How Many Of You Are Standing On The Dock?
I got an email today. I need to share it.
It has been six months since I dug deep into my funk and produced a video called Transform for Scott Kelby’s blog. Since that time I have received not only over 700 comments on my blog and over 500 comments on Scott’s blog but hundreds of emails and dozens of phone calls regarding the video.
I was on the peripheral edges of the photography industry when I put that video out there and now I can’t accept any more friends on facebook because I’ve reached the 5,000 friend limit. The video I was hoping would strike a chord with a few people went viral with tens of thousands of people. I had no idea the impact it would make. To be honest, I was scared to death to actually release it because I thought I would have a Jerry Mguire moment where everyone would think I had lost it. Quite the opposite happened.
Many have written to me saying it has helped them keep going. Today I got an email that has hit me in the gut and got me thinking and I want to share it with you because we need to hear from you who feel you just can’t keep going with the insane idea that you might actually become an honest to God working photographer.
As late to the game as I am with this, I wanted to thank you. I’ve watched the “Transform” video a lot since stumbling upon it earlier this year. It gets me thinking, and now I’m approaching a sink or swim moment. I’ve never been closer to sinking. What I noticed when watching it, and it’s the reason I keep watching it as often as I do, is that it doesn’t seem to have the same effect on me as it does everyone else. I don’t feel relieved that someone else goes through the same sort of despair. Instead, I agonize over the following question: If someone so talented and together feels this way then what chance have I got?
February is a rough spot for me too, but for a different reason. With each February I track the years that I’ve been stagnating. February marks some milestones in my path along this thing called photography. It’s when I started seriously thinking about it. It’s when I got my hands on an SLR for the first time. It’s when I finally got one of my own. It’s when I started getting my lighting knowledge together. It’s also, with this past February, when I noted how little I’ve progressed in the past couple of years, and how afraid I am to do the things I want to be doing.
I started a 365 project that fell flat. I just stopped taking photos. I got busy with real life and just kept forgetting. I just had no direction with it. Often I’d get ready to go to bed and my wife would remind me I hadn’t taken a picture. I’d hurry and just shoot something around the house. Eventually I just stopped trying. I was too tired. I’ve been thinking of picking it up again, or starting from scratch, but I already know how it’ll turn out.
I’ve gone from being interested in photography, to getting brave with a P&S, to being self-conscious with a DSLR, to learning light, to having big ideas, to being ready to sell my camera or put it away for good. “Transform” reminds me that there’s something others have within them that I don’t. What inspires them to get things done that I’m missing? I’ve been analyzing and comparing for far too long.
I never went to school for photography. I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the great photographers or their work, I don’t make much money. I have very little gear and can’t afford anything new. I don’t drive. I can’t get anywhere. I don’t have time. I’m spread too thin. I have too many interests and hobbies. I’m too old to start now. I’ve missed my chance. I have no confidence. I have no ambition or drive. Is it any of these things? Is it all of them?
I know all of these things are excuses and that if I truly wanted to become a photographer I’d just shut up and do it. But how do you DO that? Nobody teaches you how to have that thing that actually makes you DO it. To this day I have no idea why I’m fighting off the urge to just quit. I just keep dreaming, and I keep fretting, and I keep making excuses.
I mainly wanted to just get this out of my system and finally thank you for your video, and for how what you do inspires me. It may not seem like it from what’s written above, but it’s true. You’re doing what I’d love to be doing. I’m not interested in a ton of gear and gigantic, expensively produced photoshoots or extensive photoshop work. You remind me that people can just get out there and do it. I’m just not sure I’m one of those people, and “Transform” reminds me how much I have to think about.
P.S. – I’ve re-written this three times, each time deleting it because I felt really stupid writing it. I’m finally sending it because, of the things I’m tired of, being afraid of appearing stupid is near the top.
B. After all my schooling and years of assisting photographers I sat around for a long, long time wondering… “Yeah, but how in the hell do you have a career doing this?” I’ve heard the stories of others but what about MY story? When does mine start? How do I go from understanding apertures, shutter speed, flash power, softboxes, and the like to actually going out and producing work that I am proud of AND work that pays my bills? How do I do that?
Seriously. I had all the technical. I knew how other people had done it. It’s like sitting in a bar in a harbour town hearing people come off the ships telling stories about new lands they have found. You know what a boat is. You know how it works. But you have no idea how to go get your own boat and set off to find new land of your own.
Currently we are rebuilding the way we do business in our studio. I have been on a research path for two years to go in a direction that I was getting ready to launch in the next 60 days and with a few words from the sweet lips of my wife’s mouth I have just about scrapped that last two years of preparation to strike off into uncharted waters. I’m heading out to a place that I’ve heard plenty of stories about but I’ve yet to experience on my own. Plenty have gone before me but now it’s time for me to set sail with my own boat. Will it sail? Will it sink?
There is only one way to find out.
You are standing on the dock and you can always stand on that dock. Always. Or you can get in a boat and push off. A well known photographer once said that they dove in over their heads and swam for the top. That’s pretty inspirational. I’ve done the same thing. However… I don’t think they said anything about how many dead bodies that they had to swim by to get to the surface again.
Want to climb to the top of Mount Everest? You’ll be passing the dead bodies of those who wanted the same thing and never made it.
But damn it all… Those dead souls died climbing. How many explorers have died exploring? Countless. How many explorers have died sitting at home? Countless still.
How many of you, right now, are wondering the same thing that B. is wondering? B. wants to hear from you. Tell us your story. Drop it in the comments. All of us just want to make sure that we aren’t alone.
PS – B. – I’m glad you didn’t delete the final draft. It’s good to just put it out there. It’s therapeutic. I know this from experience.