About a year ago, I attended a birthday party that happened to be chock full of creatives. There were musicians, managers, photographers, bloggers, producers, writers, etc. – all under one roof, mingling and networking and doing whatever creative people do when they get together (I’m sure there are plenty of Youtube parodies on exactly that). I’m not a fan of networking. It’s not my scene. Small talk is not my jam. But I did have one conversation that went beyond the small talk… and the transition was so quick, yet so profound, I was left in a stunned silence.
Someone asked me this.
“If you could photograph anything in the world… what would it be?”
I blinked and stuttered. I looked down at the ground and mumbled to myself, frantically searching my brain for an answer, utterly dumbfounded by the question.
The truth was, I didn’t have an answer.
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“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
As someone who claims to be “following my dream”, “pursuing my passion”, or “doing what I love”… being unable to answer that question is a scary thing. Do what you love, love what you do. It’s a mantra I believe in. Posters and mugs with similar cheesy sayings speak to me. But I’m not so sure they actually apply to me anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I still do love weddings. I love capturing moments as they unfold, documenting first kisses and first dances, and creating frame-worthy portraits of all the important VIPs, whether it’s the bride and groom’s flower girl or puppy or uncle with a life-threatening disease. It’s an honor to photograph all the details that the couple spent so much time and energy on. And of course, I love taking portraits of the bride and groom to cherish and admire in 10, 20, 50 years.
But over the years, I’ve slowly come to the realization that maybe, just maybe, weddings are not my endgame. There is a chance that they are not my deepest passion. And you know what?
It’s taken years to be able to acknowledge and come to terms with that.
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“Creativity is not something you can force, but when you turn your passion into your paycheck… sometimes, you have to. And while you’re thankful to be doing what you’re doing, it’s really easy to get lost in it all.” – Steppie of Steppie Clothing
I am a wedding photographer. Not an artist. My priority is my clients – which in itself is a good thing! What that has translated to (for me) is an unrelenting commitment to getting the shots they want on their wedding day. Over time, that has also meant less willingness to take creative risks when shooting weddings. Weddings are by default a high-pressure environment; you have a limited timeframe and one chance to get all the shots you want. If you waste your time with too much experimenting, that’s it – you can’t exactly come back the next day to try again.
So I’ve learned to be fast. Efficient. Predictable. Even though I knew it was happening, I ignored the reality of the truth – that my creative juices had almost completely stopped flowing.
I’m fortunate to know and be surrounded by other creatives who have struggled with the exact same thing. Burnout is real. And staying inspired is a struggle that we all go through.
- Sarah is a wedding photographer. She recently taught photography to girls in Kolkata, India through the Focus of a Child program.
- Anna is also a wedding photographer. 🙂 In 2013, she published Pointe of View, a book featuring her personal project. Here’s the story behind the project and her store where you can purchase prints, a calendar series, or the book itself.
- Esther shifted careers from shooting weddings to blogging her travels. I loved her transparent post about why she decided to quit wedding photography.
- Diana made the transition from a wedding photographer to a lifestyle blogger. Read more about how she overcame burnout and learned to say no in order to maintain her sanity.
- Steppie is an artist and creator whose decision to put her business on hold (and the reasons behind it) really resonated with me. After a brief hiatus, she’s back in business with a fresh perspective on what it means to do what you love.
- Melly is a conceptual portrait photographer and creative director who recently moved to New Zealand to get out of her comfort zone and grow as an artist.
Even though I haven’t quite found my source of inspiration, it’s been encouraging to see my friends find theirs. Which brings us back to the question at hand. If I could photograph anything in the world, what would it be?
I’m hoping this blog will help me find an answer. 🙂