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Apr 20, 2020
Shifting My Level of Interest on Who to Meet

Networking is an essential skill to cultivate as a creative. It applies whether you’re a full time freelancer or someone like myself who currently maintains a day job and side hustles with photography. While nothing beats meeting people face to face, I recently found myself evaluating on who I reached out to in the past based on how I thought it was suppose to be.

What comes to mind when you think of networking is the mentality of chasing leads to secure the next big gig but that’s not I wanted to talk about. Instead, I wanted to reference this practice of sustaining relationships not just with like-minded individuals within your field but also with people outside of it who broaden our perspective in our craft, the industry and in life.

Steven Onaja was the one of the first people I shot with who wasn't a photographer

Back when Instagram meetups were a thing, I easily found myself in numerous coffee shops a month meeting local New York photographers or ones that lived aboard who happen to be visiting and whom I had befriended via Instagram. The purpose was to meet, meet and meet.

A few photo walks and portraits would result from the encounter as we chatted but I soon realized that I rarely had “content” to share on Instagram or my website for the amount of work I was putting to meet more photographers. Nowadays for me all of that is non-existent. As the saying goes, “it takes 2 to tango” and I’ve certainly haven’t done my part to keep the dancing going. Meeting fellow creatives will forever be inspiring but sometimes just being inspired is not enough especially when you fail to create anything while you’re on that inspiration high.

Life will always continue to evolve. We’ll always have obligations, work will continue to arise and family responsibilities will keep us occupied which means priorities will shift. The justification that “we’re too busy” will become an even further part of our daily vocabulary and it’s in those moments where you begin to question practices you’ve adhered to in the past.

Back then I cared a lot about who I met up with. Perhaps too much. An entire day or week would transpire and my attention was too focused on which photographer I could meet as oppose to what I can create with that same time instead. Ultimately I stopped caring and it was in that very instance where I felt I had found myself creatively.

Instead of reaching out to photographers to meet, I began reaching out to people who were influential within their industry such in fitness or in the arts. Developing relationships with these individuals is where I found myself to be alive as I navigated the city strapped with my camera as conversations brewed the same way I always admired Anthony Bourdain did on any of his travel shows. Both the conversation and photography were taking place harmoniously. It was and continues to be a win, win situation! I wasn’t really competing for one or the other anymore.

I’m not insinuating it’s no longer worth it for me to meet fellow photographers because I do miss it but it’s no longer an obsession of mine. Just as time continues to become more valuable, I’m sure I’m not the only person who assesses daily how they wish to spend it and if what we once did in the past no longer aligns for how we wish to develop as a person and a creative now then we shouldn’t feel guilty about our evolving mindset. It is what it is.