Being good enough
I thought the last post might be the finish before I take leave, but this seems more appropriate and it’s ready now to go out there to you. When I come back I hope I can start fresh.
This blogpost has been in the works for months. I keep adding to it and amending it. I’m almost afraid to publish it, because of my own insecurities. I’m breaking mirrors here. Some of my friends and those I follow dearly have spoke of this so it encourages me to open up and to do it sooner rather than later. Do you know what worries me some days? The constant blogposts. The putting out there and then… not knowing what people might think of it. It’s like giving a big presentation to a room full of people, finishing and then walking away, shuffling your papers in the deafening silence. Never knowing how that went down. Oh well, anyways, here goes…
I wouldn’t want anyone visiting this blog to go away feeling their life isn’t good enough. That they are not working hard enough. They haven’t got it all together yet. Too many times I visit blogs and wonder at the amount people can pack into a day. Into a life!!!! Jeez. How they can have it all in their careers, all that confidence, and still have time for craftmaking, homecooking and mountain climbing with the kids. In 2012 online, life has to be packed full with a successful career and weekend activities or else you fall short. I have to say, from my own experience, it’s not easy being a full time mum and a full time photographer. You can’t have it all without some sacrifice.
I envy photographers with no children who can concentrate solely on their career, and I envy mums who can concentrate solely on their children. There’s no way I could keep up with either. And I feel bad for even saying that. That’s my struggle right there.
I’ve been a photographer with kids for a few years now, but I know what it’s like to work a full time job and be away from the family all week too. I take my hat off to people who can do that. I know I have it easier than most that have come before me in my family. I come from a working class background. We never had anything as kids. An outside toilet. A packet of crisps and a bottle of lemonade on Saturday nights was a treat. I know I sound old but it’s taught me. You learn from those around you in life, the difficult times they’ve faced, when the money dried up, and you learn that great rewards come from hard work and sacrifice. And working on through the tough times.
So many people want to be photographers these days. I can understand that. It can be such a rewarding career. Making people feel their lives are special. Creating memories. But you need to ask yourself why you want it. If it’s for attention then you can be pulling your hair out waiting for people to ‘like’ your photos. This leads to an awful insecurity. The path to good photography is long and hard. It’s filled with mistakes and hard work and practice. So much practice. There is no downloadable, all fulfilling answer to getting it right and being popular. If there is, please let me know because all this while, I’ve been doing it the hard way. And I’m still a long way off. But the rewards don’t come from having a hundred people online ‘sort of’ following you. They come from making an impact on just a few.
I’d like to tell you what it’s like to be a working photographer and a mum. Photographer’s have a talent for making the very ordinary look extraordinary. We are selective in what we choose to show the world. About ourselves, about our work. We omit and edit at will. It’s part of our skill. A lot will tell you only of their achievements and how good they have it at home and at work. I can’t help but feel this is not the full picture.
They don’t tell you of everything they have yet to do. Sometimes I wish there was more honesty on the internet. A place where we can truly say how we feel, reveal our struggles, support each other, and stop pretending it is always ‘the good life.’ But humans want to feel happy. They want to read things that make them feel ‘warm and fuzzy’ and I might just be shooting myself in the foot for even posting this.
This week of all weeks, amidst a ton of weddings and preparation for our trip to America next week, we got thrown a curveball. Niamh got chickenpox. I’d been catching up on work really well. It did mean working flat out but at least I’d nearly reached the end of that forever ‘to do list’. But poor Niamh’s chickenpox made me stop and think. None of that matters when you have to sit up at night watching your child cry her heart out in distress. How lucky I am to have normally happy, healthy kids and how quickly life can change in an instant. How neglectful I’ve been to think it would always run smoothly and to take them for granted.
I can’t remember the last time I had time to print out a personal photo. I have been so busy ‘doing’ for everyone else. I’m still, after all these years as a photographer, looking at empty walls and empty shelves waiting to be filled with frames and albums. I promised myself I would this winter, but now its Spring and I didn’t get the ‘time’. Those walls also need a fresh coat of paint. But that’s the least of my concerns. Somedays I don’t even have time to brush the floors.
On Monday, after my shoots and appointments, I came in to last nights dishes, the breakfast dishes, the lunch dishes… and I still hadn’t made the dinner. When all that’s done and the kids are in bed, finally I get to start my work. There are not enough hours in the day. There never will be. I need to work late to finish everything that I have to do. It’s always been this way for me.
Increasingly, I’ve found that my most valuable commodity is not my skill. It’s not my vision. It’s not the thousands of pounds worth of equipment.
It’s my time.
There is nothing more important than this time, right now, especially when your a mum with young children who need you to be there.
To end this post, I want to say also, how grateful I am for clients who trust me to document their lives in my own special way. I do sincerely love this work. At times I wish I could switch off my photographer head. I am that passionate about it. I forget sometimes the things I have to do daily because I’m thinking about the next album that has to go out. I don’t have the time to take on a ton of clients but it makes me more grateful for the few, and the stories they have shared with me. I put my heart and soul into every session, every wedding. If I am giving up my time, with my family, it has to be worth it and it has to be meaningful. I have to be making a difference. I am thankful for those who are patient and understanding, and give me the time I need to do this and to have a life of my own. The ones who have become lifelong friends. I realise how lucky I am to have you. Just today, when I was at a low point, I received two emails. One from a bride who had just received her slideshow and another from a portrait client, just keeping in touch and keeping me up to date with their lives. Both emails made me cry. I am grateful to have been a part of your lives and hopefully will continue to be. I am grateful also for having the income you provide so that my kids can have a life filled with art and books and holidays and cinema trips and a nice home. I am grateful for my family who support me. I am so grateful.
But right now, I’m going to get the dishes done. Who knows where I can go from there. I’ll carry on and it’s going to be great.