After High School, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. It was a toss up between becoming a Massage Therapist or a Photographer. (I know… kinda polar opposite professions!) It didn’t help that everyone I talked to had an opinion. I decided to take some time and explore my options. I found a darkroom that I could rent space from by the hour and I met lots of different Professional Photographers. Most of them would tell me to stick with being a “good amateur” and that being a professional photographer is a “lot of hard work.” On the other side of the fence were people telling me that I had a “good eye” and that I should do what I love. I would also hear horror stories about Massage Therapists burning out after less than 5 years with huge debts from school.
The truth of the matter was that I was scared to admit that I wanted to be a Professional Photographer. It felt like I was saying to the world that I “had talent” and that felt boastful. I don’t know why it felt that way, it just did. Obviously, after much humming and hawing, I finally registered at a small photography school in Vancouver and started on the path to becoming a Professional. I worked hard. I learned a lot. I started my business. And I kept learning.
This is one of the first images I took after finishing my photography program. This is my Baba. When my parents were first married, they had a garden plot on her farm. She adopted them as extra kids and when they had us, she became our extra grandma.
Looking at it now, I can see the technical mistakes I made. I can see how much I’ve grown as a photographer. However, it is still just as powerful to me today as it was 16 years ago. I can remember the sounds on her farm and her calling to her dog, Pepe. I can remember her telling me to put my camera away, that she wasn’t dressed properly and hadn’t done her hair. I can remember knowing the moment that I “got the shot” I wanted.
When I got home, I couldn’t wait to get to the darkroom and develop my film. The moment I looked at my contact sheet, I fell in love with this image. I even submitted it to a couple of shows. I remember the first time I saw it on display opening night. I loved watching people be drawn to the image as they walked into the room. It felt good.
I can remember my first year at Image Explorations and showing it to a group of professional photographers for “critique”. One photographer was really not kind. His words stung and I was almost in tears. When I got back to my hotel room that night, I questioned my choice in becoming a professional. I didn’t think I could “make it.” I remember thinking about the words of my high school photography teacher, who also told me that I wasn’t any good. I wanted to give up.
Then I looked at this image again. I remembered how her daughter called me when she received the copy I sent to her. She was almost in tears, and couldn’t stop thanking me for such a wonderful image of her mom. I remembered that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks and I’m reminded of this every day when I walk in my front door and see this image hanging in my foyer.
So here’s what I know to be true. Sometimes it’s scary to follow dreams. You will always have opposition but you will also have support. Learn the rules, so that you can break them with confidence. Practice. Practice. Practice. Try different things. Never stop learning. The biggest secret – trust yourself and believe you can do it.