A lot of times I get asked how long I’ve been a photographer. There are so many ways I want to answer that question, but usually I stick with the actual date that I first picked up my camera and started creating.
I could answer with when I became a full-time photographer, but that seems a little bit silly since nothing really changed on that day at all, except my stress levels.
I could answer with when I started honing my style, which was years and years before I ever picked up a camera. It was when I started writing when I was single-digits old. It was when I started making short films in high school and college. It was when I started writing poetry. And it was when I picked up my camera.
I could answer with the most recent time I reinvented myself, which is very akin to starting over entirely, questioning your process.
All of those answers are true. And in fact, I don’t even entirely consider myself a photographer. I am one, and I revel in taking pictures, but I am many other things as well – a director, a writer, a set designer… a cat lover? Lots of things.
Too many people have told me that they feel beaten before beginning because they just started photography and there are so many people so far ahead of them. I’ve met people who have decades of experience but feel disheartened by not knowing all of the current trends. The new photographers wish they had years of experience, and those with experience wish they could see the world with fresh eyes.
How long we have been practicing our craft isn’t always related to the way we create. The artist I am now is not the artist I was when I started. The person I was then is different, too. The only thing that remains the same is my intense love for creating with my voice, my vision, and zero compromises. As I piece together a new series, and reflect on how I have changed a huge chunk of the way I work and run my business, I find myself thinking of how scared I am. How, at times, I question what I’m doing, wishing I had years more experience on one day and on another, wishing I was just starting out with no pressure or expectation.
Yet other days I let myself soak into the reality that, each and every day, we are connected with the voice of our soul. We are compelled to create and so we do, and how long or short a period of time you’ve been creating is irrelevant. Every day we are reborn. Every day we give ourselves new opportunities. And every day, the fear creeps in with the light, and we must quiet that voice that tells us someone else has more experience, or that our tricks are old hat. The moment we listen to that cryptic voice is the moment we lose a sense of why we create in the first place.
It isn’t to measure the years we’ve been clicking a camera, or the consistency with which we have fresh ideas. It is to die and be reborn over and over, as all artists should do, to discover something so much more important than age or professionalism or value; it is to discover our worth, and our uniqueness, and to create with the most mighty of swords – our voice.