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.
You do not need more vision, you already have a vision. You already know what you want to do. What you need is the consistency to see it through.
Brianna Wiest has become of my favorite writers that I've ever discovered on Medium. Talk about clinging to her every word. Of course I was thrilled to find out that she's even written a book that I happily purchased and I'm really looking forward to highlighting the heck out of it - The Mountain is You.
GHOST Gym continues to be such a fascinating gym to visit in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that when the opportunity to work with yet another of their personal trainers came up I took it as a challenge considering that it's never as easy to deliver different results in the same space over and over again. This time I worked with Ahmed Samir who specializes in boxing. Feel free to view the rest of the photos from the shoot.
As a creative there will inevitably be a slew of reality checks that we’ll have to accept and consider as stepping stones in which we gracefully jump from one to the next with each hop potentially getting us closer to the vision we have for our career.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I do have a full-time job with a full-time set schedule that requires my 100% commitment 40hrs a week. Nothing out of the ordinary in terms of adult responsibilities but like anyone else pursuing a side-hustle, there’s always that questioning and guilt on whether I’m doing enough to move that needle towards becoming a full-time photographer.
My confidence level in stating “I’m a photographer” has matured exponentially compared to where it was 3 years ago. Interesting enough, it’s difficult to fathom how much work I’ve produced considering I don’t have all the time in the world that you would expect you would need to create. Would I want more time? Probably but I would want to earn it first simply to avoid squandering it for not having a plan on what to do with it.
I wanted to share with you some random thoughts that have been permeating which I think you might relate to if you’re also pursuing any creative endeavor.
Shooting for free - Yes, I’ve done it before and if any creative tells you they haven’t then in my opinion they’re lying. I’m well aware that exposure doesn’t pay the bills but there’s been instances where some type of barter agreement has been made in which someone’s offer and my creative work have aligned. Sometimes work opportunities have arisen from it afterwards. Get use to the fact that it’s part of the hustle, just make sure it doesn’t become your actual business plan. I’ve shot for free whenever I’ve felt that I’ve had to do what it takes to get close to the fire.
You’ll probably spend less time shooting and more time networking to secure that next job - This one is difficult to swallow. You love being behind the camera and yet I feel that in order to earn the right to be in the position, you have to not only do the leg work first by promoting yourself and developing relationships but also to realize that your creative vision for anything you produce happens before you’ve touch any of your expensive gear. I also often go through that dreaded feeling of not having anything to share on social media which signals to me that I haven’t shot as much lately. I see this as a result of not having done much to put myself in a position where I either get hired or experiment on my own.
You’ll dislike your work - Everyone always tells you not to compare your work to anyone else’s but that’s easier said than done. Regardless of whether I’ve already developed a creative style, I see disliking one’s own work as a impetus to not quit what we’ve accomplished so far but to experiment new avenues that will challenge us to consider other ways to ignite our passion again. While the majority of my work revolves around people, I equally have a passion for travel photography which obviously requires time and money.
I work, I purposely save PTO time and have I’ve established a separate bank account where I bi-weekly deposit funds that I can reinvest into my creative vision and portfolio development. This is exactly how this trip to El Salvador on my own came about.
Just relax - I have a difficult time simply chilling the f**k out. Seriously. Between a full-time job and 2 beautiful kids, any downtime I do get, I invariably feel this pressure to be productive 24/7. It’s a challenge for me to just relax and not feel guilty about laying in bed and watching a movie. I continually remind myself that even the best of hustlers take a break because burning out could only set you back as oppose to moving you forward.
The more people you photograph, the more experience you’ll have not just in being able to obtain the best out of them but also to develop an understanding of what works and what doesn’t because not everyone photographs alike. Luckily there are some basic tips we should all adhere to and in this video which is part of a workshop from photographer Alex Strohl, a model breaks downs what she expects to hear from us:
“Break the ice, share your vision, pay attention to details and movements, and let loose.”
If you need to act with 100% certainty, you will rarely act at all.
In an increasingly uncertain world, you’ll either spend more time spinning your wheels searching for concrete guidance, or more time learning to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Adapt with the facts, but walk in faith.
Drop-mic on so many levels from photographer and director Edsel once again. Within your own life situation are you able to think back on instances in which you where hesitant to start something just because you didn’t feel ready? Life is an iterative process that none of use should be ashamed off and you usually don’t if you’re humble from the outset.
One of the biggest challenges when I began taking my photography more seriously was not knowing what I wanted to get out of it despite continuing to invest so much time and money into it already. In hindsight my focused was more on wanting to improve my craft, developing confidence and learning to recognize my value. Not having a clear direction was not a priority which I eventually learned is not always the best strategy and neither is thinking that things will work themselves out on their own without you manually setting the tone first.
Fashion and portrait photographer Justin Bridges said it best on what the most ideal blueprint should be as it pertains to your photography career or any other creative endeavor:
Knowing your destination informs the motivation and helps set goalposts along the way. Owning your curiosity and chasing down answers whenever you hit a roadblock allows you to enjoy embracing a student mentality. Practicing patience with yourself and not relying on copious amounts of gear allows you to slow down, appreciate the journey, and build invaluable experience.
GHOST is this amazing luxury fitness lounge located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that has completely left me enthusiastic about visiting because this unique gym has a beautifully designed space to workout, socialize, connect and create.
Due to COVID all indoor events have been temporarily placed on paused at the gym but luckily McCarren Park is only located a few blocks away, so I had the opportunity to cover their first outdoor training meet led by one of their elite founding trainers Meghan Hayden.
I detest using myself as an example for anything, considering I sure as heck have a lot to improve in several areas of my life but when it comes to learning to sacrifice certain things in order to pursue that one activity that you’d easily do for free, I’ve learned to adapt to this evolving learning experience.
It’s crazy how for some this may come across as a foreign concept but in life, you can’t expect one thing to happen without being ready to trade something else for it. You can’t wait for the right time to pursue the things you daydream about or else you’ll be left with nothing but a faint glimpse of what could have been. We all share so much of ourselves online that seeing other people accomplish what we desire so much can sometimes be detrimental but it can equally serve as a catalyst for us to get our shit together.
Throughout conversation during shoots, people are surprised when I share that what I’ve done with my camera up to this point has been accomplished on my days off from my day job. Yes, the goal is to be a full time photographer but considering how much I love the craft, I can’t imagine being reluctant to create anything until I no longer have a day job. That’s not how it works. One feeds the other and you continue to do it for as long as you can or else you single-handily compromise the dream.
I think we all struggle with the question of personal meaning throughout our lives and if you don’t feel you’re getting it from your day job, there should be no shame or excuse in finding it outside of your work. It begins by carving out pockets of time to do what you’re passionate about. People may not always notice what you say but they’ll sure as heck pay attention to your consistency when creating and sharing what you do.
Stop waiting to have a million dollars to pursue what you want. There’s already a slew of people on that line. Why not get on the line of “working with what you have by setting aside time” which tends to move faster.