“It’s less this, and more this…” said an archival rep to me at Magnum Photos years ago when I interned there, first motioning to shooting photos and second motioning to talking by using hand gestures. That piece of advice is still ranked amongst the most important lines I’ve heard about the industry.
One of the most common things that you’ll hear photographers state is “I can do that too!” For example, think about the Peter Lik sale: many other photographers came out and literally stated “I can do that too.” Typically though, this is associated more with the means of capturing an image rather than creating a scene or an idea.
And you’re right. You can do it too. You, and everyone else with a camera, a knowledge of manual mode, an idea of how metering in a scene actually works, compositional framing, and Photoshop knowledge can totally create that image by yourself, at your home.
But did you? And are you a photographer with a famous name in the art world?
If the answer to the questions above are yes, then congratulations! You’re one step closer to a very expensive sale. Do you have the sales staff to be able to make a sale like that though? If you don’t have the staff, do you have the body of work or do you have the know-how to make the sale? Plus, do you have the network of people interested in buying art like that?
I’ve spoken on this blog many times about pricing your work and the mentality behind it, and that’s awesome. If you can capture that same image then wonderful–in the eyes of the art world you’re possibly looked at as a copycat. Why? Because you’re not known for that photo. It isn’t an original capture. That’s not at all to say that you’re a copyright infringer–anyone and everyone can go take the same image of the same building at the same time with the same camera setup. But the person who is well known for it is the one that ultimately ends up getting the credit. Those people actively go out and show their work off to the folks who matter in the art and photo world. They cultivate relationships, friendships and alliances.
These days, almost anyone can create images like Bresson or Adams, but it doesn’t mean that they necessarily will. It also doesn’t mean that they’ve got the legacy that both of those photographers built. Though it doesn’t sound like much, it’s important to realize that photography is actually a lot of work. Not only are you shooting, but you’re actively marketing, selling, networking and searching for new clients.
On the other hand, creating an image or capturing a scene that requires exclusivity is something far different. Creating requires an actual full creative vision while getting exclusive photos requires you to talk your way into something. Can you do either of those? If you can, then maybe you can create a body of work where no one will say “Oh, I can do that.”