Yesterday I did my taxes. No, this is not going to be a blog post expounding the virtues of doing your taxes on time, although that is good advice for anyone. If only I followed it.
This is a blog post on my general pontifications on the field of photography.
Yesterday my accountant asked me about what it was like having a career in photography. Her 16 year old daughter was really starting to consider photography as a career path, and like any concerned parent, she was worried that her daughter might be heading for a future of great uncertainty, or even complete financial ruin. I’m not going to shy away from it; that is a valid concern. Photography is not as well paying as anyone who has hired a wedding photographer is tragically led to believe. There is a great deal of upfront investment; cameras, lenses, lighting, training, studio hire, computers, software, marketing, and a whole slew of many other concerns make becoming a professional photographer very pricey, and all before you land that first gig. Generally, most young photography graduates start off as freelance menial assistants working long hours on their feet making terribly low wages. Many assistants spend years living hand to mouth while paying their dues.
I didn’t want to tell her all that.
I was struggling with my desire to give real life advice to that young hopeful through her concerned mother and my desire to just encourage her daughter to pursue her dreams. The latter was pushed along by my hope to see more successful female photographers in what I’ve always known to be a male dominated world. I graduated from a renown commercial photography program in Canada where only a quarter of its students were male. Yet, over a decade later, it’s mainly those male graduates who have thriving careers as photographers today. I am one of the few women from my class who is still left standing with a camera in her hands. Why is that so? Perhaps a future blog post.
Back in that office, I answered that mother the best way I could. What is it like having a career in photography? Hard. Uncertain. Rewarding. Fun. I told her that if her daughter really loved photography, there would be room in this field for her. She just has to work hard, and find her place in it. I told her that professional photography was shifting, and that like any field of work, she needed to adapt to those shifting tides in order to come out on top.
I owe my break into photography to one of those shifting tides. I credit my career to a lot of perseverance, and the support of many wonderful people, but I also owe it to lots of luck and all the hard work that made me ready for the opportunities that arrived when they did. I entered the field of photography at the exact time that digital was just beginning to replace film. I was the new assistant at a top commercial studio in Toronto. The seasoned shooters had arranged for a private, studio-wide tutorial for using a brand new software program called Capture One. They listened closely, took lots of notes, and asked many questions. But on the day of our first all digital shoot, there was a lot of head scratching and uncertainties. It was my opportunity. My training had prepared me to step up and take the digital reigns. In one afternoon, I went from being just another young assistant to an invaluable member of the team. My new skills were a hot commodity. I became the studio’s digital operator and it was my job to make the transition from film to digital as seamless as possible. I helped that studio successfully navigate through the industry shift, and the experiences I gained from my years there were priceless.
The last several years have seen more shifts in photography including the rise of CGI, the bridging with HD videography, and the still growing field of online shopping. As much as there are doors closing on some more traditional photographer jobs, other doors are opening somewhere else. I’ve been reading up on the latest breakthroughs in technology with the Oculus Rift and the astounding innovations Lytro is making in light-field photography. I think we are on the edge of seeing big changes in this medium as exciting as the introduction of digital cameras, or even the introduction of colour film.
So yes, there is a great deal of uncertainty in this field. But is that really a bad thing?
I’ve noticed a fun little game being played on Facebook called Throwback Thursdays. Sometimes it’s called Flashback Fridays, which leads me to wonder if this game can be played any day of the week (Wayback Wednesdays, Too-Far-Back Tuesdays, etc.). In any case, the idea is that you dig up some old, possibly slightly embarrassing, photo from your past, post it on your wall, and share the story behind that photo. It’s kind of amusing to look back on how far you’ve come and how much you’ve changed over the years.
So I thought it would be fun to do it too. Although I haven’t picked an embarrassing photo. No need to slam my pride here; this is MY blog after all.
This is Hannah and the Naked Cat. It’s possible that I’ve just come up with this name right now, but it works. I think I did this shoot a little after I graduated from college. I was super lucky in that I landed a fantastic gig as a permanent assistant for one of Toronto’s top commercial shooters. I was originally introduced to the studio’s producer by my classmate who did his school work week with them. We were literally just in the neighbourhood with our freshly finished student portfolios when he suggested we just knock on the studio’s door and say hi. To all those young photographers and assistants trying to break into the industry, never under estimate the possibilities behind cold calling, or cold knocking in our case.
Anyway, on my spare days as a lowly, but eager studio assistant, I arranged my own test shoots using the studio’s equipment. The best perk of belonging to any studio as a lowly assistant is the universal, sometimes unspoken agreement that assistants get to use the gear in the off hours. This particular shoot was done in my friend’s basement apartment. She had the awesome couch and the weird naked cats. The model was a mutual friend from high school.
I’d like to talk about how I had some clear vision of a majestic, deep and meaningful artistic piece I was aiming to create, but that wasn’t the case. It was about ten years ago so I’m happy that I can remember the details I have retained. I remember just wanting to create something memorable, and hopefully have some fun at the same time.
These images never made it into a magazine or book, but I did gather a little more valuable experience from that shoot. It also landed me another job as a photographer at a small fashion studio a few years later. The head photographer told me that of the many applicants he’d seen, that image stuck out the most. It’s really crazy how sometimes the ripple effects of what we do today have such an impact on the doors that open tomorrow.
I was that geeky camera chick who spent her high school lunch breaks in the darkroom. I still miss the smell of those stinky developer chemicals. Sort of.
Born in Canada, I graduated with top honours in Applied Photography at Sheridan College before spending several years assisting and producing for some of the best commercial shooters in Toronto. After gathering a wealth of valuable skills and getting my first DSLR, I bought a plane ticket to Asia.
It was my first backpacking adventure, but I managed to survive nine months from Seoul to Singapore with only some shoddy mandarin and a lot of luck. I had the time of my life. So I did it again. Seven months of zig-zagging around India and Nepal taught me ingenuity with limited resources, clarity when surrounded in chaos, and how to eat with just my right hand.
Sydney became my new home in 2008, and I’ve been enjoying the sunny weather and great coffee ever since.
Today, I’m a fashion and product photographer extraordinaire. Based at Studio 8 in the northern beaches of Sydney, I relish the challenge and precision of studio lighting. My clients are drawn to my clean, stripped back approach to every project. My simplistic yet direct style is refreshing and elegant in a market full of heavily Photoshopped images.
When I’m not in the studio you can find me hand folding dumplings or scaling walls at the rock climbing gym. I’m also really good at winning board games (or my friends are just really good at losing).
Finalist – Shoot The Chef 2013
Top 5 – Australia’s Emerging Travel Photographers of 2010 – Capture Magazine
Winner – Best Marketing Imagery Award 2010 – New Mardi Gras
Semi-finalist – Shutterbug Awards 2010 – Shutterbug
Short-listed – Travel Photographer of the Year 2009 – TPOTY
Finalist – Cultural Explorers 2009 – STA Travel
Winner – World in Focus 2007 – Photo District News
Top Emerging Photographers of 2007 – Photo Life Magazine
4/25 Ashburner Street
Manly NSW 2095
Phone: (+61) 0422 907 396