© Ricky Rhodes

Ricky Rhodes: I think any photographer who can support themselves from taking pictures is successful.

Chloe Aftel: Making any assignment work. No matter the budget, location, talent, etc. Whatever constraints put upon you, you come out with something awesome. That and being able to pay your bills.

Julia Fullerton-Batten: There are two levels of measurement of success as a professional photographer. The most basic one is that you earn enough to live from your career. The other is that you achieve recognition for your work, be it from agencies, art collectors and the general public.

Matt Black: To be able to show things that otherwise would go unseen. That’s the only reason to do this work, in my book.

Carli Davidson: That is so subjective. I love my life because I have an amazing community of people I love. I’ve worked hard to transition that into my photography career, making sure the people on my crews are honestly there to have a good time and make a living at something they love. In that sense, success is making this something you can both live (because I can’t tell you the last time I had a day off) and also love by being surround by people who energize you!

Joan Lobis Brown: Recognition, money, a feeling that I have done a good job. I’m still not sure.

Michael Lewis: Well, these days (as I now have a 3 year old boy), putting bread on the table is my primary concern! Pay the bills, have enough left over to enjoy yourself, and put some aside so you don’t have to worry too much about the future. If I can continue to do these things, while creating pictures that I’m proud of, that would be a professional success.

Thomas Alleman: For me, the greatest success would be to be able to do my work almost constantly and at the highest level I’m able to reach. Since much of my work is personal projects, I don’t need access to models or studios or magazine covers or baseball stadiums or platoons of soldiers in order to work at that highest level; I just need time and inspiration and good health and high spirits and. . . more money. I need plane tickets and lodging at cheap hotels and humble dinners in little taverns—and film and processing. I’ve constructed a life where I can pursue my personal work almost full-time, however I see fit, and that ability brings me close to the success I crave; what I continue to need and pursue is a little more opportunity, a somewhat larger pool of resources, a teeny bit more help.

Brooke Frederick: That’s tough because I feel like my definition of success is constantly changing. I have noticed that I do my best work when I set a series of small goals and deadlines for myself and complete them. As a photography professional, I think success is hearing positive feedback from both strangers and people you admire… of course getting hired based on your personal work is pretty amazing too.

Rania Matar: Success for me is doing work that you love, working on projects that you are passionate about and enjoying every step of the photographic process from shooting, to editing, to presenting, exhibiting and/or publishing the work. If the work gets seen, appreciated and recognized, then it is very rewarding! I feel that the notion of success evolves as one evolves in his/her photography career, but truly the most important success for me is to stay true to myself and to never lose the excitement and the passion while working on personal projects.

Jamie Diamond: Finding your own voice.

Cig Harvey: To pay the bills through pictures and to make images that you love, that surprise you and haunt you.

Chris Arnade: Getting to a position where you can take pictures that fully respect the subject you choose to focus on. Not feeling the urge to make anyone, other than you and your subject, happy.

Paul Kwaitkowski: Developing the ability to evolve and adapt photography to a context outside of the medium.

Amy Lombard: Without question, having people trust your vision. It is something that takes time. Getting to a point where you can convince a media outlet to let you do the most seemingly bat-shit crazy idea for a shoot and have a group of editors be like, “Ah, yes. We get it. We love it. We trust you” is the best feeling in the world.

Henry Horenstein: Doing it.

Noah Rabinowitz: I really have no idea. What I do know is that once you think you have success, you might as well give up.

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