“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” ~ Paulo Coelho from The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream
A question I’ve been asked several times goes something like, “How did you get involved in photography?” or “How did you know photography was the right thing for you?” Since the question keeps popping up and since another visitor to my photo journal has asked me the question, I’ll attempt to articulate it in as short a post as possible.
My entire life I’ve had a creative tide within me and it has manifested itself in many ways: writing; drawing, especially with pencil and charcoal; sewing; crafts; photography; and less obvious creative elements such as gardening, cooking, and decorating. I’ve delved into each of these at different parts of my life, some of these pursuits continuing to be a part of my life. I’ve also always been a very visual person. I learn best by seeing things being done or demonstrated. I’ve always paid attention to details and love lines, curves, shadows, as well as colours, tones/shades, and the multiple effects of light. I love the beauty in the ordinary and the extraordinary, and in subjects that evoke any form of emotion.
I remember how I was fascinated with the first camera our family purchased. It was a big deal back then and a bit of a splurge to be sure. The splurge was a leather covered Brownie box camera with a leather carrying handle on the top. I always thought the front looked like a face. Seeing photographs taken with the camera was as exciting to me as remembering the thrill of learning to read. I told you this goes back a long way! I was the primary photo taker in my family by default I think but certainly I was pleased to be behind the camera.
As I grew older, I had so many different distractions — horses and dogs, primarily — and the more creative pursuits were put on life’s backburner for a while. In high school, the main careers for women were still teacher or nurse, though admittedly it was a time when girls were being encouraged to expand their career options. I never for a moment considered writing or photography would be a way to make a living and those were the two creative pursuits that most held my interest. So they remained nothing more than hobbies. Marriage, raising children, and working to support ourselves became priorities.
While growing up my family knew I loved photography. I received the occasional camera for birthdays or Christmas, technical books on photography (which I still have), and albums so I’d have a place to put all the photos I was always taking.
I didn’t put any effort into my creative pursuits other than to write letters or in my journal (for the writing) or to take ordinary snapshots (in the case of photography). Earning a living and being an involved parent was more important. Writing and photography gave me enjoyment but I didn’t feel they were anything more than private hobbies. Fast forward to a lot of life changes and situations and things began to change. My son grew up and began his own career and I moved up north to remarry. For the first time since I was a teenager, I had more time on my hands and began putting more effort and gleaning enjoyment in three different pursuits: gardening, writing, and photography. Some of my writing was published, first in a couple business magazines and then in gardening publications. The more validation I got from my writing, the more I began to really focus on improving and growing particularly with creative writing (short stories was my thing). In 2000, after surviving cancer, I made the decision to quit making excuses why I couldn’t pursue my creative desires. Like a tidal wave I put everything into my writing and that’s when I realized I should have done so far sooner. I was making up for lost time.
Although I was successful with the creative writing, having won a few short story contests, and getting some published, I still knew there was more I wanted to pursue. I transitioned into freelance writing, getting numerous articles published in a variety of magazines. With most of those articles, it was necessary to provide photographs to go along with the article. That was the juice I needed to shift from my photographs becoming more than a sidebar. I enjoyed the photography far more than the writing and a couple years ago decided, as I had done with the writing, to take the dive and get serious about the photography. It was time to improve my skills and to upgrade my camera.
How did I know? That’s the hardest part to explain. The best answer I can give to that is that I had the time to explore the creative pursuits I most love and, by being totally consumed in learning and improving, it became evident to me it was meant to be. My only wish is that I would have realized decades ago to take formal training in photography. By taking it up at this time in my life, it is more difficult to build a business. I view that challenge as merely one wave in a big sea. When I pursue anything, I take it seriously and I dive right in the deep end, forcing myself to paddle or swim no matter what. But that’s my personality — I was raised to be independent, to always do my absolute best in whatever I pursue, and to overload on the effort. My mother realized that one of her weaknesses was avoiding taking risks so she always encouraged me, urged me, to take risks and I’m so grateful she mentored me in that way. My mother also taught me some excellent business skills from the time I was about 10 or so — yes, no kidding. I remember her talking to me about business and business ethics, showing me and explaining things to me and why they were so important. So with all that she taught me, those attributes contribute greatly to anything I pursue. The important thing is that I finally began to pursue my photography in a way that I always thought was only a dream.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
Coming Soon: A series of posts here in my photo journal with a visual tour of “my neck of the woods”.
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