The first time you picked up a camera and clicked the shutter and saw what you created and knew you were hooked, you also knew that you would have to tell your loved ones about your new passion, or at least eventually. For some people this is easy. It is like saying that you had pancakes for breakfast. The people around are fine with it, and it seems normal, like brushing your teeth. But for others the impact of saying such simple words is hard to live with.
I feel very fortunate for growing up in a house where creativity was not just encouraged but rewarded. I grew up writing magical stories and children’s books and poetry, and then when I “grew up” some more I went to college and studied filmmaking and literature, both completely scary degrees to have in the “real world” but they made me happy. In all of this time my parents never tried to persuade me otherwise. I heard the typical murmurings of how little money I’d be able to make with those degrees, but my mom would always respond by saying “Then you don’t know my girl…”, and so I felt validated.
When photography came into my life in a big way, I had a lot to consider. There were people telling me that it was unwise to jump so wholeheartedly into something as slippery as photography. They said I would never know where my paycheck would come from, and questioned me about specific money-making plots. I was both critical about that way of thinking but also practical, and for a time I answered all of those questions and did so with fervor until I realized that it was no one’s business but my own (literally). I owed nothing to anyone. It was of no one else’s concern where my paychecks would come from or how it would work, save for my husband who is a part of me.
It is so easy to get caught up in other people’s opinions. And depending on our lifestyles, we may never have lived outside that opinion bubble. I know that I was quite sheltered growing up, and that wasn’t because of my parents, it was because of me. I liked being sheltered and having the same people around me and being close to what I knew. My sister was the opposite, completely free-spirited and wild. Because I preferred living life that way back then, I only knew the opinions of those around me. I didn’t understand enough about life.
But when photography came around something shifted. I understood, almost instantly, what was at stake. It wasn’t that no one approved of my photography; on the contrary, they were very supportive. It was that, logistically, they were truly concerned for my well-being if I quit my steady job and went into…the arts. (said with suspenseful music in the background).
I suddenly had a passion so strong that doing anything but photography felt as though it would kill my spirit, and I value that above most else. So I did quit my job, and it took a lot of long conversations with those I cared about, and zero conversations with those who it wasn’t worth having.
When I began exploring different themes in my work, I would hear feedback about the content of my images. They are too dark. They are too creepy. There is too much nudity. This and that and no one could always be happy. But the thing is this: I was always happy. I was creating what I loved, which is no concern of anyone else. I think that we often forget that just because someone has an opinion, that opinion is not fact. It does not need to govern your life.
This can be exceptionally difficult when it comes to loved ones. For example, I met my husband when I was 16. We’ve been together ever since. He and I are joined in every way I can think of and when he has an opinion, I listen to it because I respect him. It can be difficult to understand when to take someone’s opinion to heart and I think one basic question needs to be asked: is your relationship worth sacrificing for the art? Some people are worth losing over this debate. That is plain and simple, and I don’t mean it in any negative way. There are people that bring us down in the world, people who we are better off without. We need not be friends with everyone, and it is best to surround yourself with those who will lift you up.
You are the only one in control of your happiness. If art makes you happy, you have a duty to perform. To keep that locked inside is a disservice to your well-being and to all of those who you might inspire. Art is rarely kept to oneself. These days it is shared, and because of that, inspiration is everywhere. Take what you love and share it. Others will love it simply because you do. And remember above all else that your opinion should be regarded at the highest level. It is not up to anyone else to inspire you, motivate you, encourage you, or support what you do; you need to believe in yourself first. And when you believe in yourself, others are sure to follow.