I feel as though this blog has been thirty-three years in the making, or maybe half that time. Maybe even half of that half, I'm not sure, really, only that it's as if a Mammoth-sized bucket of truths and struggles I've lived with have been tucked away for far too many years – and the weight now is too great. I mean, a Mammoth. To wait any longer, to put off being honest and explaining things that not everyone, especially not a working photographer, openly admits to, well, it would earn me no favors. Honestly? I fear more from remaining silent than anything that may result of actually writing all the things down.
Preface: I'll try to keep this as far from scatterbraining as possible but don't crucify me if it wanders from time to time. I also won't start by saying that what I have to tell you is any different from what a lot of people go through, but everyone handles their personal journeys differently. And what I can call mine – the insecurity/self-esteem/I'm-never-good-enough issues, the business and focusing failures and atypical regrets – not all have been handled well through the years. I've lost a lot of people because of who I am compared to who I once was. But I've also moved on from quite a few people that never deserved the third, fourth or eightieth second chances I'd given them. It's true that I've made great strides forward and hit perfect tradewinds that set me in the right direction, but there have also been giant leaps back. The important thing to note here is that I've not once wanted to completely give up. I wasn't raised a quitter, and though I've a laundry list of incompletes in my life, I never gave up anything.
The blog title, though – what does it mean?
Well, it means what it says. I'm an antisocial-social photographer. I'm social mostly because I have to be, and it's not always because money is involved; I will admit to a plastered smile while at an event (like, 1 really) or two when I'd rather have been anywhere but there. But that's life. We all love our jobs but we have complaints about them too, right? Enough said.
But for me, being antisocial in a highly competitive and a socially networking driven business is...excruciating sometimes. Now don't get me wrong, I love what I do. 110%. I love meeting my couples and all the interesting people I have worked with and will work with, but when it comes time to be me, I immediately get clammy and wonder if I should be the "cool, chill photographer" that everyone these days seems to idealize, or the me that's ...me.
And don't tell me you don't know the type – the Han Solo Autumn seasoned-looking photographer donning her mid-to-upper calf brown leather riding boots, dark blue jeans, a cream or sage colored long sleeve blouse (with rolled cuffs!) and a puffy vest to complete the attire. It's the same. thing. everywhere you go. I don't do that. Mainly because I'm not comfortable with my weight but THAT'S a topic for later discussion.
No, friends, I don't do that cookie cutter photog look because – wait for it - it's not what I want to do. I like a certain aesthetic that fits the me on the inside but also: I like to be fcking warm when it's cold outside. So no, I won't dress the part just to dress the part, especially on morning shoots where my hands are already frozen and I need to hustle on to get the shot. It's the shot, the people, my connection to them – that is what is important to me. Everything else is noise.
But after a while, that white static gets to be deafening. Everything eventually morphs into "you're not the right fit for this field because you don't blahblahblah..." or "you'll never be as successful as so-and-so because you're too GD kind and pleasant to everyone." etc., etc. And then I'm left to question why I've been poking away at this beast of an industry for seven years without really making that huge of a dent.
Yet. Not made that huge of a dent...yet.
That one word is my answer. Yet, I still have to ask: Why do I do this? Why do I fight against myself and constantly try to sabotage all that I have done, because the wedding, portrait and event industries want me to be something I'm not?
Why do I have to play catch up when I've had my style, products, potential clients and hell, even friends, stolen away from me by greedy, cut-throat "professionals." I suppose you might be saying, "oh woe is you, Jack. Shut it, it's how it is." And you'd be absolutely right and entitled to that opinion. But guess what, I'm entitled to my own way of thinking as well. Feel free to close this blog whenever you've reached your judgemental limits, I won't mind. Or care.
And so I found myself stuck in this holding pattern of "do I sell out and produce what I know will earn me success, both monetarily as well as commercially?" "Do I try to repurpose all that I've done to prove that it can be done differently and better?" "Does. It. Matter. At. All?"
That last one is where I've tended to falter year after year. Lord knows Andrew has heard me whine on about it ad nauseum.
A CLEVER EPIPHANY:
It took a long time to realize one unifying absolute to all of the above: it's not the business or ex-friends or where the chips have naturally fallen through time that determined ANY of it. It's me. It's my thoughts and inactions. I believed so long that my work was lesser, that my look and aesthetic and general disposition were lesser because of a few non-essential individuals I so happened to cross paths with said so. Some of these people from years and years ago, some more recent. But ultimately? *I* let them do that, I allowed them that effect over me. And I don't know if this is true for you but once a thought poisons my mind, the remainder of me isn't keen to hang around for the rest of the show.
Everything suffers as a result. Health, friendships and relationships. Your self-worth, and faith in YOU. And surprising no one, I fell hard. Fast. But I never let it show beyond the few close loves in my life, I merely busied the days by letting that hissing little sonofabitch nip at crumbling shields, all while filling sinkholes with an unhealthy diet and a proclivity to damn myself before the light even had a chance to reach me.
I did try though. I threw myself into self-help books and worked to regularly communicate how I felt and for a long while it worked, but like everyone, I slipped here and there and eventually stumbled. And my worked suffered greatly as a result. I fell out of love with photography completely and the hasty chase for "my clients," (you know, the kinds of people you'd give a pinky to work with) grounded to a halt. I tricked myself into believing that it wasn't meant to be. Because obviously my camera skills were shit, right?
Because an ex-friend (or two, there's definitely two of those now) blacklisted me and cost me thousands of dollars along the way in an effort to claim some unobtainable throne, my camera skills were shit, right? Because I was no longer a size 2 in jeans and an open book to literally everyone I met, my camera skills were shit, right? Because I didn't, and still don't, have all the gear I wanted or needed, my skills were shit.
Wrong. Actually, there's an example of big fcking giant WRONG.
Yet, knowing it's wrong now doesn't change what it did then. And how did that way of thinking affect my work insofar as when I actually had a gig? Well, of course I did the work, then delivered my images quietly and without fanfare before promptly moving on. No matter how many of my dear, dear clients – some friends, more acquaintances – cheered me on or gushed over what I had given them that will ultimately last a lifetime, it barely registered. No matter how often my love reassured me that I was really, really, really damn amazing at it, that I shouldn't give up because ASSHOLES EXIST WHEREVER YOU GO, I shrugged and pretended to believe. And Andrew, I'm sorry for that, but I know you knew I didn't really believe you. I'm sorry for that, too. You're such a good man, I don't know if I could ever accurately put into words my gratitude for you.
I'll stop that now before I start to cry, because if you know me, you know I do that a lot, too. xo
Anyway, it was no surprise that I began to book less and less engagements, weddings and portraits. And with a photography business, going down in numbers is, well, bad. Real bad. But that's what happened. I became this antisocial wall-decor that hermitted life away instead of doing the things I loved with a fervency and passion for the things that light my soul ablaze.
Strange things began to happen: People became less than honest with me, dodging my calls or texts, not liking any of my posts, unfollowing altogether or neglecting to consider me for their "photographic needs." I was shrugged off like the weird goth girl (I love you weird goth girls) in a movie that sits alone at the lunch table. Oh, I actually lived that back in grade school, but those days can A) F right off and B) have no place here. Suddenly, I became the friend that nobody fcking likes.
I accepted it, the feelings stayed and that's how I lived my life. For six years. That's what I did.
SIX MTHRFCKING YEARS.
Then 2016 came along and changed everything. I didn't even realize it had happened until 2017 though, funny enough, which is why this blog has come to be.
2016 was, for all intents and purposes, a downer of a year for a lot of reasons. Celebrity deaths (Carrie Fisher, Rickman, Bowie, Prince, etc. etc.), the worst, most embarrassing Election there's ever been, a slow year for jobs, and on and on.
But through all of that, I had a perfect little handful of gigs that made my heart explode wide open and show me how very very wrong I've been viewing things. In the best way possible, if that makes sense. It was more than that; I met people from all over the world in 2016; one, a new best and great friend, and two, a support system of girls and a geeky community I never knew could exist for someone like me. It was their kindness towards who I am, and what I love and what makes me shine [bright like a diamond] that finally, finally opened my eyes.
And yes, I do feel guilty for that, because so many of the people I love deeply and unconditionally in my life have tried to rip those proverbial walls down and show me how incredibly foolish I've been. And my internal grappling didn't exactly limit itself to only me; depression and self-loathe doesn't stop at the person who is going through it, remember. It affects everyone around you as well. I was so blind, or numb, to really see.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I love you, but you know that already. <3
It was a few months ago that I began to realize that things felt different, that I was changing. That not all the things I create or set out to manifest were wrong or a poor attempt to gain back what I'd lost. That I took chances to take them because what's life without risks and rewards? Well, I know: it's drab and dreary and you inevitably find yourself lost, adrift in a sea of stalking sharks who think they know you, but they don't really know you at all. They never did. They simply hate themselves so deeply that they want to make you feel bad. This way they're not alone in their perpetual cycle of self-despise. Those damn sharks. Swim away now.
My work started improving slowly over time, inspiration suddenly soaring and the desire to pick up my dusty, old Nikon with a permanently busted neutral density filter ring attached to it (dropped it face first while shooting a wedding in 2014 – the filter shattered but lens was fine. Small miracles!) became interesting again. I thought, "what if I go out to the park and shoot a bit?"
And I did. Then I did it again and again and again. And now in just 2.5 months, I've already booked more weddings this year than I have all of last year combined. And more incoming contact forms than all the years before that.
My point in all of this is, if you've read this far – I'm a photographer, yes, but a person as well. Not a robot for hire, not merely a person to sideline or forget is actually there, probably even situated only a few feet away from you at any given time. I'm aware that it is my job to be invisible at certain events, but I'm not invisible. I'm not just the shutter and aperture that is there to make you look good. Nor the second-best idiot with too few words because who would listen to her anyway.
I learned the long, hard way that attitude affects everything. Every single point of life can be built or broken, depending on how you see it. It's as simple as that. If you think it's bad, it'll be bad. And visa versa.
My camera skills aren't shit, it was me that had been treated like shit – and I let it happen. And that's the difference. I woke up and see it now. And I'll never ever never unsee it. "What has been seen..." and all that jazz.
I believe wholeheartedly now that my passion for photography stems from wanting to connect with people on a smaller, more intimate scale. Listen, I don't pretend to believe every person I'll ever work with is destined to be my bff, that's simply absurd and I'm full up on that front and quite happy as it is. I merely stating that I don't take too well to being bypassed, thought less of or that "she's just the photographer, it doesn't matter," vein of passive crap anymore.
In fact, I openly refuse jobs now if I sense for one second that that is the vibe being put off. I don't care what it'll cost me, either. Because I know what it can cost in the long run.
I don't know if I mentioned this earlier but yeah, #honestphotographer.
So, now that you've trooped along with a brief history of a clever introvert, I think it's time we get to some photos. These are from 2016 and I love every single one of them; these images reflect a once beaten-down photog that eased out of her self-contained shell, coming back to life. This, versus the in between blips of passion over the last six years or so. And yes, those blips were moments where I fell in love shooting weddings and families and babies, but the drive and desire – the connection – would suddenly and without warning vanish as soon as it came time to shoot creatively-driven personal projects. Like the photographs below.
That's it for now. Thank you for reading this. I could have gone on and on, trust me, but 2017 is barking at all the self-pitying and has called for me to stop. Feel free to share, comment or like this post. It'd mean the whole great big world to me.