Author: David duChemin
Publisher: New Riders
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
David duChemins Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision was a great hit with many photographers, engaging difficult subjects to write about, vision and creativity. Based on the success of his first book I was eager to read VisionMongers: Making a Life and a Living in Photography.
In it the author approaches some basic questions about making a career in photography from his own perspective as a person who has chosen to make his career mainly doing work for non-governmental organizations. He explains the necessity for being true to oneself as a professional, to work hard, to market, to overdeliver to customers, and even to rely on written contracts. He also discusses the ethics of the profession and financial objectives to keep in mind. The author relies upon anecdotes and episodes from his own career to make his points, as well as the biographies of several other successful photographers that demonstrate how they became successful. For a subject that could easily lapse into being pedantic, duChemin has a certain charming style. For the young photographer, with little experience of the career world, this book may be a good place to start if he or she has an inkling that he or she might want to follow photography as a profession, although it may also prove appropriately discouraging. On the other hand, some photographers with more experience of the world and opinions about how it works may find the book too fundamental and optimistic.
Unlike hard subject books, like exposure, soft subjects like following a career path are difficult to write. Occasionally, it felt like the author was delivering a sermon, or perhaps an inspirational speech. He does that well, but not every audience will benefit from this approach.
Moreover the book is keyed primarily to people seeking a career in photography by working on assignment from clients, although the studio photographer or the fine arts photographer may discover useful information. The author is generous in his recommendations of works of his colleagues that might prove more practical.
The author generally tried to deal with the broader principles involved in pursuing what he calls vocational photography, without getting too deeply into specifics. On the other hand, he does provide just enough information so that the reader can develop a principal. For example he discusses the use of postcards and provides a few examples of the fronts of his postcards, a sample of a message from the back, and a reference to an on-line printer. Similarly he talks about the importance of avoiding debt and calculating the cost of doing business, without ever using the word budget or explaining how to create one.
The book includes a nice collection of the authors images, but they don’t support the text in any way other than to show that the author is a good photographer.
This book is worth reading for all thinking of taking the leap into vocational photography but it will prove most useful to young aspiring photographers. If they accept that challenge, they will still have to do a great deal more research to learn the business of photography.