Why "How You Living?"

© Jin Zhu

Today, I'm posting the first entry in a new series for American Photo, called "How You Living?" I want to explain what this series is about, and why I'm interested in pursuing it. Each post will feature the work of a different photographer, along with a few questions. Anyone who's spent time looking at photographs online will already be familiar with this format, but the tone of my questions might be a bit different than usual.

Put simply, the idea of "How You Living?" is to have photographers answer this question in a very literal way. In other words, instead of trying to pick apart the meaning and motivation behind photographs, these articles will try to find out how photographers are actually surviving in 2013. I want to talk concretely about the challenges facing photographers, and the conditions that affect their work, both in the personal and professional sense of the word.

The goal is to speak with a wide range of photographers, to get an idea of how people in general are getting by. From my experience in Japan, I've already seen some common paths that people involved with photography take: assistant, teacher or freelance photographer of some sort. I would expect these professions to be reflected in other countries as well, but I'm most curious about the attitude that people have towards their situation. For example, I know some people here who are completely comfortable working a job that's completely unrelated to photography, while pursuing their personal work on the side. At the same time, I know someone who took such a job because they were worried about the way that shooting commercially might affect their development as a photographer.

So, in short, the idea is to ask: What kinds of conflicts arise between personal and professional work? How is everyone living?