Today's post started as a Facebook post for my photography page, like they do every so often. Here's what I wrote:
I see it all the time in my photography practice - people longingly looking at my camera, as if I've done something magical to make a little money with it through the years. But it's not magic in the sense that it happened by chance, or only to the lucky few of us privileged to follow our passions in our work life. It is magic in the sense that when you touch it, something true about yourself becomes revealed through photographs that only you can create. #gomakemagic#whatdoyousee #goshootsomethingtoday
Let me continue by saying it's a work in progress. I have days where I doubt, where I fret, where I go look for a day job. It's hard 1) owning your own business, 2) running a business based on perceived luxury, 3) that requires you to put yourself and your craft out there for praise and criticism. In short ... it's not easy to follow your passion into your work life. So I'm not advocating that everyone quit their day job to go open their artisan business tomorrow.
I am advocating the demise of perceived elitism in the work of the arts. I create amazing photographs that change me, inspire me, and sometimes help others with my camera ... and so can you. Whether you start with your iPhone or your new DSLR, start. Because you, and the rest of your community, are missing out when you don't. When you leave your camera on the shelf, or in the car, we miss out on the world you see; we miss out on being transformed by your perspective; you miss out on the same, and the joy of sharing in it with those around you.
Given what I've learned about life and beauty and how we grow spiritually, art isn't a luxury -- it's often a deprived necessity. Beauty has a power to go in deep inside and transform us, bring us hope, and inspire courage. I need more beauty around me, and I wonder if you do, too.
Oh, you do? Great. Go make some today. Join me in capturing the truth and beauty of what's around you today--maybe a sunset, a piece of fruit on your table, the patch of grass outside your office. When you do, please share it with me on my Facebook page. I want to see what beauty you find today. I'll do the same.
It's an old photographer's joke: in the middle of the photo session the client says, "Oh, it doesn't matter! You can fix XYZ in Photoshop!" To which the photographer replies: "Absolutely! It's how I make all my money."
As a professional photographer time is insanely importantly -- meaning, how well or not I manage my time directly influences how much money I make. If I charge $100 and spend 1-hour on the project, I made a great profit. If, however, I spend 15-hours on the same $100 project... well, then, there are easier ways to make a buck.
After virtually burning myself out as a wedding photographer by 2013 (I started in 2006), I knew I had to change how I worked. Weddings were costing me too much. The price tag made it initially appealing, until I realized how many hours I was actually working on each event. It was unsustainable.
I decided to go after more portrait work. It was my favorite part of the wedding day anyway, and I figured I'd have less stress, too, working outside the demands of a wedding day. So I did and it was.
Shooting families more and more I started to hear the joke above play out. I never quite gave the photographer's reply -- but I began to see how many people were afraid of their imperfections. Unconsciously I went on a mission trying to shoot my clients in such a way that would allow them to see the best parts of themselves without the idealism of perfection. I wanted to honor their quirks, personality, and flaws -- not gaussian blur them all away.
Without the backup plan of Photoshop-ing in perfection, I focused on shooting in a way that was honoring to my clients' personalities. And I developed a "let it be" attitude in my editing. I realized this is how I had always wanted to shoot, and I finally had given myself permission to be who I was as a photographer. In addition, it freed up hours of time for me from each session -- not spending it behind the computer wiping away every laugh line.
The result has been an increasing return rate for my portrait clients. I'm learning they feel safe to let me represent who they truly are as I honor that trust by creating beautiful and realistic portraits that embody their entire being, not just their best smiles. And they feel safe because they sense that I actually like them (I do!). I'm fascinated by each and every one of them and take it as a honor each time I get to help them see a bit of what their loved ones see in them: their amazingly true and beautiful self.
Saturday was a complete and utter gift. It was our third Art & Prayer Workshop, and although I'm no longer surprised in the ways Jesus often shows up and works in our lives during this experience, it's always a surprise to see where and how he works.
Feeling a bit in the groove of the timing of the day (and no longer feeling the neurotic need to keep checking the time to make sure we're "right on it," whatever that even meant) I was able to sink into the experiential space, to process my own feelings surfacing through this visual and Scriptural process.
Sitting on the pebbled front porch of the home we met in, with my Prismacolor markers and a technicolor rainbow pencil, over and over I heard with great comfort: "Trust the process." It's a message close to my heart these past years, and in this moment it not only applied to the process I was facilitating for those who attended the workshop, but also in my own life. As I sat with it a deeper meaning emerged.
I'm invited to trust the process not only in the workshop, in my journey with Jesus -- but in the details, too. Trust the process in my health, in my finances, in my vocation. Trust the process. Just show up, and let Jesus do his thing. It's not a recipe for success, but a relinquishment of the control I fool myself into thinking I have. I can't guarantee the outcome, I can only respond to the invitation. And that's a really uncomfortable thought for me. I love control. It tastes and feels so good at times. But there's no adventure, no risk, no freedom ... no life in security and control.
I walk from this workshop with a beautiful reminder to trust, to go out, to speak forth ... and watch what happens. Like a seed underground, I can only plant it there. I cannot make it grow. I can participate, but I cannot control.
Jesus, have mercy.