It became apparent to me as I began to experience life that there are three types of people at work in the world: Those who have jobs, those who love what they do, and those who have both.
I have both and am thankful for it. I make my living from assignment work (although, like most, it’s not always easy). And, like most, you don’t always get assigned to what you truly want to shoot. When that happens, what do you do?
Shoot it anyways.
Doing so should not be confused with shooting assignments “on spec,” as previously posted. That can and will be detrimental to your own business. This is different.
If there is a social issue or event that gets to the heart of what you’re about as a photographer, that exemplifies the reasons you became a photographer, then shoot it regardless of whether you are on assignment. Such “personal fulfillment” work is important to keeping the passion alive for what you do. I have shot many personal/self-assigned stories over the years as have many of my talented friends and colleagues. Several of my personal projects have gone unpublished but I get such a high from shooting them that I will never hesitate to pick up my cameras and record something significant to me.
I am in the midst of shooting another immigration related story. There is no assignment for it. But one of the issues close to me as a photojournalist is to dispel myths about people and cultures, so I will continue to document this story on my own time. If it fails to make it into a magazine, I have no concerns. In this day and age, we can self-publish books at little cost as well as display on the web at virtually no cost. The passion that is derived from such work is reason enough to shoot the stories.
The way I see it, we photographers are lucky to do what we do. Passion for your job is so important. Looking at the work of James Nachtway, Sebastion Salgado, Steve McCurry and Tony Saua and many others only drives home how passion can fuel great work. And it’s not just in photography that great minds are fueled by passionate people. Nobel prize winners are driven by their love for unraveling life’s mysteries, doctors and lawyers aiding those most in need are passionate, as are environmentalists, civil rights activists and scores of others.
Are you passionate about your work? If so, then shoot what is important to you and feel the passion energize you.