The Artist vs The Professional

Some time ago I heard photographer Bil Brown give a talk about what it means to be an Artist compared to being a Professional.

The gist of it is that the Professional has a set system in place to deliver the images that the client requires, while the Artist follows their own intuition, making what they are compelled to. The Professional is reliable, but the Artist is capable of innovation.

I think there’s some truth to this, even though the line between Professional and Artist is a hazy one, and probably best thought of as states of mind rather than two divisions of types of photographers. When working with a client, be it to cover an event or a boudoir session, I have had enough experience that I can confidently make good photos in almost any situation with almost anyone. That’s not special, that’s the baseline of what it means to be a photographer. The challenge is in shifting gears, getting into that Artist state of mind, where you try things that even you don’t know if it’ll work. Being vulnerable, shooting unfamiliar subject matter, facing what makes you uncomfortable. It doesn’t always work out.

Sometimes it does work.

But usually, it doesn’t.

That’s what makes it so special when it does work though. It’s really easy to go through the motions, to use the same poses, the same lighting, the same attitude. When you take a chance, and embrace the uncertainty, you are leaving open the space for creativity. For ‘happy little accidents’, as Bob Ross might say.

Just as the usefulness of a bowl is defined by the empty space, so too is the artist defined by making space for the unknown, and exploring it without preconceptions.

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