On Being a Photographer - Part One

Last August, Popeye and I were invited to a wedding.

The bride-to-be had asked me to be their official photographer. After all, I had been their photographer whenever they wanted/needed pictures taken (free of charge, of course). A lot of pictures of their children and last but not least the pictures for their wedding announcement .

I was still feeling quite tired at the time because of the aftermath of the pulmonary embolism... And on second thoughts... She no longer was as sweet as she used to be and I simply did not feel up to being a slave (to my craft) from the wee hours in the morning while she’d be getting ready for her big day until very late at night... So I turned down this dubious honor.

She hired a photographer (a young man) to do the job. “This is so expensive, Olive! You wouldn’t believe it!” They are quite well-off so she did not manage to make me feel guilty...

At the wedding reception, we were seated with the bride’s mother and her partner plus the groom’s father and his new wife. (Meccano ® families which I usually like.)

We introduced ourselves since they were not overly friendly. We were brief but we never forget our manners!

After a while, the bride’s mother looked at me: “Oh, now I know who you are! You are the photographer who took pictures of my grandchildren and the pictures for the wedding announcement. You take good pictures. Why did you refuse to take the pictures of my daughter’s wedding?”

This was embarrassing, I have to admit. People were obviously getting a little bit worked up not to say inebriated.

I laughed. “I am not too much into wedding pictures.” (And my nose started to stretch... I was turning into Pinocchio. I have taken tons of wedding pictures and I love doing it... for real friends.)

“But you are taking pictures all the time, aren’t you?”

Well, actually I am. All-the-time. She was so right. Some people walk their dogs. I walk my cameras. All-the-time.

And occasionally I take a very good picture that will end up being exhibited in nice galleries and art fairs... Some even encounter a (very
bright) art collector and I have to let them go. This does not happen all the time, don’t worry.

This was definitely not something I wanted to tell the lady. So I mumbled: “Oui, oui” while I was fiercely kicking Popeye’s ankle so that he’d get the message to keep mum.

She took a deep breath. Honestly she did.

“Well, it is a nice hobby for a woman.”

I giggled. Nervously, very nervously.

“Well, this is not a hobby. You see, this is my job. I work full-time as a photographer. Except that I am not really into wedding pictures.”

She was staring at me. They all were staring at me while Popeye was fiercely kicking me under the table.

“Well, the way I see it, Madame Olive, this is not a real job. For me, it is a hobby, a nice hobby. For a woman. Period.”

The reception was nearly over. Time to go home, Popeye!

The most painful part being that at the time, I was going through some dry spell if I may say so. It happens from time to time. Sometimes you need to do some real soul-searching to make headway. Sometimes what you’d really like to be working on remains at the planning stage for the longest time, so it seems. And then one day, your finger releases the shutter and there you go... deep into the unknown. Pure bliss!

Meanwhile I keep walking my cameras... One never knows!

*Good Luck, and Good Night*


Myrna said...

Well, you were so gracious. Thanks for that example. Pretty uncomfortable conversation!

Mammodouy's Stories said...

Thank you, Myrna... I was not gracious. "Embedded" good manners, I suppose.

The basic problem remains that women are still very categorized. It is ok to be a day-care worker (the woman's job) or a teacher or maybe a druggist... at least in Brittany (in my rural area)! But not a photographer!

Recently I bought a new camera in Paris. I went to "my" "pro" shop and there were not many women there... as usual!

Photography is still pretty much a man's world besides wedding and family pictures (thanx to digital photography)!

This was even worse in the 1990s when I started to work as a photographer!

But this is also true in other art fields... How many female sculptresses and painters (and opera composers, for example) in the artistic pantheon?

Writing seems ok though... But this is another story.

I know this is very simplistic but sadly it is still very true!

My friend Marie who is a great sculptor ("sculptress" does not really exist in French) and lives on her art has been told again and again that she was lucky to have such a great hobby in her life!

Anonymous said...

Since you mentioned the opera etc ..


Myrna said...

I get what you mean. I am the de facto breadwinner in the family and have been for years. I have a phd now, and had several master's degrees before that, but people will always say "What does your husband do?" and often not even ask what I do...when I am the one who is mostly doing something!