Making vs. Earning

Photographers will tell you that they make pictures rather than take them (thanks to Ansel Adams).  Saying you “make” a photograph implies intent, purpose, reasoning, and planning – in effect to validate photography as a “real” pursuit that requires practice and work.

Photography is often viewed as the death of painting, a medium that took real skill and years to master.  When access to cameras quickly reached the masses the need for separation between the artist and the average person was born.

Over a century later and the debate is murkier than ever.

I like thinking about the word “make” in general.  At the moment I think it’s a combination of spending years debating the ideas above and recently considering the function of money in a persons life.

I like the definition of “rich vs. wealthy”, where rich is associated with having a large income but large spending and wealthy implies a large reserve of accessible capital that continually provides for ones needs.  Wealthy paints a picture of control and mastery over finances while rich smells of something unstable and temporary.

People seem to use making money and earning money interchangeably, although I hear making more than earning nowadays.  In my mind earning is equated with hard work, like earning a spot on a team or earning some time off.

100 years ago when the majority of people worked in skilled trades and factories and built things they earned money for what they produced.  In today’s world where what is produced is fuzzy and vague people make money – they’re not making much of anything else it seems.  In the consumer service economy where lasting, physical goods are not produced it makes sense that people say they make money.

Services are hard to value unlike a pair of shoes.  The product of a shoemaker’s effort and work is a pair of shoes.  The product of a service economy employee is something conceptual like convenience, happiness, relief, etc.  In order to feel like they accomplished something, or had purpose to their day, they think about what they have created. They usually can’t see one of their customers wearing convenience while walking down the street, but they can see money in their bank account.

Picture a waiter/waitress at the end of their shift holding all their tips for the day.  That cash is physical, and they made it over the course of the day.  In the cycle of getting paid and spending money the stuff we buy acts as a physical reminder of what we’ve made.  Consumer goods like cars, computers, and clothes become what we “make”.

We tend to think of our existence here on earth in a physical way, where how we spend our time is directly correlated with what the results are of that time spent.  Everything takes on a physical presence.  Even when someone gives you the “I value experiences over stuff”, they are referencing the creation of something physical, like an interaction with another person.

In short, we need to make because making gives us control.  And we need to be able to see what we make to be convinced that it really exists.  Otherwise we’re just “here”.

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