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It’s Been a Long Road to Get Here

The last month has been weird. I had a pretty slow Spring, and it seems that all of a sudden people are calling me and suddenly I am pretty booked up for photo work. It took a long time for that to happen, and I will be honest here, there were times when I really doubted myself and thought that I was doing the wrong thing. That may very well still be the case, but for now the day is pretty bright. I have learned, a long time ago, to not really talk about potential successes until they are certain, but I am generally pleased at how things are going. There are cool things on the horizon.

Nine months ago, I decided to get out of tech and IT nearly completely. It was burning me out, I was unhappy, and I was making everyone around me pretty miserable too. I’ve been pursuing photography as a career choice for nearly 12 years now. I’ve had exhibitions, I’ve been published in magazines, and I have received grant funding to hone my craft. I’ve invested a lot of time, money, and sweat into this. And it has been a hard slog. The work was slow in coming, I heard ‘no’ a lot, but gradually things have improved. I’ve even been invited in to speak to classes of graduating photographers, presumably to help encourage them and let them know that it is actually possible to pay your bills with a camera. I was pretty blunt. I stayed optimistic, but did not sugar coat anything. I sold my last car to finance travel in order to build a portfolio. I told them about 20 hour road trips to get to rallies. Sleeping in the back seat in -20C because I didn’t want to spend money on a hotel. Noodles for days. Doing a whole lot of work for free, not because I thought my work wasn’t worth anything but because I needed to get my name out there.

About to spend the night in my car, for Rally of the Tall Pines in late November

So I worked for it. But really, that shouldn’t be news. That’s true for any endeavor that is basically self-propelled. If you want an office job, or a job with benefits, or regular hours, I bet you can find one of those pretty easily. If you’re still reading this, I bet you don’t want that though. You want to do your own thing. To be creative. You’re following your dream. Yes? Yes! Then get out there. Peter McKinnon, a photographer, cinematographer, and YouTuber I recommend you check out, had a video a little while ago where he says something similar. I wasn’t going to write this, and then I watched his video and decided to. His stuff is the bomb, and his advice is on point.

If you bang away at photography – or anything – long enough, things will happen for you. Recently I described the sensation sort of like creating ripples in an ocean. Eventually those ripples reach other things and interact with them. Then those ripples reflect back and eventually reach you again, if you’ve banged away at the water hard enough. Be persistent, be patient, drive hard at it every day, and good things will happen. Ask questions to people who have gone before you. They probably had a learning curve at one point and might be able to make your own less steep. Say “thank you” even if you hear “no”. “No” rarely means “never”. It usually means “Not right now”. Play the long game. Develop friendships with other creatives or people you would like to work with. I just finished a commercial shoot for the owner of a local business that I’ve known for years now. I hang my work in the establishment. I drink coffee there. We shoot the shit all the time. It’s great. And you know, I was pretty happy with that.

I think Bob Ross said it best. You know Bob, he’s the awesome dude who painted happy little clouds and big trees on PBS for years. He was once asked if he was ever satisfied with a painting he’d done. I remember him stopping in mid brush stroke and looking straight at the camera. “Never be satisfied,” he said. “Be happy with your work, but the day you’re satisfied is the day you may as well stop painting.”

So be happy. Be the person that everyone wants to work with because you’re a nice person be with. No one wants to work with an asshole no matter how good they are.

Things work out. Believe in yourself. And then push harder.

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