Yes, being an artist is a real job

We need to stop assuming that people in the arts aren’t going to make it in this world

My brother, in first year, as he was waiting to talk to his TA, was asked by a fellow student what program he was in. He replied, “Linguistics,” and then another girl was asked the same question. She responded “Psychology.” Both of them then became subject to the question of our lives, “Well what kind of jobs are you going to get in those fields? Are you looking at the job market now? What are you doing?”

Now let’s spin this around for a minute. If you’ve read a few of my previous op-eds, you’ll know that I’m in criminology, but have no intention of going into that field. I’m going into film. Wild.

Now say I was my brother in this situation, and I responded with, “Cinema studies” as my program. I think we all know what the response would have been. “Cinema studies? That’s not a job. You can’t get money out of that. How do you expect to live?”

This mentality is seriously a problem that, as a photographer, I need to address. Going into the arts does not mean that I will not find work.

There is this common misconception that people who pursue work in the arts are in over their heads, and are only trying to turn hobbies into jobs.

Okay, let’s get one thing straight here. People who pursue arts careers are definitely making an impact on your life.

Let’s look at advertisements for example. When you’re at the bus stop, in the mall, at work, on Facebook, at the theatre, and you see an ad for a product, how do you think those ads are made?

Do you think an engineer or a doctor designed the ad? Or maybe a pharmacist photographed it? Maybe someone pursuing a legitimate career made them?

If you haven’t realized it yet, the answer is no. Who did? Yes, that’s right. The people that we thought would never make money if they pursued a career in the arts!

What I’m trying to get at is that the arts are everywhere, and in this day and age, we need to stop downplaying it as an illegitimate career choice. This is more than just people who are “achieving their dreams”. These are people who made a decision to pursue a career in a field they love, and have a passion for. The one thing about the community in the arts is that we all know that we aren’t in the field for monetary value, we’re in it to make a difference. There is a shared passion within this community of artists. Artists around the world have made impacts on their communities, governments, and society through their work. Artists like Ai Weiwei and JR Artist have made significant impacts on the world through the art that they produce.

You know those short videos that summarize issues around the world in a minute and thirty seconds? You know, the ones from AJ+, CNN, the New York Times. Or how about those short VICE documentaries? What, did you think that these companies just asked anyone with a camera and basic editing skills to make it? Come on now, the people who make these videos are artists; it takes an immense amount of skill to learn how to plan, shoot, and edit a video so that all of us scrolling through our feeds have some form of way to watch the news without watching it for two hours.

Those who pursue a career in the arts are not simply “achieving their dreams”. No, we’re people who are pursuing our passions, our love for what we do. People pursuing careers in the arts are doing it for themselves, and for you. We want to create and let the world be exposed to our creative work. Just because it seems unconventional gives no one the right to label it as illegitimate. What I want to do in my life has nothing to do with yours. My goal in my life is to ensure that I achieve happiness by doing what I love, not what you think will grant me the most money. At the end of the day, yes, we need money to pay a variety of bills and such, but that won’t stop me from working in a field that may not be as stable as “professional” work.

If I haven’t been able to convince you that a job in the arts is just as legitimate as a job in any “professional” work, then go watch the credits of a Marvel movie that you’ve recently seen. Then tell me there is no work in the arts.

Mahmoud Sarouji
Managing Editor

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