We had the good fortune of connecting with Murray Bolesta and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Murray, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’ve recognized I had a skill for composing images through photography since I was a kid. When you’re serious about starting a business, it’s important to take stock of your skills, aptitudes, innate talents, and experience which could be regarded as exceptional.
The difference between a hobby and a business is steady income.
If you don’t have something exceptional to draw on and provide to a buying public, then a hobby, no matter how much passion you may have for it, won’t become a business. If you don’t feel you have a passion or innate skill for anything in particular, then wait until you discover otherwise! It could happen later in life!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Was it easy? No. It seems a lot of folks have an easier time of it, but maybe that’s just the outside appearance.
Selling art is hard. Selling art photography is even harder, due to tech advances. The barrier to entry is zero. That’s the main lesson learned over time. There is a difference between being a photographer and a photo artist. A photographer does gigs, i.e. weddings, and makes much better steady income than a photo artist like me who refuses to do gigs and ends up potentially starving. That’s another lesson. Finally, I (unreasonably) define art as what sells. If it doesn’t sell, it’s not yet art.
I’ve delighted customers worldwide since 2004, but that doesn’t mean a fortune was made from the beginning, I can say that I sold my images, for money, from the very beginning.
The #1 interesting question of any entrepreneur is: “How did you survive until you made a living at your business?” The answer is usually a day job, and/or a spouse or family member. All of the above for me. (Sometimes it’s inherited money, too – there’s a lot of that going around, but not here.) A professional photographer is one who makes their entire living from photography.
In art, a lot of folks conform to the “industry”: art schools and gatekeepers and a set process which is a grind but which is crucial for the success of most artists. The industry tells you to create a brand, something unique, something to lift you above the fray. But in my case, sadly my brain doesn’t work that way. I have broad, eclectic interests, and it shows in my pictures. My image styles and subjects are all over the map, even though I have begun to focus a little lately. My images, mostly, celebrate our natural and cultural heritage. My goal, overall, is for my images to be compelling and impeccable.
Therefore my brand is simply my name.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As I’ve mentioned, my images, mostly, celebrate our natural and cultural heritage. I advocate for the preservation of that heritage through my images and the written and spoken word. That means savoring the genius output of nature and humankind. Most of my first professional images were inspired by southern Arizona: the Tucson area to the nearby Mexico border at the south. This includes native American culture and structures, hispanic culture, 500 hundred years of colonialists and migrants flowing back and forth from the south, and the remarkable diversity of flora, fauna, and landscapes in southern Arizona. I take folks out there.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My wife Agnès always thought I was talented. How sweet! She deserves all the credit.
When you’re a photo artist of my generation, it’s a cliche to credit Ansel Adams with inspiration. But that’s the way it is for me. I share much of his aesthetic, his conservation ethos, even his original background as a pianist. And I lived in his town when he was still alive, and I met my wife there, even though I never met him.