Photo Book Review: Visionmongers, by David DuChemin

Lew Zealnd, of the Muppets and that song, “Fish Heads” keeps flying inside my melon…”rolly polly fish heads…” do you know what I’m talking about?

It’s all associated with the word “fishmonger” being at the top of my mind, followed (distantly) by ironmonger. Boomerang fish and wacky lyrics: what kind of book could this be?

If you’re thinking about photography as a profession, it’s the book you should drop what you’re doing to go out and buy. Visonmongers is the first must read for all of us toying with the idea of photography as a full time endeavor.

The book’s author, David DuChemin has been in the news recently, but not for his work, unfortunately. He’s that photographer who plummeted some great distance in Pisa, Italy, broke his legs, and lives to tell the tale. With all the hardware they installed in his bones to keep ’em together, I wonder if they could have installed a camera battery charger that runs off of static electricity–or a cable release at the very least! Here’s to a speedy recovery, Mr. DuChemin.

Back to his book. DuChemin explains right off the bat that a monger is someone who specializes in promoting or selling a specific thing. As such, those freaks among us who dream all day about photography and image generation may accurately be termed “visonmongers”, and this book is a bit of a warning before yielding to the siren call of, as DuChemin puts it, vocational photography. Believe it or not, it does not have one single tip for making better pictures, not explanation of exposure, and not one HDR technique secret. And yet, I recommend it highly.

Life as a photographer sounds like living the dream, and everyone thinks it would be awesome to do (and their parents think it impossible to make a living doing): traveling the world for National Geographic, working with top models, being recognized everywhere you go, having a profile picture of yourself on your Facebook page obscured by your enormous camera, etc. Reality is, it’s a tough life, and most of it’s got a lot to do with business. DuChemin walks us through all the difficulties of the lifestyle and the reality of the business, and truly opens our eyes to the way all the work lying ahead of you. The main focus of the book is that you had better have passion driving you on all the time or you don’t stand a chance of being happy while doing this work.

If you’re still reading after he tells you how hard life is as a photog, he begins sharing how to make life not only possible, but enjoyable as a photographer. DuChemin’s own anecdotes are supplemented very nicely by the short articles and interviews with other successful pros who have found ways to cope with the challenges. Photogs like Zack Arias and Chase Jarvis, and several household names are included (well, if you’ve ever thought about this thing as profession they are household names). Its a real treat to learn the inside track from so many experienced icons.

The final portion of the book deals specifically with all the things you need to do as a business person to make a succesful and sustaining lifestyle. It doesn’t tell you how much you need to make, but it does tell you where to look for specific information, and even shares excellent methods for pricing yourself. This portion alone is worth the cost of the book.

I got three main things from this book required to make to it as a happy vocational photographer (that is, one who still likes photography after a few years):
1. You have to be passionate
2. You have to be tenacious
3. You have to stop being an idiot about business

This book is not for those who want to learn to make better pictures. This book is for those of who are in danger of losing their jobs for reading photoblogs all day, causing traffic accidents because we see some good light and can’t keep our eyes on the road, and stay awake at night and then dream of lighting scenarios that would really make our nephew’s soccer game a lot more interesting. As DuChemin says, it’s for those of who can’t not be vocational photogs. Highly recommended. (Unless you’re looking for tips on better flower pictures, then this isn’t the book for you) Check out www.pixelatedimage.com to get an introduction to David DuChemin’s work and writing.


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