When I became interested in photography, the photo magazines of the time were the most ready source of information. They were at that time many years ago, full of inspiring images made by the photographers popular at the time like Pete Turner, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, as well as the famous photographers of the immediate past like Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and William Mortensen. Even some how-to books by Adams and Mortensen were helpful to a very serious enthusiast.
If you were really involved with photography, like any other interest the most successful and renowned photographers were what you wanted to emulate, and be like. Like a basketball player today, an enthusiast's hope is to make it to the status of professional. That is success.
Thanks to the military during a war, I got to a position of being paid to do photography rather easily. But I found that to e really accomplished and competitive, using my GI Bill benefit after the service to go to photography school, was the best ay to advice and get established in civilian photography,But once you have established your self professionally what you have become is someone else's photographer, not your own, The skills and abilities you have acquired in service to whoever is paying you to make a photograph for them. Now that has its rewards in profit and accomplishment, but the images are not what you would make for yourself. So, the goal of becoming a professional can be personally disappointing.
So what options are there to make photographs for the reasons that interested you in the beginning? You might be lucky and if you make photographs for yourself and then offer them for sale people will buy them. So you are lucky and some images are purchased. If this encourages you will the future images you make also be popular? If some images sell and other don't, won't you chose to make more like those that are popular? Of course, you sure won't make more like the ones that didn't sell. As this goes on are you making the images you would make for yourself, or those your customers would like to buy? Can you really be your own photographer and a professional? Or is making your own photographs and what you make to sell two different worlds. Of course this not an all or nothing balance, it is for most somewhere in the middle. But if you are photographing for other, they are part of the game.
So, the amateur enthusiast does enjoy an advantage in being true to photographing for the personal inspiration and one's own satisfaction in the image made. But although economic pressure and purpose do not influence the lone photographer following their own eye and inspiration, are we ever truly independent? Does the idea of what is good photography in the opinion of others have any influence? As much as people share their photos over the internet these days, I am sure whatever reaction is obtained might be encouraging or discouraging. Are we waver entirely free to be ourselves and express ourselves candidly, Not really unless we keep it all to ourselves.
Today I don’t get out much to photograph very often, not because it wouldn’t be enjoyable, but I’m old and tired and just getting out is more of a burden than a pleasure. But I have almost 60 years of memories and a library of photographs made in those years. I have culled out nearly all the photos I made professionally and kept those I made for the pleasure of it when I wasn’t working. There is not a great photo among them but the reason I was inspired to make the image remains, and is relived every time I do something with the image. Time and its perspective tells me what my purpose was, and I am afraid mine was rather self-serving as often as I could afford to play as a photo enthusiast. Being professional just paid the bills.