In September I will enroll in a one year professional photography program. It is time-intensive (4 days/week, 8:30am-4:30pm) and extremely practical (its focus is on technical skills and small business practices, as well as artistic development). I could not be more excited. The school calendar is taped above my computer, school holidays are already blocked on my Google calendar, the list of required and suggested supplies is printed and filed in my “School” folder. And I still have 131 days, a grand total of 18.5 weeks, before I start. Not that I’m counting or anything …
Why am I going to school for photography? Glad you asked.
I’ve always been a funny girl. As a child, I shunned carrots and read under my covers with a flashlight to ensure that I would soon be wearing glasses; as if my myopic parental genes weren’t guarantee enough. And until I misinterpreted a painting in a painfully embarrassing public way in my third grade classroom and got the specs I’d always wanted, I wore plastic neon-orange sunglasses with the lenses popped out to school everyday.
Quirky, but also logical. I wanted glasses and did everything I could to make sure I got them.
Eighteen years later, I take much the same approach to life.
Last spring, I sat myself down for a long chat. The topic: what do you want to do in life?
Since college, I’ve worked in higher education fundraising. I enjoy my job, but it is definitely not my occupation, my dream.
So, I applied “Julie’s 7 Steps to Finding Your Major,” a program comprised of a series of questions and activities I had developed for one of my sisters during her sophomore year of college when she needed a little direction, to my career options.
See how logical I can be?
First I wrote down all of the things in life I truly love and love to do. That list looked something like this:
- Read novels
- Read anything
- Write (but only sometimes)
- Take photographs of everything
- The beach
- Hang out with family and friends
- Hang out with kids/babysit
- My cats
- Life events (births, weddings, etc…)
- Yoga (but only sometimes, and I haven’t done any for over a year)
- Dress up/interesting clothing/vintage clothing/clothing in general
Next, I brainstormed careers that intersected with my interests. My new list looked something like this:
- Sleep → no career
- Read novels → publishing, editor
- Read anything → publishing, editor
- Write (but only sometimes) → writer
- Take photographs of everything → photographer
- The beach → ? I don’t like swimming, just being there …
- Travel → travel writer/photographer, Peace Corps, aid worker, ambassador
- Hang out with family and friends → party planner
- Hang out with kids/babysit → childcare, teacher
- My cats → animal caretaker, zookeeper, veterinarian
- Life events (births, weddings, etc…) → midwife, party planner, photographer
- Yoga (but only sometimes, and I haven’t done any for over a year) → yoga instructor
- Dress up/interesting clothing/vintage clothing/clothing in general → fashion designer, vintage shop owner
Now, that list has some pretty ridiculous stuff on it.
I immediately pared it down to those things that were actually achievable for me (as much as I might want to, I am never going to be vet, fashion designer, or ambassador to a foreign country, and I’m okay with that). Things that I could achieve but were risky or uncertain were tossed, too (I want to be a novelist, but the odds of success are disheartening; I can say I want to be a midwife, but will I be able to handle the training and actually do it?).
The more I looked at my list, the more I realized that not only did photography crop up in multiple categories, but it could actually be applied to almost all of my interests in some way. I could photograph novelists, animals, and yoga classes! I could capture families, children, and life events, worldwide!
Photography as a career path started to look better and better as I examined it further in light of my other big life goal: to have a family. A photographer could have a flexible schedule. Post-production could be done at home. The intensity of my workload could be managed by me, dialed up and down depending on my needs and stage of life. And, when my husband gets a job after he finishes his Ph.D. program in 2013 and we have to move who knows where, my career would be more portable than most.
All you professional photographers, don’t you dare rain on my parade and tell me everything I said is not true. Just don’t.
A girl’s got to have a dream, and this one seemed to mesh with how I’d like my life to flow, not just for right now, but for the future, too. So I researched schools in the Boston area, interviewed at each one, attended open houses, applied to my favorite, and got in.
Making the decision to stop working and pursue this was difficult. I get nervous easily, and voluntarily cutting off my paychecks seemed a bit insane, especially with my husband in school simultaneously. But, in 131 days, I begin! I’m not going to magically wake up in my dream job one day if I don’t take steps to make it happen, so this is me, making it happen.
I know photography basics, but next to nothing about Photoshop and more advanced equipment. I’m a quick study, though, and isn’t that what school is for, anyway? The purpose of this blog will be to document my experiences as a photography student, and then as a new photographer. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of interesting tidbits to share along the way!
Who’s with me?!?