Like so many others, photography and I met in a dark room- it was the spring semester of 2009 and I needed a fine art credit (because somehow, an entire year majoring in music didn’t count?), so I took Photo 101- an intro to dark room film photography. Somewhere throughout the semester, between the late solitary nights in a room full of enlargers and the magic of watching my images bloom to life on a previously blank page, I fell in love. I remember we’d each been given a ream of 100 sheets of Ilford photo paper, and while most of my class had half their supply left over by the time summer came around, I’d been through two boxes. We were also issued enough rolls of film to get us through the semester for our various projects, and I found myself buying more about 5 week into the course. It wasn’t that I was wasting film or paper- it’s that I found I loved shooting so much that I wanted to photograph MORE than just what the course requirements called for. And funny enough, it was the shots I took for myself, for the sheer joy of the click of a camera, that ended up being some of my favorites.
Sometimes, I forget that I’m still allowed to shoot just for me. I LOVE photographing weddings and engagements- I truly believe I have the BEST job in the world! But there’s also a certain amount of pressure associated with photographing for my clients, and trust that I love the challenge to thrive, but it’s really important to step away and shoot for ME from time to time. It’s a chance to try new techniques without the pressure of someone other than me expecting results. It’s a permission to fail with no consequences. It’s a chance to breathe new life into my images. And sometimes, when I’m upset, taking my camera out to shoot for the joy of a clicking shutter is therapeutic.
Personal work can open up new opportunities, too- Joey L wrote an article a while back (of course I can’t find it now) about how his personal projects of documenting tribal people around the world have led to more opportunities to shoot the types of hired, commercial work he loves. Jonathan Canlas preaches about personal work all the time, and it’s done nothing but grow his business AND his love for his craft.
When I shoot work for myself, it typically involves portraiture similar to my wedding work because that’s really what I LOVE to shoot. But last week while I was in Santa Barbara, there was something so joyful to me about walking around the Four Seasons and surround beach area with my Contax, shooting for the sheer pleasure of it. I have no idea what those film scans are going to look like, but the very act of photographing for myself was enough to satisfy my inner need to create. As artists, it crucial that we create for the joy of it, so that during those long stretches of editing during wedding season we don’t forget WHY we fell in love with what we do in the first place.
What is you love to shoot most? Has there ever been a time you’ve photographed, not because you were contracted to do so, but just because you wanted to create something beautiful?
*Stay tuned tomorrow for a follow-up post that may or may not involve a need for models for an upcoming shoot for my personal work :).*