For short time in life, I was blissfully working my dream job at a photography studio. Then, the U.S. economy crashed, I was laid off and then sent to a war zone. It was a lot to process in a short period. Ironically, going to war saved me from even more stress though.
My dream job was working for a photo studio. All day long I was either taking/editing pictures or designing coffee-table style albums. It was creative and exciting so I didn’t mind the hard work, long hours and average pay. I was learning elegance to a basic craft the Army had taught me.
As a military photographer/journalist, I learned to capture scenes of training events and actual missions through photography and articles. It was shoot (my camera, not my weapon), move and gather information for a corresponding story. If you missed a shot or quote, that was it, you missed it since there typically was no re-do. I covered assignments where I photographed various missions in small towns while deployed to Bosnia. There, I got to see the hope in the eyes of locals as they got the help they needed and pride in the faces of the Soldiers who got the chance to make a difference. Other times, I got to sit one on one with a Soldier and really talk to them about what they did and why, which generally resulted in an interesting feature article. It was rewarding, and I loved it. However, there was more for me to learn in the aspects of photography (and journalism).
That is where the civilian photo studio job filled the gaps. I photographed weddings, community events, portrait sessions and magazine shoots. I was learning more about my camera than I ever knew existed. I discovered that lighting and angles could create magic. I was witnessing huge moments of people’s lives: weddings, anniversaries, and milestones of their children (newborn through senior pictures). I created memories that they would cherish for years and perhaps even generations. Once, I even had the honor of unknowingly making the last portrait of a beloved grandmother before she unexpectedly passed away. The family called in their grief to order a candid picture I had taken of her laughing at a recent wedding. My photograph was to be her memorial picture. To me, that was an honor that I will always remember.
I’ve had some friends say, you can’t just take pictures your whole life. Frankly, that kind of hurt and I was rather offended. I mean is my dream less worthy? Less valid? I knew what they meant though. It is hard to make living off of photography. Just like it is hard to make a living off of writing, painting, singing and dancing. Those facts are pretty accurate according to statistics. And even when I did have a full time job at a photography studio, the pay was not enough to support my family alone. I could only do it because I was married and there was another income then.
Well, the dream has stopped and reality is now here. After redeploying and divorcing, I could not realistically return to the photo studio job. It just would not have been financially wise. But, as adults, we have to overcome and adapt to survive. That doesn’t mean that I have given up my dreams on working as a photographer and writer. No. It just means I have to readjust my plan. And plans take work, according to Colin Powell. “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
For me, hard work is doing what I need to do to be financially stable, completing my obligations and THEN working on my dreams. So, I accepted a government civilian job as an editor for technical manuals. (Yes, there is a sleeping hazard associated with this job at times but it is a miracle job nonetheless, but that is another story altogether.) Then, after that, I am a Soldier who can be a photograph/writer/commander for the Army Reserve. (Only five more years and ?? deployments to go before I can retire too!) AND THEN, when I have time, I shoot pictures for people as my third job. Or as I like to say, my bonus job. I have also started two blogs so I can work on my writing and photography as well. It may not be the dream pattern and gets a little hard to schedule at times in between a social life, but, it is what I need and want to do. One job pays the bills and helps me develop my editing skills. The other job makes me serve something greater than myself all while helping me maintain my skills at photography, writing and resiliency. And then, I can play around and shoot everything from weddings to senior pictures to work group shots. It is a lot of work at times. However, I think it will pay off eventually. And according to Sam Ewing, it shows that I am not a quitter. “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”
Overall though, I truly believe that nothing will ever happen if I don’t make it happen. Like Powell said, dreams don’t just happen by magic. You have to figure out how to get to where you want to be. And when given a road block, you find a new way. There is always more than one way to a destination, but the only destination I want is the ultimate me. The best thing is, I get to decide on the route.