Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas Edison
As someone who has pursued the art of writing fiction my whole life, I have a whole shelf of books on craft, covering everything from grammatical structure to the endless misery and self-flagellation that comes when one attempts to translate one’s vision onto the page. I have long held the belief, right or wrong, that the answers to life’s questions are best sought in books, and I tend to amass large quantities of them on whatever topic I’m currently obsessing about. Lately, my topic of choice is photography. Most of these books are technical in nature, which is great as far as that goes, but the latest addition to my library is so much more. VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography by fellow Vancouverite David duChemin is one of the best books I’ve read on craft, period.
When I ordered the book on Amazon, I had expected it to be a nuts-and-bolts guide to the business side of photography. Although duChemin does a stellar job of explaining how to inhabit the world as a vocational photographer, VisionMongers is also about the creative process, the importance of discipline and having vision, and how passion for the craft is the foundation on which the house of success is ultimately built.
It is this last concept that resonated with me most. As a career counsellor/coach who has worked with hundreds of clients and has made three successful career transitions, I can say that passion is the key to success in any field, artistic or not. Why? Because when people pursue their passion they pursue it with their whole heart, whether they realize it or not. But if they do only what they think they should do, if they listen to the naysayers, or keep telling themselves how impossible it is to get what they want in the real world, they often give up before they have a chance to live their dream.
As I read through VisionMongers, I was struck by how much of what duChemin covers is very much relevant to the life of a writer: the struggles, the frustration, the persistent notion that everyone does it better than you ever will. And then there is the age-old question that plagues artists of every ilk; “Am I good enough?” These subjects are incredibly difficult to write about in a meaningful way, but duChemin does so with inspiration and insight. He captures the essence of what it means to create not only a life as a photographer but also as an artist. And I would argue that much of what he says can be applied to any vocation.
Although the author devotes considerable time to the actual business of photography, if you’re looking for specific technical information or advice on how to build a portfolio or client base, this is not the book for you. Rather, it is a treatise on approaching your work from a place of passion, vision, and authenticity. It’s about conducting yourself with integrity. It’s a reminder of the importance of being client-focused no matter how difficult that client may prove to be, as it is the client that is ultimately the lifeblood of a business. duChemin makes it abundantly clear that talent is not enough, yet emphasizes that everyone has their own unique path. He shares his own journey as well as those of other notable visionmongers, and lays out what he believes to be the fundamentals to success.
Visionmongers is an engaging read, a must for those with a desire to make a career in photography, yet relevant to anyone with an artistic bent attempting to navigate the often rocky terrain of entrepreneurship.