In ancient Greek times (according to Homer in the Iliad, and Nietzche confirms this), warriors only desired fame, glory, and to immortalize their name. They didn’t really care for riches or power, they essentially desired immortal fame.
Now the question I have is this:
Is fame a good thing, and if so, how can we achieve it?
So first of all, I think generally (if your intentions are good), fame is good. The more famous you are, the more influence you have. And the more ability you have to make a positive social impact.
However this is the tricky thing: becoming famous requires luck. Of course you can increase your luck in life by taking more chances, taking more risks, and “putting yourself out there” more, but if you’re not given any opportunities in life, you’ll never become famous.
This is also the tricky thing: at what point do you know you’re “famous” or not? I knew I was “famous” the first time I was recognized in a random public place. But the tricky thing with social media is this,
How many followers do you need to be “famous”? 1,000? 10,000? 50,000? 100,000? 1 million?
Obviously there is no empirical benchmark to know whether one is “famous” or not. But I think the general benchmark in America at the moment is this:
You know you’re famous once you’re recognized by at least 1 stranger in public.
Now, let us consider practical strategies how to become more famous as a photographer. I can only speak from my personal experience, but here are some practical ideas:
- Start a YouTube channel: Most people recognize me because they’ve seen me on YouTube and heard my voice. Start your own channel, and honestly if you’re consistent and upload at least 1,000 videos, you’ll build a following.
- Start your own photography blog: Best way to get indexed on Google, and to improve your “SEO” (search engine optimization, or how to become #1 on Google in your own category).
- Help others: The more you empower, teach, and help others, the more your name will spread! To be frank, I’m not famous for my photography; I’m famous for my teaching and blogging abilities!
- Keep your photos, ebooks, and information open source: The more open your information and photos, the more virally your fame and name will spread! In today’s brave new world of photography, I think having fame, influence, recognition, and connections is more important than money.
- Build a strong photography project or portfolio, and try to get published on popular websites, blogs, or publications. Easiest is to email the photo editor with 5 of your best pictures from your project, and ask if they’re interested in sharing it! Nowadays all websites and blogs love “free content”, so this is a good strategy.
Being famous doesn’t mean being “good”
I’m a famous photographer, yet I’m not the best. And unfortunately a lot of great photographers get unnoticed, while lots of other photographers with better marketing savvy (like myself) gain recognition.
This ain’t fair, but reality isn’t fair.
Consider many great photographers who achieved fame after they died (Vivian Maier), or others who only gained fame at the end of their lives (Saul Leiter). Or many of the thousands who never got discovered at all!
More practical ideas:
- Don’t chase fame: Chase to make photos to please yourself. But don’t be shy to share your photos with others. Do both: strive to make the best photos possible, and strive to market and promote yourself to the best of your own ability!
- Self-publish your photos: On your website, blog, or as prints or a self printed book/magazine! Don’t be dependent on getting “discovered” by a publisher; publish yourself!
- If you’ve made at least 1 iconic photo before you die, you’ve done your duty as a photographer. If you don’t have any iconic photos, that’s fine too; as long as your photos have touched the soul of another human being on planet earth!
To sum up, this is my advice:
Strive to make the best photographs possible, and strive to share them as widely as you can.
But recognize you can control your efforts, but not the results (Ryan Holiday). But still, remember:
The harder you hustle, the luckier you will get!
Make your own luck, you got this!