These are the moments that I live for.
So, the need to write this post has been weighing on me for quite a while now – although, to be more accurate, it’s not necessarily the need to write about it that’s been weighing on me (that need is quite new), but the need to defend myself when I tell people that I’m a professional photographer. It’s this fire that rises up inside me when I tell people what I do for a living and they respond with the surprised/condescending nod, along with the corresponding judgmental ‘hmm!’ that they pretend means they’re fascinated.
I’m then overcome with this uncontrollable urge to yell ‘take me seriously!’ and shove a handful of my business cards in their face, along with my carefully developed website, my 1,600 Facebook likers, my business car loan, my expensive, professional-grade equipment, my hours spent on editing, emailing and bookwork, and my calendar full of client meetings and shoots as well as the weekends that are booked out with weddings. That I get paid for. Because it’s a real job.
But of course, I am more polite than this and just smile and explain that I run it full time and that it’s pretty great because I get paid to meet a lot of fabulous people and do what I love.
When people ask me what I do all day or tell me what a great job it must be – because ‘you take photos for one day and that’s it!’ – it’s demoralising; I won’t deny that it hurts. I know that it must be hard for people to fathom that there’s more to the story than just taking some happy snaps, but it’s a perspective that I know needs to change. I also know it’s a struggle that not only I face. It’s a struggle that all of us who work from home and who are privileged enough to combine a passion with an income face. How can something you love also be a profession, a career, a full-time income? I am blessed.
People are always so disappointed in me when I told them that I’m not going to teach full time next year after I finish my double degree in Education/Arts. I’ve had many people sit across from me and essentially ask me why I’m not going to use my degree and have a ‘real job.’ I then explain to them that I DO have a real job; I don’t just take photos – I then sit down and spend hours editing approximately 500-700 images individually per wedding, I meet with clients at least twice if not more to discuss their wedding day, create invoices, manage timelines, drive marketing plans, manage multiple lines of email communication at once, pay tax and organise multiple types of insurance – AND I also spend approximately 12-14 hours photographing a client’s wedding. Per wedding (and sometimes twice a weekend). I tell them that I not only run a business, but that I am my business – I am Public Relations, Accounting and Finance, Marketing, Customer Service, Administration and the CEO all rolled into one.
On top of this – I have to know my equipment – I have to have deep knowledge and be a master of my tools in order to be a master of my craft. This involves not only professional development – hours and hours of it – but thousands of dollars spent on equipment and software.
That said, it’s a beautiful struggle and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I LOVE my job, whether it be accredited as ‘real’ by the general population, or not. I get asked to be present for some of the most important moments of people’s lives; I get to capture memories, feelings, touches and moments – all filled with such beauty. People trust me with the immense responsibility of being the single person nominated to preserve the moments that their mind cannot. To create images that will be cherished by their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren; to create a legacy for years to come. On top of this, I get to meet and know some of the most genuine, stunning and caring people (namely, my clients). Beyond this, I also get to know their families. I get to freeze in time the most important people in their world; their mother who is dying of breast cancer, their nephew who has down syndrome – and the way that their ‘tough’ father cries when walking his daughter down the aisle. I get to be the memory bank for the most precious moments of people’s lives.
Running a photography business is not a ‘pipe dream,’ and it’s not a side-job or a means to pay my way through uni. It’s my career – my full-time, life-time career. And it’s hard work. But it’s a career that is founded on bringing joy to those I have the privilege of photographing. At the end of the day, I’m not just a photographer, or a business woman working from home – I’m a joy bringer. And that’s more valuable to me than any title that comes from working under someone in an organisation. My job might not be ‘real’ in the eyes of society – but in my opinion, nothing could be more real than preserving memories and documenting someone’s life – that they not only lived, but loved.
Whilst I am often frustrated by the surface perspective that I don’t have a ‘real job’ – by people who don’t realise that I am ALL the departments of a business, not just a happy snapper – my greater frustration is this: that people don’t realise the value in immortalising those we love.
Yes, I have a ‘real job,’ but it’s not real just because I work hard and because it’s full time, or because I have to be a master of my craft (and all of the other reasons I’ve just listed above). It’s real because I capture the beauty in life. I capture real life.
I do this not just for you, but for your children and your grandchildren – so that in 50 years’ time, they can look at the photos I’ve taken and cherish them even when you are gone, just like you do with those old, black and white photos of your grandparents on their wedding day.
I could argue for hours about how I run a business and how I am 10 people rolled into one; I could plead with you to take me seriously because it’s hard work, but that would be superficial. That would be self-serving, and that is not why I photograph.
Yes, I photograph because it is my passion. But bigger than that, I photograph because I want you to be remembered and because your life is worth remembering.