Banana Republics

Working the street.


A hard way to make a living. These days, in the music industry, distribution is king. Without that, you struggle with tours and merchandise sales. If you are working the street, you have none of that.

You have the music. You have a tip jar. And, maybe a few cheaply recorded CDs for sale.

Cheaply is an understatement. Just like digital photography, and auto photographers, everybody with a computer thinks that they can record and master music. Sure, there’s a few folks with passion and drive. For the most part, music recorded, mixed and mastered on a computer sounds like it. You really have to like the songs to listen to that poorly recorded sound.

Take a look at her. She’s got her violin. Her tip jar — well — wagon, and she’s waving a CD around. I admire her. That’s hard work.  It was cold that night. She’s wearing a glove on one hand. Yet, she’s smiling and chatting up anybody who’ll listen.

That’s what it takes.

Let’s bounce. Back to photography. You can have all the best gear. You can have all the learned technical skills. You can even make a good picture or two. Without that energy, passion and desire, you ain’t gonna make it.

Like a good musician, a photographer must woodshed. That means taking pictures when you aren’t traveling. When you aren’t getting paid. When you don’t feel like it. That’s how you get good. You work in all kinds of weather. You walk. You look. You make pictures. You work on them at home. You even keep the real losers so that you can learn from your mistakes.

Then, when you are traveling on your own. Or, when you have a paid assignment. The pictures come easily. They find you. You are ready. You’ve practiced. That’s one of the things “ten tips that will make you a great photographer,” never tell you. Work. Work. Work.

The picture. One of those French Quarter nights. Wandering around. Practicing. Looking for pictures. Not caring about showing them to anybody. Or, about money. Just working for the joy of it. Knowing me, I used a 16mm lens, set at f 4.0 and the shutter speed was maybe 1/30th of a second. Most is sharp, except for the CD she is waving around. That’s okay. Her face is sharp. That’s another thing. A picture like this one needs sharpness somewhere. It’s not like those whirly-burly things I photograph sometimes when everything is moving. That’s a whole other skill.

Questions? Please ask.


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  1. I think if I passed her on the street I would just have to add to her tip jar. I so admire that level of engagement and enthusiasm. So many artists today have to work so hard to be seen or heard. I went to an author reading yesterday and the author, well respected for many decades, was basically promoting her own book at the signing, and she is 88 years old. I have a great deal of respect for the efforts that are made in honing crafts and then finding an audience! Talent just isn’t enough these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We live in a era where nobody wants to pay for anything, especially in the arts. Free music. Free photography. Free art. Free books.


      Everybody thinks they can do the art that they don’t want to pay for. They can’t. I’ve had a couple of photo jobs that I call “clean up.” I fix the mess that some other photographer caused by working without knowledge and for too little money.

      Eventually, this will change. What won’t change is the current methods of distribution. They are more direct and efficient than what came before.

      No talent isn’t enough. But, even with all the hard work that an artist does, it still may not matter. It’s really luck and timing. If that happens then you can work growing the artist. This comes from my music side. But, it’s applicable to all arts.


      • I often wonder what younger people think about the challenges you’ve outlined, Ray. They don’t have a memory of a time when things were different. My discontent goes even beyond the arts. Experts! People have opinions on EVERYTHING and don’t read. They won’t do five minutes worth of real research before they speak with authority. I need a permanent soap box.:-) (Some people think I already have one!)

        Liked by 1 person

      • There was a big fight between women photographers of today and those who actually broke ground when I was coming up. The younger women thinks all the break-throughs came with them because, they hadn’t seen earlier work, when there was no internet. I got nasty, but the young ones learned a lot. It also help that the male photographers of the older days jumped in and say hey wait a minute.


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