A couple of weeks ago I became involved in a group mentorship. When I mentioned that to a few people who know me, they thought it meant that I was mentoring other photographers. I’ve been doing photography for about 18 years total, professionally for about 11, so I can understand why they thought that. But nope! I’m participating in the mentorship as a mentee (is that even a word??), and I’m super excited about it. For the next 6 months I will be a part of a Mastermind, a group of 22 inspiring women working on their photography businesses together, with a mentor who is an amazing photographer and educator that I admire and love learning from.
I heard someone say recently that they are and always will be a student. I really identified with that statement…I love to learn and can’t imagine a point where I would ever stop craving new information. Right now, I’m channeling that love of learning into growing my business…that means not only learning more about things like SEO, social media, and blogging, but also learning about myself as a photographer, a business person, and figuring out why I do what I do.
Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”? Think about that for a minute. What motivates you to do what you do, and why do you continue to do it? I was encouraged to think about this in my first Mastermind Zoom. It’s something that has been on my mind a lot as I go through the steps of polishing up my business. I’ve always loved art, for as long as I can remember. As I got older and started thinking about a career, art was my first and only choice. I started out with tons of painting and drawing classes, and one darkroom photography class at community college. Eventually, I transferred to Columbia College Chicago where I made the decision to study fine art and become a painter. Well. I got LOTS of flack for that decision from the older people in my life! My mom was an art teacher when I was little, and even though she loves art, she thought it was a bad idea and encouraged me to go into advertising instead.
Why were all of these older people not encouraging my fine art path? Because they were thinking about money, and a career that would bring in a higher paycheck…being an artist didn’t sound like a stable profession to them. I wasn’t thinking about that at all…I just knew I wanted to do something creative and something I loved. In addition to the painting, drawing, and art history classes I signed up for, I decided to take some more photography classes as well, and found that I loved the process of shooting film and developing in the darkroom. I ended up switching my major to photography. It was creative and I was making art, but I could (probably?) support myself with it as a career as well. It wasn’t really a deciding factor, but it did seem more sustainable than making a living as a fine artist. My ‘why’ at that time was passion…photography is art and I love making art. And that was the only ‘why’ I needed at the time.
I evolved as a photographer and found newborn and family photography years later…and my ‘why’ changed. For a while, photography was only sustaining me. It was paying the bills and was just what I did. I started working for a photo studio and I got into a routine and I kind of lost my ‘why.’ I still loved photography, but it became a way to make money and wasn’t something I was as passionate about anymore. The spark wasn’t really there any longer…not like it had been in the beginning. It wasn’t until the last few years that I started thinking more about why I do what I do and started to love it again.
About 3 years ago, I went to a client’s house for a session…a big, fancy, beautiful home that they had just moved into recently. I had been photographing their family since their first child was born In 2015. They love photography and capturing their kids grow is extremely important to them…we usually do quarterly shoots every year, sometimes even more than that. As they showed me around their new house, I noticed that my work was literally covering the walls all over the house. It was everywhere…hallways, living room, kids rooms. The photos are not only art on the walls for them, but they are memories captured that document their growing and changing family. These photos were clearly very special to them. Realizing that was a big moment for me…it has become my ‘why.’ I love giving people this gift.
The moments I capture for my clients will be with them for their entire lives! They will be on walls, in photo albums, on phones, and in grandparent’s homes. I’ve had countless new mothers (and some new fathers) cry when they see their newborn photos…and it always makes me happy that my work has affected someone on such an emotional level. They will have these images to look back on when their kids are grown and they can’t remember the smell of their tiny head, the feeling of thier little hand holding their finger, the rolls, the curls, or the teeny toes. But It’s all there for them to remember in photos, forever. That is why I do what I do.