I would like to wish all my readers a very Happy Holiday Season!
This will be one of the last few blog posts heading into year end. I'm traveling for the next couple of weeks to host the final workshop of the season and to address a serious health issue that I've put on the back burner for awhile. Frankly the treatment would have cut into my fun and adventure so I delayed it until my schedule cleared. That situation along with some recent conversations with fellow photographers inspired this topic. Fear, Doubt and Photography. It would take too much space and time to detail the conversations so I'm going to make a compression presentation...hopefully that conveys them well enough.
Not too long ago I was sitting in the Buffalo International Airport when a friend of mine tapped me on the shoulder. I haven't seen this guy in close to ten (10) years so imagine running into him at the airport in a totally different country 200 kilometres away from home. I actually worked for him part-time for a few months. Back when we first met he ran one of the busiest portrait studios in Toronto. Fantastic location that looked more like a showroom or art gallery. I filled in as his assistant and retoucher while I was trying to learn the business end of photography. We got thru the usual "how are ya" stuff and he was telling me that he'd closed the studio down and was really only working sporadically. The last recession, SmartPhones, cheap cameras and the internet had cut into his business and made it hard to keep the lights on. I'm ashamed to say that while he was talking I kept brushing him off. Then he grabbed my wrist and looked me straight in the eyes and I saw it. The look of a guy hanging unto a ledge by his fingernails. He was genuinely scared about how he was going to continue in the only job he'd ever had. Now rolling up on 60 years of age, how was he going to learn to do what he loves differently in order to compete and earn a decent living. Fortunately for him (he says) his wife was now an EX and his two children were out of school and well on their way to establishing their own lives. He didn't have to worry about providing for them anymore but for the next 25 years he has to keep himself in good condition financially.
He's been a quasi-professional photographer longer than I've known him. His day job is in Finance and it pays well. A few years ago he'd sold his downtown condo and bought a nice estate home in the burb's...got married too. He and his wife are long past having children but they are the proud parents of two cats and some kind of rat thing...something they make coats out of but I forget the name. I swear, this guy is the busiest non-professional I know, always shooting some project or assignment for which he's alternately paid or afforded some equal benefit. If I'm honest, he works more than most professionals in the business I know. Yet he's so doubtful that he can earn a decent living at photography solely that he remains in a job he's bored to tears of most days. I think that when he calls me to get together it's like a drug...he wants to hear what I've been doing and getting paid for since we last visited. He freaks me out...at any given time he has at least $25,000 worth of photography and video equipment in the trunk of his car and even though he's great at marketing himself and is a top notch photographer, he doesn't think he can make a go of it. So once or twice a month I let him sit on my couch and inhale my photography drugs.
Jack-of-all-trades...he's got it going on and is the most complete working professional in my book of colleagues. He can produce and edit videos, compose jingles and is a very competent photographer. We often double as each other second-shooter for weddings and events and I trust him completely to know what shots I want and how to execute them. No advance tutoring for him. He drives up, parks, takes out his gear and gets to work. He works so much that I often get concerned about his health. He's always coughing, experiencing shortness of breath and looks worn out. Long as I've known him there hasn't been talk of any kind of vacation or day off unless he's really sick. The hardest working man in photography, there is just nothing he won't take on. I see a lot of parallels between us...not great for relationships as one tends to give up a lot to be "that" guy but the bills get paid on time and there is always padding in the bank account for when life throws those curveballs at you. If he's as happy as I am, how do you argue with that...but I don't think he is. I think he lives in fear of missing the next paycheque.
Let me show you something...
I didn't come up with this flowchart. In fact I found it a few years ago when I was trying to learn more about anxiety and depression. So many people close to me have some variation of these that I really wanted to know how to help even in a small way. It does sum up my approach to each day and allows me to be just as calm as a cup of tea while others pull their hair out. I still experience moments of fear and doubt. I left a well-paying career to pursue photography and believe me, it isn't easy. I was miserable in the corporate world, where so much is fake. Everyone is running around chasing their tails to make "targets" etc. I look at my friends and former colleagues still in that world...they have all the trappings of success but not happy. The grey hairs and poor health proves it. I still have my challenges but the difference is that I can determine how to address them.
Fear isn't always a bad thing but it can keep you from acting in your best interests. The people we call "Hero's" are those who ACT despite their fears. First responders are a good example as they run towards all kinds of terrible situations most of us avoid. Doubt does something similar...it can be crippling to the point of being painful.
Look at it this way...if you try and fail the good news is that you are exactly where your standing if you did nothing at all. Both have their own set of consequences. You just have to decide if you can live with it.
I showed each of my friends this flow chart.