Most photographers who love their craft would like to specialize. There are some rare exceptions like Joe McNally who become known despite being all-round photographers. For most of us though, it's easier to concentrate on the one thing we do best, to stay in our niche and make a name focussing on a specific audience. But I dare you to come to Luxembourg and work as an architectural photographer, or wedding photographer! You'll have a hard time finding a couple clients every month.
Working in Luxemburg as a pro photographer has its peculiar sides. It is a very, very small piece of land. People in general earn good money but everything's expensive, so that's just how our economy works. The result of this is that trying to make your marketplace bigger isn't that easy for photographers; in the bordering countries, our services are most often simply unaffordable. Which is funny, considering you are abroad after driving for less than an hour in whichever direction! When we need a plumber here, we call someone in Germany or France to do the job. When a German or a Frenchman needs a plumber on the other hand, even when they are close to the border, they would certainly never call a Luxemburger. Too expensive! So specializing in a niche is a luxury most of us just can't afford if we actually want to support a business with a big enough clientele.
The point I'm trying to make is that this country challenges you as a business and especially as a creative person. To survive in this economy, you need to be able to do everything. On the other hand, and this would be true everywhere in the world, to survive as an artist, particularly in your own eyes, you're not allowed to be mediocre at anything. Combine those factors and what you end up with is the best school you could imagine. You just give your best, whatever you need to do.
Luxembourg is a very gray place sometimes. Well most of the time to be honest. People tend to keep to themselves. The city has very picturesque sites, surrounded by lovely landscapes but still, living in the city, many faces you see are remarkably inexpressive, sulky at best. Like most things in life, this too can pull you down or inspire you. It has done both for me over the years. Now that I'm more and more enjoying shooting on the streets, I've started to appreciate it though. As a photographer, you see things from the outside, which somehow shields you from them. You're documenting them. It's easier to bear something when you don't see it as your life, but as your canvas instead.
But then there's the countryside. Only in the last few years have I realized how rich and beautiful this country can be when you travel around a bit! You'd think that after more than 30 years you should know every last corner of those few square kilometers. I had no idea! Especially in the north, there's some valleys and forests that are so gorgeous, they call it the "little Swiss". This also unmistakably tells you how welcoming the rest of the country can be: "It's sobeautiful, it's as if you were in a completely differentcountry!". If you enjoy hiking, I can absolutely recommend the "Müllerthal" and "Ourtal" regions. Some great places for photos or just to let off some of that built-up steam from city life.
Luxembourg is the country of moaning. Officially. It's just blatant, most of the people you see complain and grumble allthe time. I always thought smalltalk consists of talking about how nice the weather is and how exciting last night's television program was. Not so with Luxembourgers. They just grouch and beef about every single thing imaginable. Whenever they meet, they right away try to one-up each other on who's had the worst day so far.
Of course, this doesn't stop when the people we talk about are photographers. Especially when you combine sulkiness with some kind of ridiculous national pride which people always seem to develop, as soon as it seems as if they had to actually work for their money. See, we Luxembourgers are also very lazy. And we fear everything that involves a change of mind. When we see that there's a lot of photographers coming from abroad, asking less money and still deliver acceptable photos, all this laziness transforms into a storm of moaning, which thereafter transforms into fear combined with hate, resulting in racism and a lot of bad words being thrown around and in the end, we all hope that the politicians will save our poor little bums and drive away those overambitious intruders. What you won't hear are the words "perhaps I need to adapt" or "I'll try to counter cheap prices with quality" or "guess I need to get my posterior up!". Of course, you need to pay the rent but guess what, so does everyone else! Time to prove you're worth your salt!
And so we moan. We moan when it rains. We moan when we drank too much last night. We moan because we all work so much. Or when we don't have enoughwork. We moan when the Green Party proposes to offer a vegetarian optionin public institutions. We moan when our gay prime minister marries his boyfriend, because that's obviouslybeing selfish. Well, the more you people complain about that, the more obvious it gets how necessary this move was! IMHO. Anyway. We moan about the French not talking our language when they are in Luxembourg and working here as grocery clerks. But as we're all something special and way too good ourselves to do thatjob, there's probably no changing that. We moan when the government decides to have passport photos done at the ministries instead of letting the photographers do their job. Of course that decision was completely bonkers and counterproductive, but instead of adapting to the situation and trying to find new markets for ourselves, we moan and do nothing. We moan when foreign photographers take over the cheap photography market, instead of trying to hone our craft, be the best photographer we can be and commit to quality. You willlose clients, of course, but I'd rather have 5 clients that come because of my product despite the higher price, instead of having 10 clients that I can't pay the bills with. See, the world is changing all of the time! So deal with it!
Luxembourg. The tighter you strap your mind-cuffs, the less you'll be able to achieve. Those blinders are very precious to you but you're way too small to survive on your own. Send those foreigners away and you'll be a very tiny, very sad and lonely country one day. I know, it's a big, impressive and intimidating world out there. Embrace it, little Luxembourg, stop grumbling at everything! Be proud of who you are but don't hate on the rest of the world when you're the smallest guy around. I'm pretty sure though that a lot of those clouds will dissipate with a little bit of effort and a better attitude. I know that I'm stepping on many toes here but listen: If what I'm saying upsets you that much, you should already know that you still have loads of passion for the craft. So focus your energy on the latter, rather than squander it with hating on others and things that are out of your control. The rest of the world won't change, youhave to change! So cheer the EFFup.
Are people like that everywhere in the world or is this just Luxembourg? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and if you like my ramblings, share this post with everyone you know! And thanks for reading!