How in the hell did I get into this?
I spent the first half of my photography career chasing bands—promotional photos, album art, live shots. Music photography is a great way for a person to cut their teeth in photography. No one can pay you, so you have a reasonable degree of control over your images and you can make some great friends. Shooting at small, local shows teaches you about working in low-light, awful conditions and could prepare you for a great career as a documentary photographer or photojournalist. Mosh pits and having your camera shoved into your eye are all a part of it, or at least they were in 1837 when I was but a little girl. Do kids even mosh anymore? Now I think they just twerk. Twerk pits have gotta be the worst.
The other half of my photography career I spent pinging into several different genres, including fashion photography (95% assisting), portraits, editorial portraits (my favorite, then and now), commercial photography (also 95% assisting), and some product photography. I grew up in the ‘90s, which means that fashion was the language that most young girls spoke and if you weren’t up to your ears in it, you probably lived in an Amish village and were better off for that. The ways in which fashion photography influences my imagery cannot be overstated because it’s the cultural milieu from which I emerged. So, naturally, I was very drawn to it for a time. Until I experienced what it was like to actually shoot for these companies, which usually involved an art director chattering animatedly on two cell phones and simultaneously having a nervous breakdown while you’re shooting a model who’s considered over the hill at 26.
So I left. I realized I didn’t want to sell things or people or sell things and people to people, so I stopped pursuing it. I know how naive this makes me sound, but wait! It gets worse! Then I discovered Douglas Rushkoff, then Joseph Campbell, then Wendell Berry, and this formerly poorly homeschooled Christian kid had feelings about things and didn’t want to continue. I left some dreams behind, or a lot of dreams behind. I realized that however much that fast-paced, always-on world may be for other people, it’s not for me. I couldn’t handle the comments like “This is so hot it’s retarded” for the rest of my life. To thine own self be true, I guess. My biggest fear is that I do things out of fear, I run away because of fear. But then, I comfort myself with the knowledge that I would not want to be anywhere near the fashion or entertainment industries if you paid me a lot of money, which doesn’t really happen anymore. I graduated college in 2008, right after the biggest economic crash after the Great Depression. Every single day I drove to class in my last two months of college another bank had collapsed or was being propped up by government largesse. We socialized their risk and let the people drown and we’re still doing it today. So much so that the photography industry is awash in ExposureBux but not real capital that lets real people pay real bills.*
So, if you hate it all, and you want a quiet life, you start doing another kind of photography! Or you quit for five years, work in social work, do some personal projects, have a couple gallery shows, then start back up five+ years later doing pet photography. It feels funny to me now, the person who in photo school was sure she was going to try to be a fashion photographer or some sort of music photographer. My friends in school would say “remember me when you’re famous!”, which sounds like bragging but made me cringe then and makes me cringe now, for entirely different reasons (this is not to lampoon them, they were being friendly and trying to pump up an insecure ex-Christian weirdo with big stupid dreams). I won a portfolio award, had a lot of attention, then freaked out for many, many reasons, some mentioned above, and stopped.
So, pets. I never grew up with pets—my dad had severe mental health issues and would take our pets “for a ride” and I would never see them again. Then, at 29, I met Jaxin. He is my fiance’s sister’s dog, a corgi/spaniel concoction, and I love him to absolute pieces. He lives with us and I get to take him on hikes and throw leaves at him. My few experiences with pets were with my best friend’s toy poodles growing up and her wonderful cats Helen and Beamer (Bimmer?! I don’t know), my sister’s dogs Keefer and Cassidi, a friend’s rabbit named Bijou, and various dogs at downtown bars through the years. My love for Jaxin surpasses anything I thought I could feel about an animal. He’s curious, stupid, burps, farts, poops at really inappropriate times (once when I was vacuuming…the fear struck him suddenly), loves to hike, licks uncontrollably, and generally manages to wander into every crevice of my heart day after day. He’s been a revelation to me. So, I started a new journey and it has amazed me how much this fits me, more than anything else. I will still be doing weird projects, which are my outlet for a WORLD GONE CRAZY (thanks, Sobchak), but this seems to be the professional venture at the moment. I love the dogs’ personalities and their eyes hit me every time. They’re bred to love us unconditionally and they do it mightily.
*There are people doing this and there are some great people doing it, including Jeremy Charles, who does amazing work. Lana Thomas has also been a great friend to me and adviser in my nascent photography business and she is “killing it” as the kids say and I couldn’t be more proud of her success.
This post in no way means any harm to others who are doing wonderful work, nor is it meant to disparage anyone. It’s simply my journey, from my perspective. Also, people are still my passion, so I plan to do documentary projects and editorial portraiture for the rest of my life, lord willing. :)