Last week I had Cierewyn in my studio, job-shadowing me to see if a career in photography is something she would like to do when she finishes school in a few years. When her Mom Nina, a past client of mine, initially contacted me to ask if her daughter could spend a couple of days with me, I thought the experience was something that I could do as a way of giving back, but in fact this ‘Day in the Life of a Photographer’ made me see how far I’ve come.
Over the years I’ve had a number of girls shadow me for a few days to see what it’s like to be a self employed photographer in Cape Town. I’ve always been a massive advocate for this type of experience because as I young person just about to leave school, I really had NOooo idea what I wanted to do with my life, I had no frame of reference, and I had no idea who I could ask for advice and inspiration. It took nearly 10 years after leaving school for me to find something that I really enjoyed and really wanted to excel in. So any time I’m asked to help a soon-to-be school leaver, I’ll always gladly do it, with open arms.
Captain, My Captain
Secretly, I have grand ideas of me imparting my knowledge and experience and reciting some wise quotes and words that will trigger the spark in another person to delve deep into her chosen field and ultimately see her become a massive success and ultimately, an incredibly happy individual. I envisage future conversations, when she reminisces about the 2 days she spent with an old, knowledgeable photographer, who instilled a sense of possibility and unshakable belief in her abilities. Not unlike the ‘Captain, My Captain’ scene from Dead Poets Society. Oh ego, you are such a funny thing!!
In reality, I speak frankly about how unglamorous the life of a self employed photographer is. About the mountains of admin, the continuous marketing efforts and the stress of hoping to make enough money at the end of the month. The reality that creating beautiful imagery, is only a tiny fraction of where my energy, effort and time is funnelled. That creating for the sake of creating is something that needs to be scheduled, just like everything else in the course of the day. Without the schedule, it won’t get done.
How Far Have You Come?
Do you ever take time out from your daily to-do lists, your pursuit of success, or your drive to improve. Do you ever give yourself a break from your need to outshine, out-succeed and out-earn your peers? If you’re self-employed, I’m guessing the answer is, No!
After going through a few mundane admin activities, and an afternoon of photographing an event which was more of a ‘have-to’ than a ‘want-to’ project, I decided to schedule a creative shoot in the studio with Cierewyn, to show her how I conceptualise, set-up, shoot and edit a fine art image. The type of creative shoot that get’s me excited!
Seeing the process through her eyes, suddenly made me realise how far I’ve come. This time last year, I believed that I wasn’t a creative photographer, that I could only create on someone else’s instruction. This time last year, I also avoided Photoshop, like the veggie section in a store, when I’m shopping for dinner on an empty stomach. This time last year, the thought of defining myself as a fine art photographer, hadn’t even entered my consciousness.
As I talked through the compositing process of this image, I realised how much self-taught knowledge I have in my head, and how I just assume everyone else knows it too. Sure, there’s plenty that I still don’t know, and there are photographers out there that know far more than me. But in the big scheme of things, this process made me realise how far I’ve actually come on a creative level, compared to the photographer I was this time last year.
So this is a big ‘thank-you’ post to Cierewyn, for allowing me to share what I know, to hopefully have helped her get clear on her future career choices, whether in photography or not, and for allowing me some retrospection and cause for a ‘Self Five’.
Check How Far You’ve Come
So if you feel like you need to find a reason to ‘Self-Five’ yourself, then my suggestion to you is:
- Invite a high school kid to spend a day with you in your work environment, so you can explain what you do, and how you do it.
- Give them the advice that you wish you had received at that age. You might surprise yourself.
- Take some time to consider where you were this time last year. You will undoubtedly find that you’ve grown in knowledge & experience.
- Only ever compare & measure your current situation with an earlier version of you. External comparisons will never serve you.