camera bags, straps, memory cards, filters, lens hood, tripods, mono pods and every photo related accessory is.
If you are shooting analogue you are in the business of buying film, darkroom equipment and chemicals. If you work with digital you buy computers, screens, hard drives, plug-ins. Some you need and some you don’t. Desire often overcomes need.
Paying to enter photography competitions is a business, as are pay-to-play portfolio reviews. You could certainly avoid both of these in my opinion, however, if you don’t you will be part of the gambling business. If you sell prints or self-published books of your work you are part of the retail business. If you are a commissioned photographer you are part of the advertising and editorial business. If you receive bursaries and funding you are part of the art business. If you work for NGOs you are part of the charity business.
If you post images on social media you are part of that business, as a content provider for global entities you have no control over, in which you play the role of a creator of wealth that you will never benefit from. In this case you are in the business of likes and followers, the marketing business.
If you exhibit your work you are in galleries or in festivals you are past of the event business and maybe the entertainment business.
If you create podcasts or films for Youtube you are part of the broadcast business.
If you run workshops, you are in the travel and education business. If you work within academia you are in the teaching business.
However, we may want to believe that our work sits outside of the commercial reality of business the truth is that it cannot and does not. My suggestion? Photography is a business, deal with it!
Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 www.donotbendfilm.com. He is the presenter of the A Photographic Life and In Search of Bill Jay podcasts.
© Grant Scott 2023