Starting your own business is nothing short of a shit show.
I mean that in the most positive way. Any endeavor worth doing is a shit show from time to time, because it means you're making mistakes and learning and growing, and all of those things mean your effort is leading somewhere. At least, that's what I tell myself when I can't sleep at night.
One of the qualities certain people have that I am the most in awe of is consistency. I discovered this just the other day, as I sat at my computer looking through my photos from a recent trip and feeling frustrated for what seemed like no particular reason. As I worked through the frustration, however, I realized that I was subconsciously comparing myself to a handful of other photographers who put out work that I absolutely adore, work that they are getting hired and paid to do. One of the differences between their work and mine (besides skill, experience, and a myriad of other factors) is the specificity of their style and theme. In other words, they have a niche.
I started taking photography seriously a little over three years ago. I had been doing it as a hobby since my sophomore year of college, but had never, ever thought of it as anything more than a fun pastime until Toby and I decided to move to California and I had zero moneymaking prospects and I desperately wanted to avoid having to get another desk job. I knew that I liked taking pictures, and enough random people told me that they thought I was good enough to get paid for it, so I decided I would make a go of it and see what happened. However, when I decided to do photography for a living, I naively didn't consider the fact that it would involve being a businessperson.
I've never been interested in business. I hate marketing and having to deal with pricing and making people give me money for something I would do for free (shhh, don't tell anyone). Also, with business, there has to be at least a little bit of consistency involved. In the realm of business, my photos are a product, and according to what I've seen and read on the topic, they need to reflect me and my style; they need to conform to a certain niche that I've developed for myself. This is great for the creative person who finds their voice early on or has had time to hone it over the course of many years, but for a newbie like myself, it creates a bit of a disadvantage. Because here's the thing: I'm not sure I have a niche. I'm not even sure that I want to have one.
I say "I'm not sure" because I have been able to narrow it down a little bit over the years: I love candid, lifestyle photography, usually while traveling, and usually outdoors in nature, preferably in the middle of nowhere, on a mountain or along the coast. But that hasn't always been the case, and there's no guarantee that it'll be the case in the future. This is a long, wild life; how do I know which places or subjects are going to strike my fancy in the coming years?
This is the case for life in general. Every day - hell, every minute - is full of new experiences and emotions. On any given day I'll feel like hopping into a car and driving to the middle of nowhere while simultaneously wanting to get all dressed up and put on tons of makeup to go drunk-dancing at a club on the Sunset Strip. The only thing consistent about me is my inconsistency.
I am large, I contain multitudes.
And these multitudes that I contain? They can't help but transfer to my art (oh jesus, I just called it my art). I don't want to commit to any specific niche, because that wouldn't be true to life, and I want my photography to reflect life as I see it at any given moment. The subjects, the angles, the composition, the editing process; they're all a projection of specific slices of an inconsistent life. And the inconsistency is what makes it so beautiful. But I am still trying to figure out if it can mesh with business. My hope is that I'm operating off of a lot of assumptions about business that are incorrect; maybe I'm wrong about all of this. Maybe I've made all of this into a much bigger deal than it needs to be (story of my life). Or maybe I need to create my own model of business and hope that it attracts the right kinds of people, my tribe, who will be willing to work with me as I am. Anything's possible, right?
Our multitudes are our humanity; they're the most real thing about us. We ebb and flow. We shift, we change, we grow. We are a kaleidoscope of experiences and feelings and beliefs. Life is a work in progress.
I'm a work in progress. And I'd like everything I do, whether it's to make money or not, to be a reflection of that.