I've been around here for a while, and finally feel ready to start asking these questions…so here goes!
I've been through three years of college so far, and a couple of months ago I finally saved up enough money for a 5D2 and a few lenses (I'm very lucky to have parents who are paying my way through school, I know). I know in my heart that photography is what I want to do with my life. I'm a petroleum engineering major, and frankly I'm sick of going through the motions at school for something that just isn't fulfilling. I'm hoping to make enough progress with my photography that I can drop out of school by the end of the year and never look back!
I've already shot three weddings at $500 each (I realize this price is pretty high compared to a lot of other people I know, but to be perfectly honest I'm a lot more serious about this than they are, and, if I dare say, a lot better at it as well), and weddings are all well and good, but they're not exactly exciting, you know? My real dream, obviously, is to become a photojournalist, and a damned good one at that. I want to do for photojournalism what Peter Lik's stunning work has done for landscape photography. I want to be the perfect combination of David LaChapelle and Robert Capa.
I see a lot of negative reactions on here to people with big aspirations in the photography world, and let me tell you right now, I understand it'll be hard. I know what it means to work toward something you want, and I know how tough it is out there for photographers these days. I'm ready to hear the harsh advice and the dire predictions. Lay 'em on me!
So, without further adu, here are my questions:
• How does one go about getting into the business, anyway? I've got a few thousand bucks saved up…should I just catch a plane to Afghanistan and start taking pictures? Do I need a visa for that? I imagine that when I get there, I can take a bunch of pictures around Kabul and sell them to at least the Baltimore Sun or the Sacramento Bee, right? I don't think I'm ready to go into combat yet!!
• How much money should I expect for those pictures? A few thousand dollars?
• What lens would be best for taking photos inside a foxhole? And what picture style should I use? I'll probably run a cross-processing action on it later anyway, so that last question isn't super important.
• How much can I expect to have to pay a guide/bodyguard to drive me around the combat zone once I'm ready to go in? Should I choose someone clean-cut and professional or grizzled and battle-worn?
• Where do I get the vest or whatever that tells opposition soldiers that I'm a photographer and they shouldn't shoot me?
• I've noticed that a good subject for successful reportage photography is poor people. Is there any particular country where one can find people poor enough to be emotionally powerful (and photogenic), but is safe enough that I can walk around with my 70-200L without worrying?
• Does one generally have to pay poor people to take their picture, or is the thrill of seeing the flash go off enough? If I do have to pay them, what's an appropriate amount? I want to be fair, but I don't want to spoil anybody, you know?
• How hard would it be to convince models to do a shoot in Waziristan? I haven't seen this kind of shoot done before (I would preferably like to have explosions happening in the background), so I'm hoping it's my ticket to my own "style."
• How many models can I reasonably expect to sleep with for every one I shoot? Are they generally OK with no-strings-attached relationships or am I going to have to do a lot of "leaving the country for a job?" (You know what I mean, guys!)
• When meeting a contact at an outdoor cafe in the middle east, should I wear a keffiyeh and aviators, or a more traditional set of khakis? What type of cigarettes should I smoke, and how many?
• If Rolling Stone and National Geographic both want the same picture, which one should I sell it to?
• Do war photographers have assistants, or should I only hire one when I'm doing fashion work?
• I'm assuming that among the many beautiful and exotic women I'll be taking to bed during my career, the one who captures my heart will be a sexy white South African who is either a journalist or an aid worker. For those of you with experience on this front: how did you come to terms with her country's painful racial history? Is this an appropriate subject to bring up on, say, a second date?
• Realistically, how long should I expect it to take me to win my first Pulitzer? I know it'll be tough, so I'm prepared for a long wait…but let's be honest, after 10 years with nothing I'll probably be ready to go work at my dad's dealership.
Well that's it! I can't wait to hear your responses! Like I said, please be brutally honest…it'd be better to give up now than waste all that time and money trying at something that isn't guaranteed to work.