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Charles Barnes: A Photographer Passion For Photography

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I've always been interested in photography. In fact, at one point, I wanted to be a photographer, but I don't know enough to take professional photos and I don't have the funds to purchase a brand new camera. So, rather than buy an expensive camera, I'm going to stick with my Galaxy Note s4.

But, in the meantime, I interviewed Charles Barnes from cbarnesphotography, who has been a photographer for 10 years!

Question: Have you always been interested in photography?

Answer: I would say, yes. I have always been interested in photography, but I was more the Kodak Instamatic enthusiast rather than the die-hard enthusiast. I was the guy who would play around the edges of the craft rather than pursuing it directly. In high school, for example, I never took a photography class at all, but I did have a friend who was a photographer. Through him, I was informally introduced to the school's photo lab and learned how to develop and print film. I couldn't tell you an f-stop from a shutter speed, but I could tell you about dodging and burning.

After graduating college and going to work in advertising in New York, I got a sales flyer from Diner's Club that was offering a Nikon 35mm camera kit on a two-year layaway plan. I didn't know how to use a camera like this, but it looked cool and I decided to get it. I still had no clue about ISO, f-stop or shutter speed but I was faking my exposures ok and I liked the shots that I was getting. One never saw me out without that camera. I loved it. I shot that camera for about 10 years until my wife dropped it on the hardwood floor one day. I never bought a replacement SLR but got a point and shoot because it seemed to be the easy, cheap thing to do. While a point and shoot was expedient, it wasn't the same as the Nikon and I stopped taking nearly as many photos.

In the late 80's, I moved to St. Louis--where I would meet the woman of my dreams, marry her and then watch as she accidentally dropped my Nikon. I kicked around in a couple of different jobs, but photography wasn't really even on the radar for me. In the year 2000, however, I went to work for a US Senator and ran his in-state district office for constituents. It was because of this job that I rediscovered the camera and found not just an interest in photography but a passion for it.

When one takes a government job, one doesn't necessarily expect to find a passion for photography as a result. The cool thing about my work for the Senator was that he had a Press Office. And, the nice thing about having a Press Office is that it was constantly in need of images. Combine that need of images with the fact that digital technology was having a profoundly disruptive and democratic impact on the previously cost prohibitive and exclusive world of film photography and I was hooked. Photography was now a part of my job description. Not only could I afford to get into photography with the right equipment needed for the job, I could immediately see the fruits of my labor. Digital photography lit a fire within me like film never had.

Question: What inspires you to take photos?

Answer: The desire to try and record the world as I see it inspires me to take photos.

Question: Is this a full-time gig or a part-time job?

Answer: Oddly enough, it could be considered both. After 6 years working for the Senator, I decided to move on from government work. My problem was that I didn't know what I wanted to do. I did know that I didn't want to run for an office or become a lobbyist. I also knew that advertising had morphed and evolved into an industry that was alien from the industry that I knew in the 1980's. Photography and an interest in being my own boss did intrigue me. I was exceedingly fortunate because my finances were secure enough that I could afford to take the risk of becoming a full-time photographer. After I left the employ of the Senator, I started my photography business as cbarnesphotography.

I would say that it took me about 5 years to become fully established as a business. Certainly, I had no to very few paying clients during my first year in business. It was such a drastic career change that a lot of people that I knew weren't sure what to make of me taking this route. There was definitely a wait and see attitude going on but I just kept plugging away. I was reading anything that I could find to teach myself how to use the camera. I went to workshops. I took classes at a local community college. More important, I just kept taking photos and posting them on-line. Slowly but surely, people started to come to see me as being serious about photography as a business and then started to hire me.

Over the past couple of years, however, I've come to the conclusion that I want to be able to take the jobs that I want to take versus the jobs that I have to take. I want people to be hiring me as Charles L. Barnes and not the more commercial cbarnesphotography. To help me make that transition, I purchased a small commercial model agency in St. Louis. The agency that I purchased was actually the agency that had given me one of my first on-going paid jobs as a photographer photographing it's new faces photographer 8 years earlier. Buying the agency made sense to me because there was a good synergy to my photography and my previous advertising experience. And, because it was an established business, I was also buying cash flow that could augment my photography income. So part time? Maybe one could argue that but, in my mind, I now have two full-time businesses to which I totally devote myself.

Question: What is it about photography that's the most appealing?

I am a very outgoing and gregarious individual, but I love the fact that photography allows me to detach myself from the interactive real world and become an inconspicuous voyeur answering only to my own sense of vision. There is a real sense of freedom in this as I am an outsider looking in. The only person that I really have to please with my work is myself. The fact that I am pleasing others with what they see from my work is an added bonus.

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