How to end up hating photography

Working as a professional photographer

Valèria Cuní

As soon as I reached the legal working age, as a result of a web page I had created, I found a job as a photographer in a little company which was responsible for organizing, mainly, graduation parties for university students. After two years of experience, I wanted to reveal the positive and negative points that came to my mind; I hope it’s useful for those who love photography and are thinking to accept a similar job.

Positive aspects:

  1. You’ll learn about people, and therefore, the world.
    Every single week I was exposed to around 150–200 people, which can be a good opportunity to do some networking, but, often, they would come to think that, as a photographer, the only thing I would contribute to an entrepreneurial project were pictures. (Never underestimate anyone for the position they are in.)
    On the other hand, day by day, I was getting to know more about the recurring secondary characters that composed my photographs: bouncers, waiters, cooks… One night, I met two Pakistani cooks, brothers, who had come to Barcelona to work, whose counter-current struggle was inspiring. This job has introduced me to individual representatives of social groups that I would probably never have known, at least not to the extent that I did. This has given me a more global view of society and has taught me to be thankful for being born where, luckily, I’ve been born.
  2. You’ll experience how it feels to be on the side of the service.
    It wasn’t strange, among the multiple clients, to find some people treated not only the photographer, but also the rest of the workers, as if they weren’t humans or, at least, as if they were part of a lower social estate. Hey you, bring me this, bring me that! I oftentimes had to remind them that I wasn’t a waiter, but I still passed on the order nonetheless. I really learned the importance of every single g’night, thanks and please. Once, a girl came upset to me and, right to my face, told me that I was horrible at taking pictures -simply because she thought she wasn’t appearing pretty enough in them. I kindly told her that the photographer can only choose the light, not the faces. Thanks to these experiences, I’ve learned the importance of treating everyone with politeness and respect, especially those who offer you a service even if it implies money in exchange and, also, to show a kind image of myself -although situations could sometimes exceed me.
  3. Money
    Obviously, having a salary, especially when you’re 16–17 years old, is cool, but it also involves effort and having to give up on certain comforts and other types of opportunities.
  4. Using the manual setting of your camera will be as easy as breathing.
    Sometimes, the manual setting of the camera is difficult to get to grips with novice photographers, especially if it’s dark, where it’s indispensable. At the first events, I really had to strive hard to take proper pictures; static, focused, with the correct lighting and without noise. Photo by photo I ended up interiorizing the technique and, in the end, it came out effortlessly.
I really learned the importance of every single g’night, thanks and please.
This (meeting new people) has given me a more global view of society and has taught me to thank being born where I’ve been born.
Valèria Cuní

And yes, these are all the positive points I could think of and, despite the fact I was in love with photography, in this case, taking pictures is not within the positive points of this job. Negative aspects:

  1. You’ll hate photography
    Those who know me from my teenage years, know that photography was my real great love. I always carried my camera as an extension of my body which continuously sought beauty; but, after taking and editing around 150 pictures a week, I trivialized the click of the camera which lost all the purpose it had before and, with it, my interest. Now, I find myself in a period of abstinence; after leaving this job, I have distanced myself expressly from the camera: I have forbidden myself to use it for a while. My intention is to miss it, and, in a near future, to take it up again but with much more strength driven by necessity. If you really like photography as an art, try not to prostitute your verses and, with this, I don’t mean, in any case, to prohibit yourself from charging money for what you do, but to really choose what you do; that all the photographs you make have a purpose because, if not, grabbing the camera will also end up losing it.
  2. Feeling like a tripod
    A good part of the events consisted, for me, in putting myself in front of the photocall, standing still and pressing the trigger; for a person with creative restlessness, this didn’t have any type of appeal. During the rest of the celebration, it was necessary to look for original angles but after about fifteen events, even this search became repetitive, typical of a machine.
  3. The, already lost, fight against robots
    Nowadays, as in many other professions, photographers find themselves in a fierce battle against the machine; new smartphones have, technically, already reached the level of the most modest professionals. This has the consequence that the client values less this work -especially when it comes to paying- and often doesn’t distinguish quality and is only led by the price. I found that sometimes they preferred to take selfies or that I took the pictures with their personal cell phone; for them, immediacy is more valuable, being able to upload it to Instagram at the moment, rather than quality. Personally, I felt displaced by this technology, it seemed that someone who knows how to use the manual setting of the camera is not needed anymore because, Mr. Robot, be it iPhone or Samsung, already makes it by its own with very similar characteristics to the eyes of the consumer. To counterattack, I think that photographers should go a step back and return to analogy, offer an artisan photography; otherwise, the wages will continue to fall and the war can be given for lost.
  4. Night is a dark place.
    I remember a scene in which a waiter, desperate to make friends, pointed out to me a girl who, according to him, was very hot and asked me to take a close picture of her and send it to him; obviously this didn’t happen. This is one of the many examples of sexism and sexualization that you can find in these spaces. On another occasion, in a language (and/or tongue) exchange event, a middle-aged gentleman approached me and asked me to delete a photo in which he was kissing a girl just In case his wife saw it and understood “something strange”. Aside from that, I have also seen work injustices towards people who gave it almost everything but, according to the owners of the company, business is business.
Valèria Cuní
that all the photographs you make have a purpose because, if not, grabbing the camera will also end up losing it.
Photographers should go a step back and return to analogy, offer an artisan photography.

If it’s by necessity, I would take this job again but not by vocation, leisure or pleasure. Of course, despite the negative points, I am grateful for what I’ve learned from this experience, for the people I have known and for who I’ve become, but I might have recommended myself to continue creating images as works of art and leaving the money making for later.


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Illustrations: Valèria Cuní
Linguistic revision: Guillem Turon (Huckitom)