On October 17, 2006 at 2:17pm a raggedy, red-headed teenager clicked "Publish" on a four sentence blog post that sounded a lot more epic than it ought to have. But, she didn't care. She had created a blog! It was the cool thing to do! Now what on earth was she going to post on it?
Well, no surprise, Miss Raggedy Jane is me. A bright eyed and bushy tailed naive 18 year old whose only work experience was making subs at Quiznos. Why not start "a business"! Of course, at this point it was just a blog. I don't think I even knew what it meant to have my own business. I certainly didn't have any clients or jobs to feed one. Over the next few months I wrote post after post of personal photo adventures. They ranged from high school plays to trips to Ikea with friends. Reeeal inspiring stuff. I did get a lot of comments though! From my best friends and classmates and...mom. It was a personal blog…for my photography. Because, I was a photographer…right?
I could say a lot to aspiring photographers. I could say, "Shoot for the moon! Don't let anyone kill your dream!" or "Be realistic. Get a job as an intern and learn the ropes first." I think I'm old enough now to know there isn't one answer. But I will say, there's a lot of value in observing, asking questions, and actually learning from your mistakes. Oh, and really loving art. Some of my earliest memories as a kid involve me sitting cross-legged on the carpet, leafing through my mom's art history books. I would actually pause the movie Thumbelina on my tv so I could draw the characters, which is a lot easier said than done (kids who grew up in the 90s will know what a paused VHS looks like). I would draw in church, draw in the car, and draw to win ribbons at the fair. Art was my life. I knew I didn't want to be anything else but an artist. Photography simply grew out of my love for something greater. So, I didn't just pick up a camera and say "hey, this thing looks cool!" or felt heaven shine down and say "this is your mission!" It was common sense for me to be an artist. In a completely undramatic way, I really felt like this was something I was made to do.
But photography involved equipment and technology. Something a kid born in 1988 with no computer or internet (gasp) didn't grow up using. I loved my hands-on, imaginative, fight over who will play Luke and Leia childhood. But, I'll be honest, it left me pretty naive at 18. So, I started watching. I watched how my brother used his Canon Rebel 2000. I was shooting with something far more primitive at the time, a silver Vivitar point and shoot. He kindly passed the Rebel down to me and I shot film until I invested in my first DSLR a Nikon D50.
Then I started asking. I asked to volunteer at church events where complete gems like Jenny James and Andy Alonso taught me the bitter basics like what ISO was and how to shoot manual. It still took me a few solid years to stop shooting at f/1.8 but, again, the importance of learning from my mistakes! My best friend Kristen had also bought a D50 and was several years ahead of me and already shooting and assisting weddings. Not long after starting this blog I attended my friend Lauren's wedding. Kristen was second shooting it so she let me tag along in the morning for the 'getting ready' shots and I shot from my seat during the ceremony and reception. It was thrilling! And terrifying. And definitely intriguing.
As I approached the closing months of senior year I realized I needed to start making actual money if I wanted to go to college. Was it actually possible to do something I love AND make a living doing it? Over the next few months Kristen and I tirelessly stalked wedding photographer's blogs. The majority of them lived in California but, wow, they got paid to travel! They were living the life! Most of my friends were attending a local community college after high school so I applied and got a scholarship. Awesome. Two years paid for. But, then what? From my many hours of online stalking I had reached the conclusion that 'cool' wedding photography was on the rise. Not the posy stuff I saw in photo albums. It also seemed like people weren't going to college for it anymore. They could do it all on their own! It's what Kristen was planning on doing but what about me? I really wanted to get my bachelors but was it possible to do both photography work and college? Or, an even crazier plan, was it possible to pay my way through college with only photography?
Part II, tomorrow!