When you start feeling that your passion and dream-job is becoming an obligation, then something's going wrong. I've always loved art expressions; my mom and dad were commercial photographers, my grandfather is part of the film industry, my great grandfather composed “El Condor Pasa” and my husband is a sound designer. I've always been surrounded by great images, creative people and artistic environments, and as it was expected, I decided to follow the same path. Studying and understanding light is a marvellous adventure, it is something that is, and has always been in front of us but not everyone is aware of it. We can see because of the light, but we cannot actually see the light. As the Petit Prince said, "essentials are invisible to the eyes."
Lately, things have changed, and I've been feeling quite disappointed about where the world has taken us. We are living an era in which we have access to everything at the tip of our fingers, and we are losing the meaning and importance of things. We scroll our Instagram feeds at a hundred miles per hour, and we don't actually SEE anything. We don't spend more than two seconds in a photo, and we lost the curiosity behind every image. We stopped wondering how the person behind the camera felt when he pressed the button. We are not curious about what happened in his head right before the click. We don't question how much time he spent or how many shots he took before feeling satisfied with his composition. We don't care about his speed and aperture settings. For most people, it's just a click that everyone can do with an iPhone. For a real photographer, it's a lot more than that. It is magic! An ephemeral moment that will never come back and thousands of decisions in a second that won't come with second chances. If you lose a great shot, you just lost an unrepeatable moment forever. Photography is a documentation of life, and it is also an artistic expression!
As in many other artistic professions, there are tough decisions you must take to be able to live out of what you love. Either you struggle to be considered an artist (selling your art for a decent price that will give you enough economic stability to make it sustainable), you become a journalist (risking your life and exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations for very little pay) OR you jump into the fierce battle of advertising (charging for expressing other people’s ideas).
After graduating as Advertising Executive over a decade ago, it was pretty evident that I was going to use photography as an advertisement tool. The problem came when I stopped enjoying what I loved because I became stressed out about making it sustainable — starting to look at the “price” of my work and not at the “value” of it. There’s nothing more challenging to do than putting a price to your passion, the next step after establishing a reasonable price for your work, is to convince other people that it is actually worth it. "Why paying that much to a photographer if my 15-year-old daughter can do it with her phone?" I've heard it many many times, and I only have one answer to that: QUALITY. Some people don’t seem to realize that there’s a BIG difference between a photo by a professional photographer who knows what he’s doing and an amateur that happened to take a good shot because the camera made all the difficult decisions for him/her. Apparently, some small businesses are willing to pay this difference for a family portrait but not for advertising their business. Isn’t it a priority to expose the company that brings food to your table with the best photos possible? Or is it more important to have a nice profile photo for Facebook?
It’s true that when you live out of what you love, you’ll never “work" a day in your life, but sometimes it can be difficult to balance love and money, and also to leave you artistic desires on the side to follow the "clients guidelines." I’ve lived in three different countries so far and went from the bottom to the top several times. I got to be the production coordinator for a TV Commercials studio, I worked as the staff photographer for a renown culinary magazine, and I covered several gastronomic/sports events in different countries. Now, I'm surviving thanks to a part-time job at a cute little store and doing little projects on the side. Maybe it’s this city, perhaps it's the difficult situation in my country that forced me to get away or maybe it’s all in my head, but I can say that where I am now has been the most challenging place to break in. Besides the different language and harsh weather, it’s a difficult culture to adapt to, and I realized that it is making me lose the motivation, spark and power to create. I don't feel like I belong here!
I'm worrying too much about explaining and educating people about how to value an image in a place where no one wants to learn. I love what I do, and I will continue loving it forever, but I will rather stop doing it as my “job” for a while than giving it for almost nothing to people that won’t value it for what it means to me. For many photographers like myself, this is a dream and a career too. We invest money and time studying as in every other career, we manage to get the best equipment we can, and we practice A LOT to continue growing, learning and expanding our knowledge. By having it all at our fingertips, we lost the appreciation for one's craft. I might sound old school or attached to the past, but I liked the society in which I grew up a lot more. Fifteen or so years ago people were more human and less technology-addicted, more kind to one another and less "social media fake," people were more curious and complained less. We were all happier and didn't know it!
I’m not saying that I will quit pursuing my dreams of being a great photographer, I’m just saying that I’ll put them on hold for a while until I figure things out. I will stop the pressure I’m applying to myself, and I will focus on art instead of business. I will stop trying to explain to people the power of a carefully crafted image to promote a business. I won’t send any more emails or make any more phone calls. I won’t keep pushing and fighting to get “in-business” here. I decided to focus on what I genuinely enjoy and continue capturing beauty for my personal joy and for those who would appreciate my creations. I know I’m not the best commercial photographer around, there are millions better than I am, and that’s why I’ll continue studying and practicing and practicing and practicing. I will keep on looking for a mentor/genius/guru photographer to work with and learn from. I'll also dedicate my energy to the hundred personal projects I left on hold trying to advertise myself, and I'll take the word "exposure" out of my vocabulary. People can be ruthless and take advantage with no remorse. I don't see people asking for free clothes, free rent or free food in exchange for exposure. Why do they apply it to photography?
Perhaps it has something to do with my personality or with being a foreigner? Maybe I just don't understand how this side of the continent works. I'm not sure what the problem is, all I know is that I will go back to my roots, where I was thoroughly enjoying what I do without worrying about how many hours it took me and how much should I charge for that piece of my soul. I won’t stop. I will only do things differently. I’ll change my strategy, and I’ll do what I like. I’ll take a middle-age crisis and re-design my goals. I'll choose not to be depressed. I’ll embrace change from another perspective, and no matter what, I’ll always choose happiness over money!
I know only a few will read this post, if any, because it’s too long and has no pictures in between... honestly, it doesn't matter, I just want to leave it flying in the cyberspace as a memory of my 30-year-old me in this cold-grey-snowy “spring” Sunday in London, Ontario. Let's see what comes next!