Thursday, September 5
Learn to say "I am a photographer" out loud with a straight face
Summer is officially over, school has started and life has returned to early nights, early mornings and more structure.
We really had a good summer this year. It was busy, but filled with so many beautiful and fun moments. I did not have a lot of time to work on photography, but I did have a lot of time to think. Now I am more than ready to put my thoughts into action. Time is still limited. I have to accept that it just is, when you have little kids and commit yourself to raising them mostly at home. You can't have it all, but I am more motivated and determined than I was last year to pursue my love for photography. I have to tell myself over and over that it is photography that I love most. And not just taking photos, but also discovering and admiring other people's work. It is had for me to express in words the way I feel when I see a photograph that speaks to me. I can really only find one word for it -- happiness.
I discovered several other photographers this summer who's work I love and admire, find encouraging and inspiring. One of them is Alain Laboile, a father of six who lives with his family in the french country side. He takes hundreds of pictures of his children, amazing portraits of ordinary moments, raw and full of life. I will follow him closely.
Another one I just discovered is Deb Schwedhelm. I absolutely love her work.
I read an interview with her and it turns out that she used to be a registered nurse for years before she became a photographer. Hmm, that reminds me of someone else I knew....
It's almost funny when I think about my time as a nurse. It seems so far away and surreal. It was the life of a different person. I think back to all the things that I used to do in the hospital, working with cancer patients and dying patients, and having to deal with all their wounds, smells and bodily fluids.
It was hard work. It was valuable work and I respect every nurse out there. I don't regret the experience and I learnt a lot, but it was me living a wrong life in an unsuitable environment. My decision to never return back to it was the right one. No doubt.
I also have no doubts (although they sneak in every so often but I am trying not to let them) that I am now on the right path to something that does suit me, is life giving and honoring the talents that were given to me. I am open to wherever this will lead me.
When I read the interview with Deb Schwedhelm I came across these encouraging words by Cheryl Jacobs-Nicolai
What Every Aspiring Photographer Should Know
– Style is a voice, not a prop or an action. If you can buy it, borrow it, download it, or steal it, it is not a style. Don’t look outward for your style; look inward.
– Know your stuff. Luck is a nice thing, but a terrifying thing to rely on. It’s like money; you only have it when you don’t need it.
– Never apologize for your own sense of beauty. Nobody can tell you what you should love. Do what you do brazenly and unapologetically. You cannot build your sense of aesthetics on a consensus.
– Say no. Say it often. It may be difficult, but you owe it to yourself and your clients. Turn down jobs that don’t fit you, say no to overbooking yourself. You are no good to anyone when you’re stressed and anxious.
– Learn to say “I’m a photographer” out loud with a straight face. If you can’t say it and believe it, you can’t expect anyone else to, either.
– You cannot specialize in everything.
– You don’t have to go into business just because people tell you you should! And you don’t have to be full time and making an executive income to be successful. If you decide you want to be in business, set your limits before you begin.
– Know your style before you hang out your shingle. If you don’t, your clients will dictate your style to you. That makes you nothing more than a picture taker. Changing your style later will force you to start all over again, and that’s tough.
– Accept critique, but don’t apply it blindly. Just because someone said it does not make it so. Critiques are opinions, nothing more. Consider the advice, consider the perspective of the advice giver, consider your style and what you want to convey in your work. Implement only what makes sense to implement. That doesn’t not make you ungrateful, it makes you independent.
– Leave room for yourself to grow and evolve. It may seem like a good idea to call your business “Precious Chubby Tootsies”….but what happens when you decide you love to photograph seniors? Or boudoir?
– Remember that if your work looks like everyone else’s, there’s no reason for a client to book you instead of someone else. Unless you’re cheaper. And nobody wants to be known as “the cheaper photographer”.
– Gimmicks and merchandise will come and go, but honest photography is never outdated.
– It’s easier to focus on buying that next piece of equipment than it is to accept that you should be able to create great work with what you’ve got. Buying stuff is a convenient and expensive distraction. You need a decent camera, a decent lens, and a light meter. Until you can use those tools consistently and masterfully, don’t spend another dime. Spend money on equipment ONLY when you’ve outgrown your current equipment and you’re being limited by it. There are no magic bullets.
– Learn that people photography is about people, not about photography. Great portraits are a side effect of a strong human connection.
– Never forget why you started taking pictures in the first place. Excellent technique is a great tool, but a terrible end product. The best thing your technique can do is not call attention to itself. Never let your technique upstage your subject.
– Never compare your journey with someone else’s. It’s a marathon with no finish line. Someone else may start out faster than you, may seem to progress more quickly than you, but every runner has his own pace. Your journey is your journey, not a competition. You will never “arrive”. No one ever does.
– Embrace frustration. It pushes you to learn and grow, broadens your horizons, and lights a fire under you when your work has gone cold. Nothing is more dangerous to an artist than complacency.