A decade ago this week I took a leap of faith and started this business. If you’d told me I’d be doing that even 11 years ago I’d never have believed you but now I’ve officially been a working photographer for 10 years and plan to keep doing it for as long as I possibly can.
Where exactly did the time go? I know where a lot of it went. There’s the countless hours spent with a camera in front of–and often on the ground with–thousands of amazing dogs and cats and then even more time on a computer figuring out how to get the images to look right. There’s all the trial and error behind the camera as well as figuring out how to make a business work. There’s the subtle transition from an avid shooter who takes pictures to a photographer who makes images and sometimes wondering what side of that equation you’re on during a particular shoot. There’s building relationships with clients, small business folks and the production community and choosing who you get to work with. There’s making lots of mistakes along the way and realizing that’s part of the process and they’re actually more important than the successes because you really learn from them. There’s great years, so-so years and downright down years and being equally exhausted and exhilarated for each of them. There’s gradually discovering that working for yourself is all consuming and quantumly different from working for someone else. There’s doing tons of work for no pay either because something doesn’t pan out or because you’re donating your time to a cause you believe in and are thrilled that what you do can make a difference. There’s the realization you’re proud and happy with what you do for a living now and the soul-deep understanding that all of this is worth a lot more than a regular paycheck.
Sometimes I go back to look at images I made that first year and wince at what I see. They’re not tack sharp enough. The color is off. I didn’t crop it the way I would now. But then just as often I come across a shot I love and the memories come flooding back of the moment it happened along with the thrill of seeing it for the first time on a big monitor and then again used in an advertisement or printed large and hanging proudly on a client’s wall.
I’m really, really lucky. I love animals and I love photography and I get a lot of both every day. Realizing you’ve figured out a way to harness your passion and forge it into a career is an amazing thing that doesn’t happen for everyone. I recognize that and am humbled that I’ve made it to this point. Thank you for your support and I’ll check back with you in another 10 years to see where we are.
I’ll leave you with two groups of images from my first year in 2006 and the current 10th that I chose to bookend the journey so far.
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