Today marks the one-year anniversary of my ambulance ride to the emergency room with a 105° fever and a bacterial infection. After four days in the hospital and several months of recuperating I was eventually grateful to have regained my full strength and stamina. But the aftermath of that experience has stayed with me mentally and emotionally. Before my illness I had been discontented with my job and, indeed, my work for some time. But I hadn’t done anything to change my circumstances. My stay in the hospital changed that and the result is that I left my job last month to begin a new career or, at least, a new endeavor—photography and photo processing.
Upon my liberation I hit the ground running. My first six weeks were spent creating a frenzy of blog posts, video tutorials, and talks & classes for local groups. Into the spaces between all that I managed to squeeze some time for learning and improving my skills at both photography and the software. That effort has been useful and constructive. But in the past week or two I’ve taken a step back and looked at the big picture.
One of the goals of my recent whirlwind of activity was to build my personal brand and my reputation within the photo community. The longer-term goal has been to find appropriate ways to monetize my skills and talents. These will certainly continue to be objectives but I also have another goal — to pursue my own photographic work. That goal had gotten short shrift during the first six weeks on my new path.
Several months ago, while charting this new path, I vowed to make sure this time around that I’m doing the right work, that I’m pursuing my right livelihood. Recently, in reflecting upon my first six weeks I realized that I need to pay closer attention to the way I’m feeling about the work I’m doing, day by day and week by week. There’s a temptation when freelancing or running a business to accept any paying work that you’re qualified to do. Several years ago during another period in which I was freelancing that’s exactly what I did and it led to my feeling frazzled and less than fulfilled with my work. Now, I realize that a similar thing could happen even if I’m working in the field of photography. While the work may be more interesting to me than what I was doing before it’s also true that there are certain aspects of the work that I enjoy more and others that I enjoy less.
I’ve long had a yearning to develop and express my personal creative vision. That’s what drew me to photography in the first place. Any top photographer (like Valerie Jardin, for example) will tell you that you should always have a personal project going. When you dwell in a creative world you have to feed your creative impulse. "Remember what the dormouse said, ‘Feed your head.’" It’s that stimulation that keeps you alive and fresh. With this in mind, I’ve made a point in the past couple of weeks of taking a breather from the process of building a business in favor of spending some time building my creative vision. Both are needed but they must be kept in balance.