This is probably going to be hard to write. I have to share some advice with you today that will be tough to hear. Some might even get angry with me for sharing this advice. But I’ve seen enough evidence lately to know I have to talk about this.
So here goes…
Who’s on your team? No I mean REALLY on your team? Does your spouse, your mother, your father, your best friend, your boss, your child, your boyfriend/girlfriend really, really, really support you in your creative/photographic endeavors? If not, you may need to make some changes – particularly if you’re trying to go pro or are a working pro.
In mentoring young photographers I am seeing a consistent pattern. It’s stronger for those who are trying to break into the business, but common among many I work with despite their situation. They come to me lacking confidence, with low self-esteem, having been beaten down by the very people who are closest to them, just because they want to pursue photography as a career.
There’s no way to sugar coat this people – that can be devastating.
Being a professional photographer is hard enough. You don’t need to add the stress of a loved one not supporting you. I know. I went through this with my own parents. They were attorneys. They wanted me to be an attorney. I went so far as to attend law school. But thankfully, I developed enough self-esteem to realize I was headed for a train wreck and went my own way.
Years later, when I’d already been successfully published in hundreds of newspapers, books and magazines….when I’d already made more money than my father ever did, he’d ask me – “When are you going to get a real job?” It didn’t matter to my father that I could buy and sell him many times over. It was about the “job.” He didn’t consider photography a job.
I cut my father loose. Of course he’d cut me loose years before, but I severed my own emotional ties eventually. It’s not easy. But I’m suggesting that for some of you, a radical step may be necessary if you want to succeed. There is hope if you can sit down with the people who matter most to you and explain to them how vital their full support is to you. If you can’t do that, you might be better off photographically moving on.
At the very least, look at those around you and ask yourself…”Is THIS person helping or hurting my chances of succeeding as a photographer?” If they are not, and you think they are important to you, sit down and talk with them. Pour out your heart to them. Let them know you crave their support. If they can’t get on board, decide how important they really are to you and if you can swing it, move on. Excise those people who don’t believe in you. After all, if this photography “thing” as my father used to call it – is so important to you, why don’t the people around you support you in it? You have to question (if you’re going to be honest) how much they love you if they won’t get on board and at least try to help.
I realize this is radical stuff. And I’m hopeful that you’ll understand the spirit with which I am offering this advice. If you find yourself in a dark lonely place because your loved ones don’t support your decision to be a photographer, try stepping out into the light. For every person who doesn’t support you – I bet you can find one who does.
When I was young, my first girlfriend thought photography was “stupid.” While I wish I had dumped her because of that, I didn’t. She dumped me for Alex Johnson. Boy – what a blessing. As the song says, sometimes goodbye is a second chance. I met Jackie Russell soon after. She was a much better girlfriend in many ways. Oh, and it didn’t hurt that she loved photography. Her father happened to be a photojournalist and became my first mentor. What a difference it made to have someone actually rooting for me and helping me.
If you’re in that dark place, come out. If nothing else, I’ll root for you. I’ll be on your team. I’ll lend an encouraging word. You can do it and if you want it badly enough, you deserve to have a happy life full of loving, caring, supportive people. Go out and find a network of like-minded folks who will back you up, not tear you down. Your images will improve, but more importantly, your happiness quotient will too.