The uncanny part about growing older is that in spite of the unexpected grey hairs I discovered in the mirror this morning as I was shaving is that I’m a lot happier at 39 than I was in my early 20’s, largely in part because I give way less of a f*ck about a lot of things and care more about things that will benefit me long-term like health or financial independence.
When you’re young, you may fantasize about what getting older may feel like based on the people you had around you but I’ve learned that how old you feel and your chronological age don’t always have to coincide. I don’t feel 39 which I attribute to being continuously active, being influenced by what I read, what I watch, the individuals I follow and who I’ve had the gift to meet through my photography.
Life much like our environment is constantly changing. The world continues to rotate and as a result we’re constantly evolving physically, mentally and even emotionally. The more the years creep in, the more I notice patterns, seasons or even processes which I know there’s philosophies that teach all this stuff but certain things need to be lived to be understood.
The way we learn to move on from one stage to another doesn’t have to be scary because what might seem like an ending can equally signify a start. As you begin spotting new grey hairs, be hopeful in becoming better at recognizing happiness in front of you as well because a lot of times it’s not contained in a place or thing but within experiences that we take for granted.
Remember that any person in this life has had to first develop the audacity to not give a f*ck about something in order to determine what’s worth giving a f*ck about.
My path to becoming a photographer hasn’t been linear. In fact, it compares nothing to a beautifully constructed highway where everything that commutes on it glides as smooth as you would expect the experience to be. Instead, my path has been more like a one of those narrow dusty trails leading to an undiscovered beach. You’re well aware there’s a beautiful scenery filled with adventurous opportunities at the end but it’ll take several near falls, branch scratches, and self-doubt to make you consider on whether the trek is worth it because regardless of whether you own all the gear that could facilitate your journey, you’ll still need something that it’s not as easy to pack in your backpack or pocket; which is self-confidence.
Owning photography gear and having self-confidence to do the work are 2 different things. A lot of times we tend to like the idea of something more than the act of doing it and you won’t know how you truly feel until you put in the practice where those 2 elements coalesce either via test shoots or personal projects.
It took me years to call myself a photographer. When asked, I always packaged my answer in a way where I would remove pressure of owning the title by simply saying, “oh, I just play around with my camera.” There was something about admitting to being a photographer that felt like too much responsibility that I wasn’t worth of yet. Granted I was already doing the work, putting in the practice but not wanting to take credit for it. It’s as if I was awaiting for something magical to happen so I can then feel like a photographer. Regardless of people seeing my as one, at the time in my head, I felt far from it.
Recently I was reminded of this self-doubt period by an article I read on The Art of Manliness blog entitled Want to Feel Like a Man? Then Act Like One. The article talks about why young men today are “struggling with the transition from boyhood to mature masculinity due to lack of a rite of passage, positive male mentors, refining challenges, and simply an understanding of what manhood is and what it requires.” In this case, rather than referring to a transition into manhood, we’re talking about a transition into when you feel like a photographer.
The author Brett McKay says:
“Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t feel like a man, you simply need to start behaving like the man you want to become and eventually you’ll start feeling like you’re that man. Act as if. Fake it until you make it. Your brain will eventually align your attitude/belief about yourself with your new behavior.”
Assuming the skills and technical abilities are there, one can’t expect to be seen as a photographer if our self-doubt is greater than the vision we have for ourselves in this creative business. The beauty about the world we live in today is that we don’t need permission to create from anyone and that’s how I felt. You wanna work with someone for a shoot? Reach out! Have an idea for a personal project that requires traveling but feel that you don’t have the money to? Reevaluate where you might be squandering it on unnecessary things and consider investing in yourself and your craft instead.
Our actions along with consistency is what’s going to make the difference on whether we make it or not. I’m far from “making it” at the moment but without hesitation I introduce myself as a photographer with confidence now because I was able to shift my mindset before I was able to buy more unnecessary gear to convince me that I was. “If you don’t feel like a photographer, you simply need to start behaving like the photographer you want to become.”
I’ve worked in retail for the past 15 years. Some would say, it’s not a line of anyone initially seeks out to pursue but more something people fall into because it has a tendency of being the default place to gaining experience as we hit our stride in life. Regardless of that, one should always feel inclined to giving it all you got in what you do for a living even if you’ve decided that what you’re doing now is not right for you. Do that long enough and good things will come your way. Even though people may not remember everything you say, they’ll recall the consistency you put into your work.
For me, retails has taught me a lot. It’s taught me humility, self-respect and if you’ve ever been the type of person who’s felt superior to others, I welcome you to spend a day, a week, a year working in retail to straighten that side of you up. In a way, retail has been a lot like travel. The longer you’ve been involved with it the more you realize that you don’t know everything and that’s ok, as long as you’re receptive to that fact and opened to be enlightened through the endless interactions with others.
As a photographer, my biggest transferable lesson from retail into the creative side continues to be the strengthening of my communication skills. In a retail environment, our main focus is to sell and engage with clients. In a studio setting, to a certain extent, there’s only so much the camera can do for you because the connection between you and the talent is equally vital. One can’t expect people to give us all they have when you haven’t created the atmosphere in which they can open up to us to begin with. The dance ebbs both ways in which what we do with our camera is just about creativity, technical abilities as it is about quick relationship building.
In one way or another, don’t view what you do for a living now to cover your living expenses as a waste of time. What you ultimately envision yourself pursuing creatively in the end can only be strengthen by the accumulation of life experiences here and there. I can assure you that what you’re going through will make up the whole of who you are as an artist.
In studio with division 1 soccer player turned athletic strength and conditioning coach Meghan Hayden. Loved being able to connect with Meghan again but this time in a beautiful New York City midtown studio.
I'll admit to always having this pressure of coming up with 'content' to share on Instagram Stories. As creatives, unless we're engaging in something absolutely special, we categorize everything else we do as mundane and not worth sharing when in reality, it's that mundane insight that we hold back on that generates the most interest.
For any creative struggling with not knowing what to share, including myself, I welcome you to a listen to Jule's post on TikTok in which she provides content ideas for creatives and uplifts this notion that our value as creatives is not simply in the end product but also on the steps to lead us to what we're ultimately admired for.
It’s become a staple of mine that whenever I’m traveling anywhere, I’ll always go through the usual process of researching on popular things to do and eat but I also enjoy the process of discovering who the big players within the fitness or wellness industry are at my final destination. It’s no secret I have an affinity in working with personal trainers here in New York and one of the advantageous of the industry is that it’s influence, it’s lifestyle, it’s appeal is world wide. There will always be a community of individuals who live and breath wellness and who are huge contributors to the industry.
On a trip to Florida, I had the opportunity to meetup with Annie Cooper, who’s a been able to transition her competitive cheerleading and track & field involvement into a career within the fitness industry as trainer.
To view the rest of the photos, feel free to visit the gallery.
Specifically in fitness, when information is abundant, people are not always looking for someone who has more of it; they're looking for someone to make sense of it and that's exactly the type of trainerRoxie is. I've had the joy of working with her on several shoots and one of the attributes I love about her is that she's consistently open to answering questions on Instagram from anything revolving around life, nutrition and lifestyle.
Recently she was asked on how one can "transition into a fitness career" and her response really made me aware of how much her experience within her career as a trainer coincides with mine of becoming a full-time photographer:
Stay consistent with posting on social media to build a following
Continue to educate yourself with reading articles, following trainers that know their stuff, getting certifications, and practicing training with clients/friends/at a low cost
Don't leave your stable job until you know for certain that you have some financial stability in your new career...unless you like to feel nervous about finances all the time
Home fitness has always been in our lives but it's taken on a new role since COVID closed gyms around the world. I personally canceled my gym membership, managed to secure home equipment, lost my intimidation towards kettlebells and continue my active lifestyle in conjunction with the Body & Bell program on Ladder App which is very kettlebell centric.
Viviana on the other hand built our her home gym with her fiancee in their garage where she ultimately trained herself, subsequently competed in a wellness competition and took 1st place. Talk about working with what you have to accomplish something so inspiring.
2020 was a year of panic, loneliness, unpredictability, but also growth. In many ways, it feels as if time stood still this year. We’re always asking for moments to catch our breath and when we had that moment of pause during quarantine we didn't always know what to do with the extra time we yearned for. I’m grateful for the lessons 2020 has taught me, in spite of the circumstances in which they were taught. There is no more “going back to normal”. It’s more about adapting so that we can continuing to spring forward.
Even if no one but you reads it. The blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts.
Although some may argue that writing is meant to be shared with everyone, I’m also a firm believer that writing at it’s core is more for you even if you don’t realize it at the beginning. What matters is that it’s for you and you don’t need to impress anyone. Seth Godin knows this more than anyone.
I think the most important element for doing anything is to establish a solid reason for it in the first place otherwise you'll never stick to it, period. When it comes to waking up early, my wife is the type to snooze consistently. She'll rollover pretending nothing can perturb her as she does everything to secure the warm underneath the blanket. I on the other hand jolt up the moment my AppleWatch vibrates. Waking up early for me has little to do with all the scientific arguments as to why it's beneficial but if I had to encapsulate my habitual reasoning for 5AM wakeup calls even on my days off, Niklas Göke says it best for me:
I love the quietude of early mornings. The world is asleep, and there’s peace in knowing that alone. But it’s also a great time to read, to learn, and to get things done. There are no distractions. You can be slow and focused at the same time. There’s no rush, and by the time everyone you know has breakfast, you’ve already accomplished a good chunk of what you want to do that day. A half-done to-do list at 9 AM is comforting. Bottom line? I love waking up early.