Everybody starts as a beginner.
When I decided I wanted to be a photographer, I encountered many obstacles along the way. Budget, education, time, clients, models…. but no obstacle was as tough as to dealing with the mean spirited people who laughed in my face.
In a world where everybody with a camera calls themselves a photographer, the professional photography circle is fierce in a negative way, and I have experienced that first hand. I remember a local photographer (we even had friends in common) who wrote me a nasty letter saying how horrible I was, that I had no talent, I didn’t know what I was doing so therefore I should quit trying to become a photographer all together because there were already too many photographers anyway and nobody needed another shitty one like me. The worse is that she was not the only one who treated me that way. Many more came after her.
That person was right, I was not the greatest (still) and I should have quit.
Like her opinion, I have been told MANY things along the way, and I have experienced first hand the deceptions, the detractors and the pain. But what that person didn’t know is that my whole life had been that way. Nobody ever believed in me, growing up in an abusive household, my entire life had always been that way, but what that photographer told me that day only gave me the fuel to say “I’ll prove you wrong”.
But there was one more thing. That lady’s message changed me, and she made me someone else: a mentor.
That moment, I knew one day I would have the choice to be mean to another photographer or to be a decent human.
So I chose the second one, and when an attempting photographer approached me with a ton of beginner’s questions, I had the choice to roll my eyes and say “ I ain’t giving away my secrets for free” or I could say ” Look, I don’t have the answer to all of your questions, but here is what I know, and this is how I can help you”.
When people with smaller budgets or requests that were different than what I could offer came and asked me for pictures, instead of closing the door for them, I opened the door for someone else and said, “Here, she/he can help you better than I can”.
It has been 3 exact years since that message, and I am still determined to be the photographer I envisioned myself three years ago; a more compassionate human, someone who genuinely cares about people over profit, and someone who can look at an image and know the process it took for that image to become what it is today.
While I know many photographers are fully booked for the current year, (since I wasn’t sure where I was going to be living) I just now scheduled my first wedding. During my consultation, I got shaken when the bride said she had been referred to me by that beginner photographer, and was told how wonderful I was, and how big of a mentor I had been for someone else.
I said “WHA?!!!!” (I honestly thought she was confusing me with someone else).
She replied back: “Yes, so-and-so told me how much you have done for her, and how much you have helped her in her own photography journey. You have been the only person who have been there for her.”
That moment, the bride could have complimented anything in the universe, but for that second, I felt so deeply touched that I had to chug my Panera coffee to prevent me from crying like a baby, my throat was a knot, and my stomach an explosion of rainbows.
Her words were so significant and worthwhile, because in a society that encourages competition over anything else I had been given the most meaningful and life changing compliment, by simply acknowledging how good it is to be humans again, it made me realize that, I, now for the first time, feel entitled to be called a photographer, because I achieved the photographer I envisioned 3 years ago, at the beginning of my ow journey.