Smell The Roses
So let's get this part out of the way: I cannot find the words to express how grateful I am that I have a successful photography business. Not a lot of people get to do what they love full time, and every day that I wake up (even the insane 18 hour wedding days) I am glad that this is what I do.
I've never been in it for the money. While I do run a business, and that business supports me, this career is something that I chose because of my love of the craft.
That being said:
I started doing photography because of an undeniable desire to capture pretty stuff with my camera, and bring joy and happiness to the people who have invited me to photograph them. That part hasn't changed. What has changed is the fact that I am so immersed in my business that I have completely stopped making not-for-profit artwork. Every creative project, every fun side shoot, every model call, all of them have been just so I can enhance my portfolio to get more work. I love more work. It keeps me busy, and my work brings my clients so much joy! Despite that, it feels like something is missing.
This has been weighing on me pretty heavily the last couple of years, and I have made efforts to correct this behavior, but at the end of the day I just couldn't seem to motivate myself to expend the tremendous amount of effort required to create some artwork instead of using that energy to support my business.
Then things started getting sad. My business feels like it is my entire life. I use it to define who I am. It feeds me, clothes me, and pays for my adventures. How could I let it become so ...much? It's just so much.
To me, my happiness is super closely measured by my productivity and success. Since moving to Cincinnati, I have found incredible success up here. I've been published in several magazines. My artwork is displayed in the marketing materials of two hugely important and visible non-profits. I've booked loads of weddings. So, if my happiness has been based on my success, I should be doing back flips down the street. Trouble is, not a single back flip has been had. I've been creating more and better artwork than ever before, but it just didn't bring me any deep, true joy. Where did that feeling go?
It turns out it has been hiding in a flower shop in the Reading Bridal District.
I needed a creative outlet. I honestly cannot remember the last time I photographed something that I couldn't have a conversation with.
So, I made a decision. I spoke with the owner and asked her if she would be open to collaborating on a project together: I wanted to make some beautiful, simple, black and white florals reminiscent of Edward Weston's work, and luckily for me, the sweetest ladies in the whole world agreed. I made an appointment for the following month and started my planning.
The day finally arrived, and you'd think I'd be super excited, but for some reason I just couldn't seem to get going. It all comes back to the sole problem: What motivation do I have to spend time on something that doesn't benefit my business?
So I did it anyway. I got up, I took a shower, I put on my favorite soft clothes. On my way, I even stopped by Starbucks to get myself a little treat. I was trying to give myself all the little things I could to spark some joy in me. It must have been written all over my face, because one of the baristas asked me why I looked so down. Sigh.
I arrived at the flower shop a short time later and began setting up.
My setup was really simple. I went to Hobby Lobby and bought three black foam core boards and a bit of tape. At the shop, I created a little back "corner" with my boards next to a window. Basic as basic can be, and only cost me $12 with a coupon.
On the day of our shoot, the shop was booming. Loaded up with Prom orders, the lovely ladies spent their time with their pick-up clients. Each and every customer was just delighted with their corsages and pins! Hearing their joy helped me find some of mine, and what started as a low, not-so-awesome-feeling day, soon turned into a great one. In my little corner next to the window I quietly started making some artwork.
I wanted to make something simple. Instead of diving straight into a beautiful bridal bouquet they just finished, I chose to focus on simple, single stems.
Then, that feeling of joy that I used to get showed up.
Some time passed, and as their customers trickled away for the day, the loveliest ladies ever started checking in on my work. For the first time in a while, I was just over the moon with what I had in my camera, knowing I created these photos just for me. I showed them some of the shots and they were just so happy! I was happy, too.
I didn't want to go to the flower shop that day. I didn't want to stay home, either. I just didn't want anything. I called to confirm my appointment time with them in the morning, and in the few hours before my arrival I almost cancelled on them three different times. The feeling of "If it's not benefiting my business, why do it? Why take that time away?" was almost overwhelming. I went anyway. I didn't want to.
I'm really glad I went. I am grateful for the small voice that pushed me out of bed and made me pick up my camera bag.
It's hard out there sometimes. On paper, the world is at my fingertips. Happiness is something that finds me often, more often than not, but during its absence I found that it was easy to become overwhelmed by the space remaining when it isn't there.
This one simple shoot helped me move in the right direction. I've created work that's just for me. I did it the way I wanted to, and it really helped. I will continue to battle that voice in my head that says everything must benefit my business. This shoot did benefit my business, but not in the monetary way.
I feel pretty good about it y'all. Here's to the hope that I will continue to shoot for joy.