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 Nature Photography :: Essays :: Within and Without

Ansel Adams talked of "assignments from without", ie. paid jobs, and "assignments from within", the artistic work or "your own thing".

When I returned to photography in the early 90s, after more than a decade without picking up a camera, I still had my day job in computing and its steady income, I was free to photograph what I liked and how I liked. Many people wanted to hire me to photograph this and that, but I only accepted assignments from within.

I did not want any assignments from without, I was having too much fun just doing my own work and I didn't need the money, so why take on the stress of doing jobs for others?

Before long I started thinking along the lines of, once again, making photography my profession as I had in the seventies. I started selling photos and exhibiting and eventually, opened a small gallery.

The gallery was attached to one of Canberra's largest markets and, as such, only opened on Sundays. This allowed me to keep the day job (and its income stream) and for a while I had the best of both worlds; I could accept my internal assignments, I had a venue to display and sell my work, and I could afford to buy food, all at the same time.

Things went well, I sold a lot of images, but this meant they had to be replaced, which in turn meant hours in the darkroom. Now I love working in the darkroom, but it was starting to get too much, often printing the same images over and over.

Couple this with the myriad other jobs required to run a small business, constant requests to give talks at clubs, judge at competitions and teach at workshops, plus a full-time job, and there was no time left to make new images.

After a few years I realised that, although I refused to actually take on work for others I was, effectively, accepting assignments from without. A lot of people were determining what I did with my time, and most of those people weren't me!

I was saved by a mid-life crisis.

In 1997 my wife and I both decided we'd had enough of the rat race and elected to drop out and travel around Australia. We reasoned that we would need a large motorhome to to this, and that I should build it to save money.

That was 12 years ago. It took one of those years to wind down the photography business, sell houses etc., another three to build the motorhome, and another year of travelling before I was ready to get back into making images.

So here I am, at large in the world with my Canons and a bag load of lenses and memory cards. We have no immediate need to earn money so, once again, I'm free to photograph what I like and how I like, my photography is totally from "within".

It's a great feeling, and in fact the dream of just about every photographer.

Now if I could just make some money from my photography...

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