Something a bit different this week! I write a letter to my younger self, four years ago. Aside from a few personal and professional notes-to-self, I also hope to encourage others starting their own business or creative venture, to step outside of their own self doubt.
I don't often post personal things here on my photography blog. Thoughts and musings and ideas yes, but not necessarily about my life. It occurred to me that this wasn't deliberate, and certainly not preferable.. I've also had an incredible two days, where inspiration, drive and confidence have all risen up in tandem (a rare occurrence for me) and I've felt moved to take risks with my work and business.
It has also made me reflect a little too. A photo popped up on my Facebook feed today, from four years ago. I looked at my younger face smiling up at the camera, and remembered myself back then.
I wasn't going to post this week, as I wanted to keep my energised creative momentum going.. but screw it. Here I am, a normal chick who's made mistakes and meandered her way through life; who has sort of fallen into creating the business you see on this website, and developing the work you see on it's pages. I don't want to hide behind a perfect instagram account, or repeated posts about how amazingly my business and shoots are going. I am a pretty down to earth person, and this is my way of sharing that with you, through my work life.
This letter is written to myself four years ago. A time when I was already shooting solo, shooting weddings and moving on from my academic career. Though this post is much heavier than a 'photography blog' need share, I think it's important that as creatives, we accept that we can't (and shouldn't) disconnect from our personal investment. Creativity is impossible without vulnerability, a willingness to take risks and to invest a part of ourselves in our work.
The success of your freelance endeavours, rests solely on how able you are to present and propel yourself into the world and industry. Where creative freelancing is concerned, I underestimated how my personal life decisions affected my ability to develop and step out. I wish I could have read a letter like this back then... This is a letter from, and to, my photographic self.
So here it goes people.. I am already bracing myself for the 'vulnerability hangover' tomorrow.
This is you, writing to yourself from the future. That big scary looming monster which you inherently fear, but don't realise yet; that enveloping shadow which you fill with all possible failures and disappointments.
Guess what? Everything is ok. Actually, it's bloody brilliant. But I particularly want to speak to you about your creative endeavours, and those which have centred on photography. Because you won't believe this: what started as a way to get out there, be creative and work with people with a sense of purpose, now keeps you incredibly busy. It's happening.
Here are a few things you need to hear with resounding clarity:
Get out of your head.
Stop thinking about whether you might be good enough and just make scary decisions. Value what you do and show that in how present your business. Because that is what you are building. This isn't just you stepping out each day, working hard with your camera, and keeping your clients happy. You are building a business, a brand. a beautiful space. Build it, nurture it, cultivate it, share it.
You ARE good at it. Say it again.. You are good at this.
Don't fear people will judge your ability against your background. Just because you've been brought up around it, doesn't mean you're any less worthy of recognition. It certainly doesn't mean you're offered an easier path into the industry or job, quite the contrary, and anyone who thinks this is simply jealous. You paid your apprenticing dues for years. You deserve to be here. Yes the shadow you must step out from is large and long, but that's ok.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
More than most, you know that there are incredible photographers out there, 100 steps ahead of you. But these need not be your markers for achievement or success. Your work, just like your illustration, will continue to improve and develop, and you will always remain true to your own style and values. Other photographers are telling their own stories, stop allowing the echo of these to drown out your own. Be louder, be prouder, be humble.
Don't avoid doing things, for fear of failure or irrelevance.
Any opportunity or risk should be grabbed with both hands. So long as you know you can logistically and creatively pull it off, quiet those negative voices in your head. You've never known you were capable of doing anything, until you were already doing it anyway.
Stop fearing the future and how it may not measure up.
The future does not exist anyway. The idea of 'future' is a clever way to anchor down the 'now'; it keeps it separate and distinguishable from something before or after.. but that's it. You know girl, that true lived experience is organic, in flux and completely incapable of being held down. So stop making decisions (or avoiding decisions) based on something that does not even exist.
Stop falling for wildly inappropriate men! Haha.. but mostly,
stop using these destructive, dysfunctional relationships as a place to hide behind.
You are veiling your potential with distracting dramas and immediate problems to 'fix'. The second you stop doing this, you will flourish on every level. You will eat again, and love it. You will breathe easily and deeply. You will laugh everyday and you will be excited about your work and your business. It will be something you look forward to investing your time in. And none of this will have anything to do with a guy.. because the right person has made all this effortless, not impossible.
Pick up your camera, and stick to what you do. But
embrace that you might be bigger and more wonderful than the individual pictures you take;
that what you do, can and should be represented with a brand, a business and a core set of values. And this is ok. Lean into the discomfort of taking risks, and use your work as the perfect place to grow confidence and self esteem, and don't allow your inherent modesty to stifle it.
You rock. And it's ok to say that to yourself sometimes.
I wholeheartedly recommend doing this sort of thing, for yourself. It's cathartic and rewarding on so many levels.
Massive thanks to those who actually sat and read through this weeks post. I've taken a risk this week, and I love you all the more for wanting to hear my personal story. Let's all take time to occasionally step outside of our social media constructs, and speak from a more honest place.