An extract from Death in Field, published in Hotel Amerika Fall Edition 2012. Volume 10, No. 2, (pp.103-110). You can read the whole story here.
My days are diverse and without end. Today I was a workplace bully, my fists raised in rage against a colleague; I was an overheated marathon runner, outstretched fingers grasping for a bottle of water as I crossed the finish line; I was a lineman, stretching precariously on a pylon high above the earth, my hot stick pressed in mock competency against a power line; I was reading the news on an iphone; I was the warm fuzzy background to a bowl of crisps at an office party.
I write this surrounded by sheets of blank paper, flurries gathered up into large piles that loom all around me, ominous in the back lighting. My head is in my hands; I suspect I am a stressed out office worker. This evening, lying on a bed in the chamber adjoining my studio, I will sleep contentedly, the peaceful smile of sleepless sleep written onto my face; I am no doubt destined for an article on the important of being well rested, or an advertisement for a new line of polyester duck-feather pillows. Suddenly, without a word of warning, I shall turn, kick off the sheets, and lie, sprawled and sweaty, atop the bed, my eyes dead poppies, red rimmed anguish. My caption shall be “73% of men report difficult sleeping.” All these men will see my anguished brow beaded with moisture, and recognize that I am a piece of them all.
I do not know if I am someone else when I finally sleep. I do not dream.
Perhaps I should say something about how I got started in this business. Photography is my passion. When I take a picture, I alight upon the world’s secrets, the moments of beauty it hides from itself, and I reflect them back out into the world. Taking pictures transforms me.
I was so tired of my previous jobs; I didn’t get to see anything of the world. Instead, I counted it, put it in spreadsheets, and arranged it in brightly colored graphs. I moved from job to job – they were replaceable, identical insofar as I could not find myself in them. ‘I’ began the moment I left the office in the early evening, when I started taking photographs again.
I found out about micro-stock photography late one night. If, after the fact, I had asked myself what I had intended to do, I would have said I was looking for a way out, a new job, something to deliver me, but I suspect I just enjoyed the lulling rhythm of the mouse clicks, the soporific waves of images and words. I typed into Google “How to make money taking pictures,” and found myself learning about stock-photography.
Stock-photography is every generic image you see: it is the blood of in-house corporate newsletters, of magazines, of websites. It began at the same time as mass advertising. In the beginning, stock photography archives were made up of out-takes from commercial magazine assignments, recycled into generic images to be used by anyone who would pay; images that protracted the profit of a thousand small deliberations made by photographers in studios full of the latest brands. Stock photography was the double of every advertising shoot. By the 1980s, the demand for such photos was so high that stock-photography became an industry in its own right. Professional photographers began making generic images for submission to the archives of stock agencies. Such images cannot include brand names, which would immediately limit their appeal. It is an industry creating millions of commercial photographs in which advertising is forbidden.
Micro-stock photography only really started exploding much later, a website told me. “As stock-photography agencies moved their collections online, and excellent digital cameras became affordable for the general public, micro-stock agencies began collecting amateur photographs, offering almost the same quality as professional agencies at a fraction of the cost.” People were making good money from micro-stock photographs, from doing what they loved; from walking out of the office. I joined the industry just as it was beginning.
I may be able to send people earlier versions of the story; if you are interested, just drop me a line.