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Becoming a photographer, part 1

by Jeff Hanselmann



My name is Jeff Hanselmann. I'm Fred Hanselmann's son. This article is about the start of a partnership between myself and my father in his photo business.

How does one become an artist, in this case, a fine-art landscape photographer? Is it something we're born with, is it taught? What about for someone who is half way through their life and decides to be an artist? Is it too late? These are just a few of the questions that went through my mind as I read my father’s email asking me if I'm interested in becoming a partner in his photo business and eventually taking it over.

The first thing you need to know about me is that I know nothing about photography-- zero, zip, nada. I'm a point and shoot kinda guy. All I know is that the little green rectangle on the dial means full auto, and full auto is good! I don't know a thing about taking pictures, printing pictures, selling pictures, nothing. So why on earth would I want to take over a photo business?

Well, one reason is that I love art. I love looking at art, making art, talking about art and I believe in art. I believe art has a very important place in this world. Another reason is that my dad has spent the last 30 or so years of his life taking and selling pictures and it would be pretty cool to continue his legacy, and maybe someday pass it on to my children. A little romantic and idealistic, I know, but still a very cool idea.

I have always been interested in the arts. I've dabbled with painting and love drawing. I have done set design for a small local theatre in Maine where I live with my wife and three children. I studied architecture for two years and have done remodeling and residential design. I have always incorporated design and art into what I do.

In the past, my primary source of income has always come from construction. I've been in the construction business since I was 16 years old. I started my own roofing business at 25 and then moved onto carpentry and remodeling with my own construction company at 30.

Things change with kids. My wife and I always knew that we wanted one of us to stay home and raise our children. My wife is also self-employed and her business was growing fast, she's a great business person and is excellent at what she does. The answer was obvious, she would work and I would stay home.

My kids are getting older now which means I will soon be out of a job. It is said that in Maine there are two seasons, winter and July. Winters are long, dark and cold. This gives one plenty of time to ponder the questions of life, especially when you’re a domestic engineer like me.

Even though I make a good living in construction, the idea of going back isn't too appealing. I want something different. My dad’s email couldn't have come at a better time. I believe that sometimes you create opportunities and sometimes opportunities create you.

So, two questions: Can I make a living selling photography? Do I want to make a living selling photography?

At this point, I really don't know the answers to these questions.

When my son was little, maybe three or four, he gave his indecisive grandmother some great advice on how to get down from the boulder they were playing on. He said "just close eyes and jump". So I am taking his advice and I am jumping. What do I have to lose?

I thought it would be interesting to record this journey, to share in its successes, failures and pitfalls. So here we go!

My next blog will be about my first week of shooting, figuring out the camera, (what to do when it’s not on that little green rectangle) and a very important lesson I found out the hard way.

Jeff Hanselmann
December 16, 2013