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22 October 2011

Future photog?

I recently had my first photography "show." I write "show" because it was informal and in the gallery in the fine arts building on my school's campus. There were no requirements that I had to meet other than doing all the work (putting up the art and then taking it al down a month later) by myself. The school likes to showcase faculty work as well as student work throughout the year, and, since they had some empty time on the calendar, I offered to fill the walls for a few weeks.

The weeks leading up to the "show" made me terribly nervous. While I love taking photographs, I am very critical of my own work. I always see something that I didn't notice before that ruins the shot for me. After seeing the images on paper, I don't really love the lighting or the composition or any myriad of things. But my friends tell me that I take good photographs, and I trust their opinions because I have very honest and often times blunt relationships with my friends. If they don't like something, they speak up, and I value this infinitely. So I listened to them and pulled together about 60 of my best photographs for the show. I spent hours prepping for the show and setting it all up. Once they were on the gallery walls, I walked away form the gallery and tried to forget that they were up there. Having my stuff up in a public space makes me feel very vulnerable, and that's not a feeling that I enjoy (who does?).

During the showing, I received a few emails from colleagues who had seen my work, wishing to share that they enjoyed my photography.  A few random parents who happened to see them praised the photographs as well. The art teacher who I work with (who is an amazing artist that I respect immensely) told me that she thought I had a true "artist's eye" and that I had real talent. While I appreciate all of the feedback, I don't really know how to respond to compliments. I thanked them all for their kind words, and that was that.

Earlier this week, I took the show down to prepare the space for the next faculty showing. It took me less than 30 minutes to get everything off of the walls (which had taken me about three hours to put up!). I had left a small notebook on a podium throughout the show for people to leave comments in, and the comments left were kind and complimentary. After all of the work was down and packed up, I felt an odd sense of relief.

I've seen a few different parents since the show ended, and they have all told me how much they enjoyed the show. One parent (who I simply love!) told me that I was in the wrong profession and needed to make photography my full-time gig. Not that I was a bad teacher (I taught her son), but she thinks I have a natural talent for photography. I found myself saying, "teaching pays the bills" to such feedback.She also blamed me for inspiring her son to do photography because he now wants a fancy-schmancy camera. :)

But I don't really feel that teaching "just pays the bills." I love my job. I love working with my students. I love that every day is different and presents new challenges. While I'm sure being a professional photographer would be amazing, I don't know if it would be as gratifying. Now, when I get the opportunity to take photographs, it's like a special treat. I enjoy it and have fun with it because I can do what I want when I want. If I were being paid to perform on demand, I don't think I could do it. Even when I do small shoots for friends and family in which we trade photographs for goods (wine, dinner...), I get really nervous. I don't think I could handle that daily anxiety about being good enough. I have enough anxiety as it is. I also worry that the pleasure and relaxation that I get from photography now would be lost if it was my day job.

So, for now, I'll teach. I'll do some photography on the side for fun, but I'm okay if it never evolves into anything more than a hobby. That's okay, right?

A few of my favorites from the show:

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