How is my life working out?
Here I come, hands gripping onto the jungle vine whooshing down through the air as I swing back into my blog and the virtual world ready to share my thoughts and ideas surrounding photography and life. I have been absent and I do apologise. 2015 was a huge year for me, bursting out with truth after truth and it got to a point where I needed some time to process and sit with a lot of things that were difficult to face. Below is a slither of what I have processed in my time off….the rest will unfold in real time as I am making a commitment to writing a blog post with a feature photograph each month.
So how is my life working out now? Before leaving my teaching career mid-way through last year I knew that all I wanted to do for a living was take photographs. I knew that before I even started the school year. I lied to myself and told myself that it made sense to say yes to job security. Needless to say, I resigned from teaching mid-year and the expression of “bittersweet” was what I truly experienced. Whilst I felt relief in the newfound freedom and joy to spend more time with my family and pursue my photography career (the previous post was a memorable photography workshop that I attended a few weeks after handing in my resignation), I felt like total shit to my students and my job-share teacher. I struggled. The remaining half of last year was spent taking on lots of different photography jobs for the experience and to keep busy and prove to myself (and maybe those around me) that I could still make a good living with the choice that I had made, to be a freelance photographer. Whilst I was busy and had heaps of work, come christmas time and I was exhausted energetically, emotionally and mentally. I needed to be with my family and give myself some space to come back to contemplating what and why I chose to follow my dreams with a career in photography. At that moment I couldn’t really articulate the answers to the above questions, but what I did realise is that the above situation was not sustainable for a person like me. I needed to carve out some boundaries and direction.
So what is important to me? When I am not taking photographs I want to be spending time with my family, and when I am not with my family I want to be doing things like surfing, yoga & meditation, and if I am not doing either of those things I hope to be in the presence of my friends who inspire, lift, support and encourage me.
Take photographs. Of what? Well, after months of hustling and shooting a wide range of different assignments for different clients ranging from food, fashion, lifestyle and weddings I have come to the realisation that I want to take photographs of things that have a genuine connection to myself and genuine heartfelt meaning to my clients. The idea of working with people who value working respectfully + collaboratively who get excited about creating meaningful imagery is very important to me. I would rather have no work than work on something that is not meaningful to my purpose or subject. So what defines as “meaningful work” to me? It’s anything that I find interesting & enjoyable and I’m not limiting it to one particular genre of work or clientele because my enjoyment involves working with food, fashion, yoga and weddings. And I am ok with that, I am ok that I am not forging my way through a specific genre as say a food photographer or fashion photographer. What matters most is that there is a respectful flowing connection between my work, the subject and the clientele.
This was where the realisation that documenting weddings is something that ticks all of the boxes for all of the things that matter to me as a photographer. However there was resistance. An internal cringe at the thought of being known as a “wedding photographer”. And yes, the first few weddings I second shot and documented on my very own left me feeling very overwhelmed for lots of overlapping and varying reasons. Why? Because each wedding is so hugely different. Regardless of what others may have to say, I don’t believe that there is a set guide as to how to shoot a wedding. Each couple is different and it takes time to get to know what sets their souls on fire. What do they value in your ability to document their day? How will they connect with me so that I can show them the best of themselves? Where will they find value in what I do? That’s the question that I have been sitting with. That’s the thought that seems to drift into my mind when I receive an inquiry via email, that’s the question that comes into my mind when I’m in Savasana and when I am meditating. Naturally it led me down the path of asking myself the question, “what is it that I value in my ability to document their day through photography?”. What I value is knowing that the work I am doing is not meaningless. It has emotional and historical value in their lives, and mine too. My work is an honest perspective of the observations made from their day. It is not about me. It is about them.
After a summer break spending time with my family, rediscovering my yoga mat and my surfboard, I was part way through reading a book and the author’s words inspired me to be courageous with authentically taking on the idea of truly “doing my own thing” rather than fearing it. Invest in the time to craft your style and draw on a range of things that inspire and push you, no matter how eclectic your pool of inspiration is. If it drives you to work hard at creating something that you are fearless to share, then that in itself is fuel to keep you going and a beacon to help find your bats (or tribe). And even if you find that you are on your own on this journey, you are most likely going to be so "in the zone" that you won't have even noticed (wishful thinking, but that perspective is worth a shot!). And that is how my life is working out right now. After two months of "time off", that is what I came to realise matters the most to me, those two things; meaningful work and balance. Life goals right there.
1) The featured photograph is one of my favourites taken at Fiona and Dean’s wedding which I documented and was recently featured Volume 175 Feb - Apr Issue of Bride to Be Magazine. If you would like to see more images from their Private Party inspired wedding, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) The book that I was reading can be found here. If you have read it, what did you take from it? (I found it to be a little esoteric to the spiritually aware which is not bad if that resonates with you, and it is a bit repetitive but maybe thats the genius of it sinking in?).
In hindsight: After reading what I wrote I understand that for some it may seem a bit "common sense" and whilst I know it's not a new life epiphany, for me it was certainly an "a-ha" moment, as Oprah would put it.