Yes, sure, connections will take you a long way. So will fashion, being able to ride it, good PR and all the rest. But real talent, that actual rare thing, will still out:
His career owed its lift-off to Life’s chief photographer David Douglas Duncan (obituary July 16, 2018). A veteran who had made his name with combat photography from the Korean and Vietnam wars, Duncan was in his mid-sixties when he discovered Forss on the pavement near Grand Central Station, peddling black-and-white prints of his photographs of the Empire State Building and Times Square to tourists for $5 apiece.
Duncan was astonished by the quality of the images and arranged for their publication in the 1984 book New York/New York: Masterworks of a Street Peddler. “Astonishment, disbelief, excitement, confusion and admiration held me captive while my eyes swept the vendor’s display of prints on a sidewalk,” Duncan wrote in the introduction. Further endorsements on the book’s dust jacket came from Henri Cartier-Bresson, Norman Mailer and Ansel Adams, who wrote, “I have seen no photographs of recent years as strong and as perceptive.”
There is a corollary to this of course. Which is that if you’ve got those connections, are in fashion, know how to ride it, employ that good PR and all the rest but still aren’t being lauded as the new Cartier Bresson – or George Forss – then you ain’t got the talent.
Nothing wrong with being a journeyman of course, quite resigned to it myself. But it helps to be self-aware.