I'm lucky enough to call myself a professional photographer, but that is still a fairly new concept for me. It's been something that I've been thinking about for a few years now; when can you really call yourself a photographer? With the massive success of Instagram and how easily people can take good quality photos these days, how can you determine if you're actually a photographer or just someone who understands the Portrait Mode of an iPhone?
There is always the conversation in creative circles about who is really an artist and who is just posing for likes and accolade. How do you make that decision and what makes you a real artist?
I believe it boils down to passion and failure. Are you willing to put yourself out there, with the possibility of being ridiculed, because you are doing what you love?
I started photographing when I was 13 years old. I definitely wasn't a photographer then. It was just a fun thing to do with my dad. It wasn't until many years later than I got my first camera, and many years after that before I took it off auto. But unlike clarinet and hockey, it was a hobby that I never got bored of (to my parents relief!). Through this period of time, I would tell people I enjoy taking photos, not that I was a photographer. It never occurred to me that this was something I could really make into a career.
Until I met Joanne. She was my aunts partner who lived in Arizona, USA. We visited them when I was a teenager and she instilled in me a passion for photography that I could never shake. Joanne viewed photography like an instinct; it didn't matter what camera you used, it mattered if you could create feeling in your images. She helped me to take this photo, which I entered into a competition back home and ended up winning!
This was the first shot I took on the day, I managed to just nail it somehow. I was working from instinct, and didnt think so hard about the technical side. That was a lot easier to do when I was a teenager and I had a professional setting everything up for me! But this was a real lightbulb moment for me. I loved the process of taking the photo, couldn't wait to see them up on the computer later that evening and not only that, complete strangers liked my photo enough to award me first place in a competition. Surly this meant something?
I've had a variety of jobs in my short life so far, including working behind a bar at a comedy club and on the set of Hollywood movies. But nothing sparks as much joy and excitement in my life as photography does. There is nothing more rewarding than taking the perfect shot. I now live and breathe photography, I couldn't imagine doing anything else. It's a form of therapy for me. When I'm behind the camera, I am totally present in the location or with the person I'm shooting. I'm always striving to be better, to learn more and to be using the correct equipment for the job.
That is where the conversation of who's a real artist comes in. I truly believe that the equipment doesn't make the artist (although it sure can help!) but it's about how you feel inside. Does photography bring you joy? If you're out without your camera, do you see potential shots around every corner and kick yourself? Would you do anything to get THE shot? To me, that's what makes a photographer. It is coursing through your veins.
I didn't believe I was a photographer until late last year. I had won two competitions and was taking shots for fun around where I lived in Australia. People would ask me what I do, and I didn't like saying I worked behind a bar. That didn't feel right. I decided to 'fake it', as it were, and tell people I was a photographer. I wasn't making money from it or being hired by anybody, but I decided there and then that was my job title and it's what I will be pursuing for the rest of my life.
So how do you know you're a photographer? You decide you are. It's like everything in life, nothing worth having is easy. You have to work at it, practice, learn from peers and masters and hone your craft. The posers are the people who find shortcuts. The fake artists are those who buy their way to the top. Work at it, make mistakes, create projects for the love of it and keep going.
A photographer is someone who wants to create and to showcase the world through their eyes.