Anniversaries are one of those things that often pass me by. Not those of other people, but my own. Personal milestones are something I’m usually too busy to stop and consider: one year I had to be reminded of my own birthday, though that could just be something to do with age.
I was sent a reminder today by LinkedIn notifying me that it was 9 years ago today that I officially started working as a professional photographer. This is a loose definition: I’d been lecturing and doing odd jobs for years prior but this was the day I made the declaration to myself and to the world (and to HMRC) that this was the direction I wanted to take, that come hell or high water I would make a living as a photographer.
Many of you will already have made the realisation I was soon to learn: we all remember the economy back in 2008. We’re not exactly swimming Scrooge McDuck style in our own personal fortunes, but there are certainly far less empty shopfronts than there used to be back in the heydays of the recession. In to all this I waded with more confidence than I should have, with little more than a camera, a decent portfolio and a small amount of cash “earned” when a taxi destroyed my motorbike with me on it (a story for another day). The most important thing though was I had the same determination that drives me today, an ambition that has become more and more prominent in our culture as time has gone by: you spend roughly 1/3 of your waking life at work, so you want to put your time to good use and do something that you love.
Quick aside in to some statistics here: 40% of new businesses fail within the first 2 years. That number is closer to 80% with photographers. I’ve met of thousands of photographers over the years, many of whom have taken the same journey as me, and the number who are still doing it I can count on one hand. This loss of passion is the most common reason I see for why people stop: why work as hard as you have to in the creative industries if you’re not getting the reward of enjoying what you do.
That said I have met plenty of professional photographers who’ve been working far longer than me, some with careers spanning 30-50 years, and each and every one of them still loves the job. Seeing this inspires me: the odds may be against everyone in this industry, but you don’t need to be everyone, you just need to be the one person that makes it.
I’m proud to say I still love everything that I do: I still feel the same joy in crafting an eye-catching image, the same proud satisfaction when a student grasps a difficult concept and the same desire to learn more and try new things. It’s not been an easy journey: a lot of long days, challenging situations and moments on the razors edge of catastrophe. It’s still hard work each and every day, but it’s something I welcome and something I can still see myself doing for the rest of my life.
This hasn’t been a solo journey, far from it. There are simply too many people to list, without whom I wouldn’t still be here. I’d like to think if any of them read this they know how much I appreciate their advice, hard work, friendship and support. To each and every one of you I offer my sincerest thanks, and if I haven’t seen you in a while get in touch, we’ll meet for a cuppa and you can tell me all your news.
You’ll see a similar post in a couple of months, as I consider the studio separate to myself and it has it’s own anniversary coming up. However that will likely be a more businesslike affair, less the stream of consciousness stylings of a post motivated by a single reminder on social media.
So here’s to 9 years. Next year we’ll get to a nice round number so I’ll no doubt do something special, but between then and now there’s a whole year of new people, new challenges, adventures, trials, tribulations and lots of fantastic photos that I look forward to sharing with you all.
August 1st 2017