It’s always a crap shoot when trying to figure out how to start a blog post. It’s an even bigger guessing game when the content of said blog post is one in which I’m opening up and exposing myself to the two people who actually read this blog: Hi Mom! Hi Dad!But, I’ve had several emails, Facebook messages, texts, etc., inquiring about my lack of activity on the web. I thought it was time to get back on the proverbial horse, clear the air, and start shooting again. At the end of last year, I hit a low. Like a low-low. Like no one’s getting under my Limbo stick, low. It was a culmination of MANY things. And like several times before in my life, I did the most sensible thing for me; I hid. I hid inside myself and inside my family, and I pushed everything that was a trigger to the ‘low’ far and away from me.
As time marched on, and people seemed to like what I did with my camera, more clients booked me. It’s an intoxicating experience to know that people appreciate your ‘art’ – that they appreciate the way you see the world with the closing of the shutter. When BJ lost his job, it was almost serendipitous how much my business picked up; it was like the cosmos was aligning in my favor. I couldn’t get enough of it. And then, my brother got sick. When we finally knew what he was battling, a large part of my world had been rubbed raw. It was as if a chink of armor was chipped away each time I thought of him. Which was ALL the time. Then, my entire world started to revolve around the idea that my kidney would save him. And when my kidney couldn’t save him – when I essentially failed at saving him, something in me quit. I put on a very brave face, and I continued to work, but I wasn’t the same. And, I DO get how shallow that sounds; I DO understand that it wasn’t me who was suffering from kidney failure; it wasn’t me who was watching my child suffer from it. But, I now realize that everything truly is relative, and at the time, it affected me in a way that I wasn’t prepared for.
Around that time, some other things occurred that were pretty craptastic as well. I lost my best friend and only employee, my beautiful Boston ended his journey on this earth; my beloved Uncle Jim joined Bos in heaven; my computer – my lifeline for work – died, and my husband was diagnosed with stroke-like migraines after three weeks in hell of not knowing what was happening to him. While each of these on its own would not have been enough to take me down, the combination of all of them at once took its toll. All the while, I was booking and processing shoots fast and furiously. My brain went into overdrive and dealt with my crap by keeping busy and not thinking too much about it. My business was about finances at this point, because we were dependent upon it. Along with all my shoots, I started doing the newborn photos at the hospital. That job was doomed from the beginning by things of which I had no control. The way I was treated, and the things that were required in that job, was laughable. But not until I talked with other photographers did I realize how much. And even with the realization that there is nothing I could have done differently, it still hurt, and it still chipped away at my psyche a bit. Slowly, and surely, my job started to be a big negative cloud hanging over me.
Yes, much of it was my fault. I should never have booked as many shoots as I did. My kids and my clients paid the price as I was always working. I missed ball games, bedtimes, and so much in between. I began to burn out and it showed in every possible way. I didn’t offer my clients the best customer service I could, because I was too busy trying to just stay above water. I had taken the one thing in my life that gave me an identity outside of being a Mama and wife, and ran it straight into the ground.Fast-forward to now. Over the last few months of 2013, I barely picked up my camera. In fact, my beloved Kelly Moore Camera bag had sat untouched for so long, my cats peed on it. Yep. That’s how glamorous my life has been of late. I did a couple shoot s – lifestyle shoots – that I loved. They were definitely a ray of sunshine in a pretty dismal situation. But, I still couldn’t even fathom finding the love I once had for it. I couldn’t find the will to come up with anything new and exciting – and the last thing I wanted to do was get on Facebook and look at the page that once brought harmony to my world, but now only created a sinking feeling in my gut. And so, I didn’t. I avoided it like the plague. I even stopped posting my Instagram pics to my feed because I couldn’t stand the thought of keeping the page active when I wasn’t. I stopped checking emails and voicemails; I turned my phone off, and I crawled into a hole of shame and embarrassment. And I stayed there. I camped out there. I had parties there. And then, one day when I was checking my flickr account for something, I came across all my sets from long ago. Some of them were really bad. Bad- Bad. Alien eyes, oversaturation, blown whites, and clipped shadows, bad. But, in most of even the bad stuff, I could see what I saw when I snapped the image. I felt a glimmer something besides dread. After I clicked out of my flickr account that day, I realized that it wasn’t my style, or my approach, or my photography in general that had caused me to want to hide; it was simply that I had done what millions of people before me had done; I did too much of a good thing, and I wore down physically and emotionally.
A couple weeks ago, I did a shoot for one of my good friends and her family. They were having a ‘Celebration of Life’ ceremony for her dad, and they all wanted some images of each family as well as some group photos. And honestly, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to pull off the creative stuff that I love, and that they would be disappointed. The wimptastic part of me wanted to back out. But I didn’t. I cleaned the cat pee off my stuff (not an easy task), put on my big girl pants, and headed to the event. Within thirty seconds of the first snap, I felt the joy I had been missing for a long time. It was flowing again, and I could see that I just needed a shot of confidence. When I finished, and I got home and looked at the images, I saw that I had captured the love of a family for whom life had been a bit unfair as of late. I realized how blessed I was to have done something that may have brought them a bit of joy in a pretty joyless time.Since then, I’ve done two more shoots – one maternity shoot, and one six-month shoot. In both of them, I felt true love for my ‘job’. I didn’t have to rush through them for fear of not finishing the eight shoots in front of them. I didn’t have to miss any time with my punks, sitting in front of my computer for days on end.
And all of this, has led me to now. I started eating right and working out, and I feel better in general now. I have a pretty good outlook on what my future work path may look like. While I will always ‘shoot’ people, I’m also going to go back to teaching at some point. I’m either going to finish my Master’s and end up back at VU if they’ll have me, or I’m going to complete the teaching part of my BA so I can teach English in Middle or High School. I miss teaching, and I know that as far as retiring from something, it’s a pretty good option for me. But until then, and even while I’m teaching, I will NOT stop doing photography. I am going to book shoots, just not as many. And I’m going slow down in the wedding business. While the money is decent, the responsibility and liability is too much. I will probably book one or two a year, but that’s it. I learned my lesson, and I don’t want to ever burn out again.So, if you’ve stuck around to read all this, I thank you. As long as this post was, it seems like a drop in the hat compared to the real life versions of all my crap that played out. I know all too well that those of you reading have had your share crappy things, as well, and somehow, that makes all the collective crap easier to handle.
Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom in a situation to realize that the fight to get back to the top is worth it. I’m grateful that I’m surrounded by a family who will help me get back up. That proverbial horse isn’t intimidating at all now; in fact, I may just hop on and ride bare-back.