There’s more to life than photography…
I believe that you should be passionate about what you do. Not many of us have been lucky enough to get paid for what others consider to be dream jobs. For most, work is a means to an end. It’s certainly not something that they dreamed of doing for a living.
A few months into my retirement, I’ve had time to reflect on thirty plus years involved in photography and print or web design. Do I have any regrets? Not really. I suppose that I could have tried to make my mark in the photography world and get my name out there but oddly, fame or fortune has never appealed to me. I used to joke at work when my photo credit didn’t appear under one of my photos that I only cared that my name was spelled correctly on my pay cheque.
I’ve seen photographers that I know, many excellent photo journalists slowly fade over the years to only a fraction of their former brilliance. The enthusiasm that they had for every job when they first started shooting dwindled to the point where it seems that only once in a while that they really put their hearts and souls into their work. After a dozen or fifteen years of studio photography, I found that for as much as I loved taking photos, the thing that made it special was missing so I moved onto something else. I still ended up on the creative side of things, not with a camera but with a computer and that too was good for a while.
What inspired me to write this was something that I read earlier this evening. It was from a young photographer whose work I really admire. In his early thirties he talked about being away most of the year either escorting clients or going solo for a month at a time in the back country to shoot more landscapes. It sounded glamorous on the surface. After all, who wouldn’t love to be doing what they enjoy year round and getting paid for it?
Then I looked at my two beautiful daughters and wonderful wife and was reminded about how special it is to spend time with your immediate family on a daily basis. Taking them to daycare everyday when they were young. Changing diapers while my wife was on a night shift. Reading to them every night before bed. Helping them with their homework. Taking them to the museum and watching them wide eyed and sometimes in terror as they saw a new exhibit and reassuring them that it was okay and that they’d be alright.
As my daughters grew older, I’d hear them argue over clothes, who wore what. Don’t use my makeup. Watching them as a proud father as they played in their first competitive soccer, volleyball and basketball games and cheering for them when they did great and dying just a little bit when they struggled.
I sit here and write in my retirement wondering how empty my life would be now if I had taken a different path in my early twenties when a well known book publisher offered me a deal to provide photography for a series of coffee table books of the wilderness here in Canada. I almost did it too. But I didn’t and am so much richer for having chosen that path.
Because of that choice, I’m not famous or even well known in the photography world. My photos don’t grace the covers of the big American photo magazines. I’m not a “name” photographer. And like those many times when they forgot to put my photo credit under one of my photos, I still say, “so what?”
It’s too easy to see what someone else is doing and idealize it. Maybe their life is as good as you think it is? Maybe not? It doesn’t matter because when you choose your path in life it’s you that has to live with the results.
I don’t know that a father can be any closer or more proud of his daughters. They’ve grown up independent and strong with great values and I can see them being wonderful parents and wives when they have their families. Something that I know about my girls is that they’ll also choose loving husbands that would sacrifice anything and everything for them and their children.
My greatest legacy after I draw my last breath will not be all the photos that I’ve sold or the places that I’ve visited. It will be the special relationships that I’ve shared with the ones that I love.
Pictures after all are just pictures. It’s best not to take them too seriously.