The duality of being a classicly trained fine art photographer and a portrait photographer
The first time I was asked to photograph someone I was in college. I think it was my sophomore or junior year. It was graduation pictures for a girl that was my manager at the on-campus gym. My first ‘digital camera’ was a point-and-shoot. As a college student, those ‘new’ DSLR digital cameras were way out of my price range. Honestly, I wasn’t interested in a digital camera. My focus was film, black and white film might I add. I only bought the digital camera for a class I was taking, a digital photograph. I needed it to complete major coursework. So here I was with a digital camera that I honestly wasn’t interested in using.
When she asked me to take her pictures I was confused, unsure of what to charge, or why she chose me to ask of all the photography majors. I was deep in creating fine art, I wanted my work to influence change, create conversations, make an impact. A picture of a person smiling at the camera honestly made me cringe. Also shooting pictures in color I felt took another layer off of creating something timeless. I took her pictures and I honestly did not know what the heck I was doing… the entire time. I will say though, I knew how to read light because I saw in black and white. I edited them in photoshop…yep each one individually She loved the pictures. I mean absolutely loved them. If my computer had a CD ROM drive I could share some of them put advances on technology blah blah. I felt so much was lacking in the pictures, mainly depth.
After that shoot, I didn’t start advertising or talking about the shoot I had done. Honestly, if you ask anyone that was close to me at that time about the shoot, they would have no clue about it, that is how much I talked about that shoot. Yet it was like the flood gates opened up. I tried to avoid it because I was a true artist. I wasn’t interested in taking “pretty pictures”. I was extreme… and slightly dramatic. My friends and family…fought me telling me this was the only way to make a living at photography was by creating a service for the general public, which is completely not true, but I conceded. I took more graduation pictures, maternity pictures, portraits, and then someone hired me to photograph their wedding. I was completely unsatisfied with it all but I kept doing it because ‘at least I was getting paid to pick up my camera’ . It didn’t take long before burnout hit me and a major creative block. When I wanted to create art in my own time I couldn’t. I started resenting picking up my camera which was a deep love of mine.
When I decided to major in photography at 18, it was because I never wanted to work a day in my life. I was good at computers, probably great with understanding them down but it was work. What is the saying, 'Love what you do and you will never work a day in your life', that is what I aspired to have. Creating with my camera was what I loved. I could spend hours in the darkroom and never know a minute had gone by. I wanted to make a living with my camera but not like this. It was when I was only picking up my camera for jobs and each time it felt like a drag, this was not love.
After I got divorced from my college boyfriend, that was also a fine art major, I put down my camera and put it away. I was so focused on providing for my kids and the sporadic photography jobs I was getting would not be enough to properly provide for them. I took on a job working 60 hours a week and between work and being a single mom of two small kids picking up my camera was a luxury that I could not afford. It's true that distance makes the heart grow funder. I began to miss my camera but I honestly began to miss those 'cheezy' 'non-artistic' photoshoots that I had been hired so many times to do.
I learned in college that every moment in life is a moment to experience art. There is art in everything we do, from making a bed, the way we get dressed, the way we write our letters, to the way we brush our teeth. All these things and more are expressions of our true selves and can not be replicated in the same we create throughout our days. While I was taking for granted all my past clients and felt as though they will never see me as a true artist when they were seeing me, and they were seeing an artist. You ever have that moment when you realized you missed a major moment in your life and slaps you so hard in the face you start crying. Yep, that was me one night while my girls slept. I went through my laptop looking over my past jobs and I have taken some beautiful images.
I am honestly thankful for the time I had away from my camera, I needed it. I would have never been able to see the beauty of the everyday art I have created and still have the opportunity to create. It's one thing to be heartbroken about what you missed out on but I couldn't possibly remain in that place. Every moment is a new moment to do something new and learn from your past. Truly every single thing happens for a reason.
It was been a long slow climb as I try to rebuild my photography business from what it was to what I want it to be currently. I am constantly making changes and learning new things. I am still squeezing myself into places to photograph clients with my slithers of availability between home life, working a full-time job, and raising now three little girls as a single mom. Despite how much I going on because I love it, I could never stop ever again. It's not just because I love photography so much if not a little more than the little girls I have given birth to, (jk photography is equal) but because it is confirmation I don't just create pretty pictures. I create something that no one else can create, it has depth because the moments captured mean so much to my client's and my art is changing their life...for the better. I am a true artist and every single moment is art in motion.