Saturday, May 14, 2011

iAARP for AARP Members?

Photograph © Katrin Eismann
"Maturity allows me the grace to listen, learn, and appreciate more deeply." - Katrin Eismann
• • •

My friend Trey Ratcliff once referred to me as the "Godfather of Photography." Trey, in a complimentary manner, was referring to the fact that I have been making photographs and writing about photography for a long time - since 1978, when I was the editor of Studio Photography magazine. 

At the magazine (1978-1980), I interviewed the most well-respected and best-known photographers of the day, including: Andres Feininger, Karsh, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Scavullo, Harry Benson (now over 80) and Arthur Rothstein. That's Arthur and yours truly below.  

I still have, and treasure, these interviews.

I just turned 61, and I have been thinking about age and how it can affect photographers.

Back in 1978, the photographers whom I interviewed, most over 60, were as active and as creative and as enthusiastic as they were when they first started out. My guess is that the creative process of photographing kept them feeling young at heart. I also think that being an active photographer, lugging around gear, getting up early and staying out late to catch the light, and so on, kept these pros in good physical shape.

So I think photography can keep one young.

Speaking of young, I think surrounding yourself with young photographers and young creative people helps us "think young." So does challenging oneself. That is is one reason why I am working with creativeLive in October - doing a three day live class. More on the class to come, so stay tuned.

I, and many of my over-50 and even over-60 photographer friends, are actually more active than ever - teaching more workshops, giving more seminars, writing more books/apps and, of course, making more pictures.

Successful shooters have embraced social media. Those who have not . . . are hurting.

Some active photographers are even jumping out of airplanes.
• • •
I think there are many advantages of having been around for a while, one is the reason given by my friend Katrin Eismann at the opening of this blog post.

Another is the "10,000 hours of practice" concept put forth by Malcom Gladwell in his best selling book, Outliers:

Outliers: The Story of Success 
When young photographers ask me how and why I do so many things I say, "I can rest when I am dead." It's funny, but it's true. 

Also, as Jeremy said in Yellow Submarine, "Hocken knockin, quid pro quo. So little time, so much to know." 

Here is another concept: Learning is health. That is why we must keep on learning.

If you are over 50, I'd love to hear your thoughts (via a Comment on this blog - rather than on twitter or facebook) on how you feel about your photography – past and present. Share what you have learned, your photo philosophy. etc. Pros and amateurs are invited. If you share here, others can read and I can collect your words of wisdom.

Hey! If I get enough responses, maybe I can start iAARP - the International Association of Active and Rockin' Photographers. Yes, my friends, many of my photographer friends still rock!!

If you are not over 50, here is a good quote for you: "You are now where I once was, I am now where you someday will be."

Here's an FYI: Every photographer I know wants to keep shooting until he or she can "rest."

Explore the light - and I look forward to your comments,

P.S. If you like this post, click the twitter and facebook icons below to share. Thank you.


Kenneth said...

Being just a little younger, one year, my task changes from being a pro graphic designer as well as photographer back to photography lover. I just have to remember no more clients to please and no more deadlines.

Definition for amateur, one who does something for the love of it.

Puggle said...

Rick, I'm so glad you wrote this. I turned 53 this month, and I love learning and I'm more passionate then ever about photography. I got in rather late, only 4 years but have been hooked.

Now back to the age thing, I recently ruptured a disc and it's made it tough. I have severe sciatica pain. I'm doing my best to overcome it, and hopefully will avoid an operation.

But, I'm as active as I can be, and enjoying every second.

No doubt, I'm more in touch with my mortality now. I'm close to my parents, now in their 80's and I try to spend quality time with them whenever I can. Dad is an artist and photographer, and my greatest inspiration.

We're not getting older, we're getting better. :-)



Sharon Thomas said...

I'm ever amazed at the technical advances in image making. I have more time for my photography. I keep on "learning". With digital, no more running out of shots while doing underwater photography. Aging is a state of mind.

MojaMike said...

I got bitten by the Shutter Bug at 23 years old, shot for 6 years, and then let myself get side-tracked. Now, 20 years later, I am getting back into it, and loving it.

I can only image how good my chops would be if I had stuck with it. I've got a lot of catching-up to do, but thanks to the wealth of good content from photographers like yourself, it will be a lot easier to learn. - Thanks

Marty Cohen said...

I’m 66 years old and worked and taught as a Pediatrician for 35 years. Now I’m retired from Pediatrics and I call myself a “Photographer.” I put that in quotes because I feel like I have quite a ways to go to reach the level I want to achieve. But that’s what makes this part of my journey fun.

Not only does it keep me active physically, but, and maybe more importantly, it keeps me active mentally. There is so much to learn and there are so many good teachers. And, as I learn, there is more that I can teach. Photography is a chance to share my vision.

I love to shoot landscapes, animals and old rusty trucks. For me, photography is about sharing what I see and how I see it. I love it when I take a photograph and then say “Wow” as I look at the image. That’s fun! Sharing it with others makes it even more fun.

About three months ago I got to a low point in my creativity and photography. I needed something to kick my butt and get me back into it. I began to notice how many photographers had started to do a daily photo on their blog, and that was what I needed to get moving again. So, I started a blog where I post a photo every day. Some of the images are great and some are not, but, in a way, that’s part of my photo philosophy. Let people see my process and my development. Get feedback, positive and negative. Hey, at 66 I’m still growing!

I’ve always believed that, “Life is an Attitude." And, even when I can’t seem to get that image to look the way I want, it just pushes me out there to learn more and get better at it.

Marty Cohen

Rick Sammon said...

Puggle..... Dr. John E. Sarno can help your back. Do a search for his books on line.

He cured me!


Travis W Forbear said...

As a younger photographer I love to reach out to seasoned professionals for advice, information, and most importantly creativity. I think it's a two way street for those willing to be open to opportunity. Thanks for sharing this Rick!

Sharon Thomas said...

One more thought...I'm 64 and have had back problems most of my life which I tried to ignore. Finally, a spinal fusion complete with rods and screws this past December. The road to recovery has been longer than I hoped but it is a road and I will never give up my passion which is photography. For others out there suffering physical ailments, activity of any kind keeps you smiling and keeps you going. And, as another commenter said, we're getting better, not older.

PhotoKarl said...

I am 69 and still going strong - even "stronger" than I was when I was younger. Despite more than 50 years making images, I am always trying to improve. And I have been loving photography even more than when I was younger (I have a lot more time for it!)

From taking a "fine art photo course" this winter to taking IR photos, I find that learning and experimenting has helped me focus on "vision" rather than the hardware. For me at least, it proves that the older you I get the more open I am to new ideas. I started a photo blog to keep track of my life in photography. As you might say, "how great is that!"

Rick, your topic is right quite timely, too. Just today, the NY TImes wrote about how TV and advertising executives have finally recognized the senior generation as important to their bottom line as is the younger demographic.

Rick Sammon said...

Sharon.. .Dr. Sarno can help you. I know!

Peter Liu said...

Aloha Rick!

I turn 51 this year and I've been shooting since I was 15. I watched cameras go digital during my career in the computer industry, and they continue to get smaller and better.

Personally, I think the SLR paradigm will eventually give way to smaller, smarter devices. As soon as they get past the glass problem and figure out how to do interchangeable lenses digitally (noiselessly) and without moving parts, we'll see a revolution happen.

We all keep learning—those of us who use cameras and those who make them. I never get tired of it.

Keith said...

I'm 56 and have had a camera in my hands since I was 10. In my 20s, I started getting more serious about the art. However, limit funds (at first) then a demanding IT career kept me from throwing myself into my art. That all changed in 2005 when I started using a completely digital workflow. I've spent the intervening years learning about color management, processing techniques and the differences between film and sensors. At the same time, I've felt that I'm more mindful of the world around me and more interested in delivering an interpretation of my emotional response to the world rather than the being the young journalist skillfully recording all the new wonders I've discovered. Not that there aren't still wonderous things to be discovered and coveyed. There are, but it's a more introspective person behind the viewfinder now. I just retired from my IT career and am actively pursuing my passion for photography as well as freelance writing. If I am commercially successful or not, I now have the luxury of working on my own terms. Always listening for wise counsel, but my terms nonetheless.

Steve Bunderson said...

Turning 65 in June. Just sold my 5000 sq. ft. studio.
Was in Haight Ashbury in the late 60's as well as woodstock. Didn't see you....but.... I have traveled all over the world doing photography and loved most of it. Digital has made it a whole new ballgame and it is so much fun again. So I am trying to reinvent myself. The "digital" photographic process does make you feel younger again. I have fought social media for a long time but now I know I have to embrace it. It is sure painful. But we will see where it goes. You, my friend, continue to inspire. Don't know where you get all your energy. Probably from all those excited students, with huge desires to create, you continue to teach. Keep up what you are doing. Us old shooters salute you. (If I could get my arm that high.) I would sign up in a minute for iAARP if it existed. You've got a few extra hours don't you. See what you can do. Great post and great comments. Lots of people inspired by you. Way to go.

Kathy said...


Which of Dr. John E. Sarno's books did you find the most help from? I'd like to turn my daughter on to them.

I turn 60 this August and have really been feeling the aging process. Probably a result of all the wild oats I previously sowed ;-)

I've been interested in photography for many years but have just recently begun to take it "seriously". I was really sorry that I didn't get into your workshop in St. Pete. I did thoroughly enjoy your presentation at Sunken Gardens. From there it has spurred me on to sign up for a class at my local college. I am psyched about it.

I think that when we stop learning, we stop growing. When we stop growing, we die. Live on!!