“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.” – Dr. Brené Brown.
It all started with my Yan Fam Way Bellingham experience earlier this spring. An intimate group of photographers spent a day discussing what we do, who we are, how we make ourselves vulnerable by being transparent and taking risks, and then, how we fall. We shared many private stories, cried, laughed a lot, and settled down for some serious introspection. Why were we put here on this Earth? What are we meant to do? What is our True North, our True Voice. Our WHY? I learned I have not been much of a risk-taker but I thrive on the roller coaster of creativity and ‘the journey’. I’ve experienced setbacks, burn-out, feelings of shame and “I’m not worthy” talks with myself, and all of it has just given me more perspective and made me stronger. But, upon leaving, my soul felt fulfilled yet restless and my mind was running a mile a minute. I walked away wanting more. I realized I wasn’t totally satisfied with my work. I had hit a rut again and DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE IT. I had hit a rut with my professional work but was thriving in my personal work where I was really free to push my own boundaries and experiment and shoot just for me. At one point Yan looked at my work and asked why I had a studio because my outdoor & personal work resonated so much more with her. I wasn’t offended, but I didn’t take a long time to answer (probably a little defensively), “Because I live in Seattle, where it gets super dark and has unpredictable weather, and I don’t want to reschedule sessions all the time, duh (I didn’t say the duh part but was thinking that).” I must have said it so confidently, and with vindication, that she knew I wasn’t going to budge and immediately dropped it and moved on to other observations about me and my work. She’s extremely perceptive.
But her comment lingered in my brain. And then this very same question came up again with my mentor a few weeks later. She had been wondering why I felt the need to use a studio as well, after seeing creativity thriving in my personal work. WHAT? But I wasn’t defensive this time. I listened. I played with this thought bouncing around in my head like a kitten plays with a ball of yarn. I felt. I started crying. Right in front of her. I was scared. I was scared of being a failure. I was scared of people seeing me as a failure because I was giving up my studio, but then I realized that really wasn’t what this was all about. I was scared of taking a new risk and changing directions in my professional work and failing. I’m not just beginning in photography. Shouldn’t I have it figured out by now? Do I really have to kind of start over again?? Do I want to start over? Do I want a new challenge? Do I want to take professional risks and create work that looks more like my personal work? Will people even like it? What if they don’t? Does that matter to me?
“There is no innovation and creativity without failure.”
I’ve been listening and reading a lot of Brené Brown’s work. She talks at length about all of these things – fear, shame, vulnerability, taking risks, failing, empathy vs. sympathy, your perceptions and the ‘shitty first draft’. It is powerful stuff, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for my journey.
“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
Then I started thinking of the possibilities. I was thinking about how I get a thrill from shooting my film 365 with my kids. Thinking of my clients being able to relax in the comfort of their own homes while I photograph them in my own way, using architecture, furnishings, textures, and light in new ways to add to the composition. I then started thinking of how a studio may have been too much of a blank slate for me. Maybe the studio hindered my creativity. I’m not a portrait photographer. I’m not into getting the pose and angles exactly right. I’m a very candid, in-the-moment emotion-driven relationship photographer.
Then, finally, I got excited. I sold and donated almost all my studio gear (which was liberating in itself). Looking back through old backdrops, baskets, blankets, and decor I had accumulated through my earlier photography phases, I realized how much my work has changed. How much my business has changed. How much I have changed, and most importantly, how much I really have enjoyed the journey. I’m excited to take a risk and see where this new direction takes me, and I’m actually okay with potentially failing because I am now confident this is where my work is supposed to go.
I hesitated about posting this, mostly because I feel really exposed and vulnerable. You may roll your eyes and say, “Geez what’s the big deal, it’s just a studio. She calls that a big risk?”, but for me it is and it stands for a lot more than that. I wanted to share it with you in the hopes that it’ll help you with whatever struggles you’re having in your journey.
“There’s nothing more daring than showing up, putting ourselves out there and letting ourselves be seen.”
Onward and upward (and maybe down and around a couple times), my friends!