I’ve been a professional photographer for over 35 years. While some may look at that sentence and think I must surely be “over the hill” – others may look at that and say “wow, she must have been doing something right, to stay in business that long”. I suppose, it all depends on the outlook of the person.
Personally, I truly believe that the secret to longevity in any career field is to be open-minded as to how they define themselves. One thing I have never done is define myself by the tools I use. Just because one has expensive camera gear, it doesn’t make them a “professional photographer”. If that was the case, then who are you if you have a camera that happens to shoot both still images and video?
I’m really amazed when photographers define themselves by the tools of their trade. I think with the way things are going in terms of how technology continues to affect our industry, if a photographer defines him/herself in such narrow terms – it’s the kiss of death.
When technology enabled me to explore video production without having to make a prohibitively investment in expensive “tools”, the creative part of me wanted to take full advantage of those new opportunities that were coming my way. After all, I’m a storyteller and I shouldn’t have to limit myself to one medium, but rather choose the
right tool (camera) to use that best tells the story that I need to tell. Sometimes that means delivering the message in video and sometimes the story is better told with still images.
Because I was an early adaptor of video (at least from a still photographer’s point of view), many of my peers equate me with just shooting video. Many assume I’ve abandoned still photography, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The real truth is, my clients see me as an imaging professional, who is able to deliver their message with the medium(s) that is best suited for the job. These days with print publication giving way to electronic delivery, clients are delighted that I am able to fulfill their needs because I am proficient in both video and stills and most times they need both.
My curiosity for exploring a variety of mediums and tools has not only kept me in business – it’s kept me from getting jaded and stale. I am a photographer. I am a director of photography. I am an imaging professional and am thrilled to still be in business at a time when we have so many tools and options in how we are able to deliver a visual message.
The older one gets and the more settled one gets in their own ways, the more difficult it is to push oneself outside their own comfort zone. I know this full well, as I am now immersed in a project and a journey where I’m pushing myself every minute of my day and will be doing so for the next three months.
I’m in Uganda, Africa right now and every day I face several challenges. Everything from attending to my personal needs and safety, to negotiating taxi rides and reconfirming upcoming flights to making sure that I’m getting the content that I will need to create the documentary I’m working on, Opening Our Eyes. Little things become much harder and take a lot longer to deal with than if I were at home. And every minute it seems like I’m facing a new learning curve.
Last night, for some inexplicable reason I couldn’t get an internet connection with my laptop. Nothing had changed from the night before when I was online for a good 3 hours, yet all of a sudden – I couldn’t get online. Since I’m working with a digital workflow and totally dependent on a computer, I brought a backup laptop just in case. The “just in case” scenario has already come into play and that backup laptop has become my connection. A few weeks ago when I wrote the blog My DSLR Kit for My 3-Month Road Trip, I received numerous comments telling me that I was taking too much stuff. A part of me agreed but after only one week into this trip, I have used every piece of gear that I had packed. Call it paranoia or the voice of experience but I’m glad that I have the backup, regardless of the extra gear it necessitates.
Building a comfort zone happens gradually, where you set up your business and lifestyle and things click into place over time. But nothing ever stays the same in life and if you’re not proactive, before you know it you get in a rut – whether it be a creative rut or otherwise and when change happens – and it always does – your comfort zone disappears regardless if you were the one that made that a conscious decision or not.
I’ve always known when to “rock my own boat” – when I’ve become dangerously too complacent. I knew at this point in my life it was time that I really push myself outside my norm and as hard as it is at times, I’m confident it will bring great rewards my way. It already has.
Any time I leave the country, especially since I’m usually shooting when I do, I challenge myself on many levels. Yesterday, we were following one of our subjects through a crowded downtown area in Kampala as she went about her errands and searched for just the right fabric in various shops. It was chaotic and a test of nerves as we made our way through the crowded streets dodging vendors, scooters and buses. We were also testing our GoPro Hero helmet cam which was a lot of fun. It was hard enough to blend in being the only “mzungus” (whites) on the street, let alone wearing a camera on your forehead. But check out the VIDEO and see for yourself how it is to negotiate your way through the streets of Kampala. And that’s what I love about this little “adventure sports” camera – it makes the viewer feel like they are part of the action. You can also see what I mean when I say that I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone.