I am an adventurous and creative wedding photographer in the North East
The tagline for my this website is alternative wedding photography for adventurous and creative people.
Until now, the adjectives adventurous and creative were words I ascribed to other people; qualities that I aspired to. They were things that other people had and that I wanted.
I was talking to a friend recently and she said that I was already adventurous and creative. What, me? A working class scrap of nothing living in Northern England? With the stereotypical 2.4 kids, the mortgage, the Dad bod?
‘Barry you’re an idiot,’ she said.
‘You left a your safe job to study for a Media Production degree. You’re the first person in your family to go to university. You hustled on the side for years before you became a full time photographer when your first child was born, so that you could rearrange your work around your family and fulfil yourself creatively.’
“You are doing what other people just dream of doing. You’re actually doing it now.’
When you look at it like that she’s right.
I was so busy grinding away in my journey that I’d never stopped to pull back and think about just how far I’d come. And when I looked at the last four years since going full time as a photographer I thought ‘yeah, maybe my friend is right. I am an idiot.’ I gave up my safe, monthly pay for the uncertainty of self employment. I threw myself into the creative arts, something viewed as abnormal in normal day to day life to be a consumer of, never mind a creator of. And for money, not just as a hobby!
On the way I’ve learned loads about myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my hopes and my fears, the thought patterns that hold me back and the grit and determination that keeps me moving forward. I’ve learned a ton about the practicalities of how to run a business and be self employed, and I’ve become a much better photographer in a relatively short space of time.
I haven’t gotten everything right first time. Far from it; I’ve made mistake after mistake and stumbled and fallen more times than I can count. Even when I got things right it didn’t seem to have the positive effect on my business I was hoping for. My imposter syndrome is strong.
When times were tough I looked out to the wider wedding, photography and entrepreneur community for inspiration and guidance. I followed the advice. I bought the courses. I read the books. I tried the hacks. I worked crazy hours. I blogged. I Instagrammed.
The wedding photography world is full of people who photographed one friend’s wedding and then booked 35 weddings the following year. They have thousands of followers on Instagram who like and comment on their perfectly constructed workspace. They fly around the world photographing weddings in Santorini and Iceland without a concern for visas. They’ve got everything worked out. And they’re usually selling a course on how you can do it too (at $100 off!).
Meanwhile, I’m sat here in my underpants. I haven’t slept properly for six years. I’ve eaten my bodyweight in festive foodstuffs and I’m broke. I used to cook everything from scratch but now 60% of my calories are eaten from my children’s leftovers while standing over the bin. I believe I’ve photographed some amazing wedding couples and produced some great work but I have gaps in my diary.
Maybe this is the reality. Maybe this is how everyone else is too, but they don’t have the courage to talk about it. They won’t present this side of themselves to the world because it’s not what people want to see. People want to see a perfectly put together highlight reel.
I call bullshit.
I think that it’s more valuable for people to see the reality. To see that what it really takes is hard graft.
Every. Single. Day.
That being adventurous and creative is about making impossible choices between your business and your family. It’s about not being sure and doing it anyway. It’s failing at seven things to find one thing that works.
One of my favourite quotes that sums all this up was made by Sara Lando in an interview with Andrew Hellmich on the Photo Xpermiment podcast. Sara is talking about where inspiration comes from but I think that this describes the dream and the reality of running your own creative business.
In that spirit I’m putting away the business books. I’ve deleted the courses. I’m going to blog and use social media in my way, on my own schedule, to tell the truth. I’m trusting that there are enough people out there who will want to listen. That they’ll respond to my vulnerability with kindness rather than hostility. I hope that people will want to come with me on this journey as I talk about being a sole business owner in a creative industry.
I am adventurous and creative in my own way. There’s no mystery or secret to it. And I’ll be pulling back the curtain in future blog posts to show you what it really takes.