When I first started out in photography – professionally speaking – it wasn’t customary to show “personal work” to a potential “commercial” customer. At that time, in the late 70’s, art directors and designers wanted to see that you could “shoot” the things that they needed shot. So, if you aspired to shoot the
Oreo cookie ads – you needed to have an image of Oreo cookies in your portfolio.
This was always a dilemma for me because my photography was “personal”. I became a photographer as a means to an end – the end being that it would enable me to live a lifestyle that I wanted to live. I knew early on that I wanted to live a life, full of people, places and adventures along the way. I wanted to live the kind of life that stories are written about. And, I wanted to get paid for it. I wanted to make that lifestyle the foundation of my career. How bold and naïve of me to think that I could make my business – my pleasure. Yet, somehow I managed to do just that and I have had the most extraordinary life because I was foolish enough to think I could.
Times have changed –they always do – and now art directors want to look at a photographer’s personal work. They want to see what a photographer “has to” shoot to fulfill their vision. It’s not only acceptable now to show personal work to a commercial client – it’s a must. And it’s never been easier for a photographer to show many facets of their work and career via social media platforms and blogs. It’s also a lot of hard work.
For me, it’s never been difficult to find something that I’m passionate enough about to be able to spend the kind of time and resources that’s necessary to complete it. I think that’s the key to starting and completing anything – it has to be something that you really want to do. If you don’t really want to do something, even though you know it will be a good thing to do, you’ll just end up giving yourself reasons and excuses whenever a task needs doing.
For the most part, my personal projects have picked me, not the other way around. They’ve all started with an idea that just wouldn’t leave my mind. Then I’d start to see my idea in vivid imagery as it played out cinematically in my head. That’s how my film project, Opening Our Eyes, got started – with an idea that planted itself in my brain, until it was time for me to act on it. Thankfully, the idea didn’t go away and that I did act on it. It’s hard to believe that I’m still acting on this idea, more than two years later. But, I have learned that making a film is a process. A young filmmaker told me that “a film is never finished – but there comes a time when you are ready to let go”.
I supposed you could say that this film has been my ultimate personal project. The fact that it was collaboration with my daughter Erin makes it even more personal. But the lines between work and personal and family have always been blurred in my life. That’s exactly the life that I set out to live.