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Book Review: VisionMongers: Making A Life And A Living In Photography by David duChemin

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It is a big step to try go from hobby to trying to make a living with your photography. It is not that finding a life through the lens is all that difficult; it is the fact that to try and make a living doing it is very hard unless your photography is a passion for you. The reason is that there are no formulas, no quick fixes, and no easy road.

VisionMongers: Making A Life and A Living In Photography examines the pitfalls that one will encounter while trying to make the transition from passion to vocation. While it is not an easy path, it can be made easier by paying attention to consistency, hard work, and good business practices. This book is 272 pages and is divided into five chapters.

Chapter One, "Foundations," is not something that you are taught in photography school, at least not the real important foundations. These foundations include vision, passion, and having a broad perspective. This chapter begins with the author's story and how he found himself on the path of photography. Keep in mind that he had graduated from a theology college, spent 12 years as a successful stage comedian and went bankrupt before fully deciding to become a photographer. These situations put many things into perspective for the author.

Chapter Two, "Work, Work, Work," is not that hard when you have a passion for what you are doing. When you see the work of a successful photographer, it all seems so easy, but what you haven't seen is the thousands and thousands frames of garbage that they have shot — and still shoot. Here you will learn why the question that most people going into business tends to be "What does the market want?" as well finding out why that is the wrong question to ask if you want to be successful. You will also learn many things that either will make you change your mind about pursuing this career, or keep moving forward.

Chapter Three, "Sounding Your Barbaric Yawp," is something that most photographers have to overcome if they are to be successful. It is a bigger hurdle because most don’t have the expertise to market themselves correctly. The problem is that if you don't sell your work, you don’t get to feed the family which means you don’t get to do what you love to do. Here you will learn of the four pillars of success to rest your marketing skills on as well as the traditional things like customer testimonials, logos, and general marketing.

Chapter Four, "Business and Finance," is another hurdle that photographers must overcome if they are to be successful in the real world. There are many photographic geniuses' whose businesses have failed because of bad contracts, pricing, and other financial failures. Here you will learn of contracts, sponsorships, and in general, how not to be a moron.

Chapter Five, "It's a Brave New World," since the onset of the digital revolution. Old models are dying fast, and what is not dying is in a constant state of flux. It is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. While this career is not for everyone, life offers no rewards to those who don't try. This chapter offers you some final thoughts on becoming a vocational photographer. After all, this is your journey.

VisionMongers: Making A Life and A Living In Photography really takes an honest look at making a career of photography and to do so while staying true to one's own vision and perspective. By using a naturalistic style of writing and through the use of anecdotes and stories from his prior careers, duChemin keeps this book both entertaining and informative.

VisionMongers also looks at other visionmongers who exist in the real world. These are five to seven page exposes interspersed throughout the book that tell the stories of those who have made the leap from wannabee to professional and how they found their voice, brand, and market, as well as how they continue to make it. Also included are images from the visionaries

There are plenty of images in the book, but since this book is more about career than about creating images, they do not tie to anything except to give inspiration. The bottom line is that being professional is not for everyone. Talent, creativeness, and knowing your craft will only take you so far, but if you want to take that leap, then VisionMongers: Making A Life and A Living In Photography is a great first step. I very highly recommend this book.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.