Someone asked me the other day why I became a photographer and I’ve been doing it so long now (more than 15 years) that I actually struggled to remember. That was the start of an interesting trip down memory lane.
I don’t spend a lot of time with other photographers unless you count my husband, which of course I do but we don’t talk about photography a whole lot outside of the day to day stuff of both running photography businesses. I don’t hang out in forums or regularly patrol the websites of fellow professionals but when I do, I nearly always read the same kind of thing. Newborn photographers tend to talk about how they fell in love with their profession when they had their children (most of us newborn photographers are female, not all but most, and I’m generalising here so forgive me). They quite often state that now they’re ‘passionate’ about photography and the path they’ve chosen. Honestly, being ‘passionate about photography’ is like ‘giving 110%’ on X Factor and that phrase just drives me crazy but anyway…
The sorry truth of why I became a photographer is as follows. I went to university and did a degree in English Literature with little or no idea what I was going to do afterwards. Well, you could do that then, it was a simpler time. I left university and got a job – I worked in accounts in an office because they got paid more than secretaries when I scanned down the job pages. I fell into a job up in Crawley in a company called PDI (we sold accountancy software and services to petrol stations which was pretty much as dull as it sounds) but there I eventually met my husband. By which time, I had worked in accounts which I hated, training which I loved, and marketing which I’m not entirely sure I ever really got the hang of but it was kind of fun making adverts, running trade shows and the like. Then I got married and on honeymoon sitting on a beach somewhere wonderful, we started one of those deep and meaningful conversations that you have in such situations and both confessed we didn’t really love what we were doing. Steve, my husband, said he had always wanted to be a professional photographer, having been a keen amateur for years. I had loved photography in my youth, even precociously attending night school classes at the age of 13. Here’s the rub. At that point, I was a new mum, I had just got married and moved house and had a million other things than my future career on my mind so I just said ‘that sounds fun, let’s do that’.
So there you go, sordid and unvarnished. A sort of throw away decision from someone who thought they’d just do something else if they didn’t like it. Can’t quite believe I was so cavalier with my major life decisions but there you have the arrogance of youth I guess.
Anyway, that’s not to say I didn’t take it seriously. I went back to college, I read books (I know right? No Youtube then…). I practiced and I screwed up until I got it right more than I didn’t. I had sleepless nights before weddings going through everything in my head a million times (OK, that still happens a bit), I made plans for various studios that we had, some of them worked and some of them didn’t. Then eventually I found my groove (oh lord there were some cringeworthy sidetracks along the way) and here I now sit. Lovely little boutique studio in the heart of Sussex and a business all my own.
What surprised me was that somewhere along the way, I kind of fell in love with the whole thing. I love my clients and the million ways that they surprise me with their creativity and their generosity. I must somehow love the newborn photography thing cos I don’t get upset when someone else’s child pees / poos / vomits on my and there has to be love there for that right? I even don’t care when a two year old in a portrait session has thrown three tantrums, said no to everything I’ve suggested, and even said no to stuff that wasn’t suggested just for good measure. I love it when parents make fools of themselves just to make their kids laugh. I love giggling with teens and swapping gossip about Pretty Little Liars (as my viewing habits haven’t really advanced from an adolescent girl myself) and I love generally messing about, taking pictures and looking at them knowing that they’ll be loved, possibly even for generations.
So the answer to the question of why I became a photographer, well that’s not a whole lot to write home about.
The answer to the question or why I stayed a photographer, well that’s a much better story.