Age: 25 | Location: Florida, USA
In the digital world, everyone fancies themselves as a photographer. Even I do, occasionally. It’s easy to get a good snap on your iPhone, add a few filters, and create something worth sharing on Instagram. The hard part is staying consistent and eventually getting paid for that hard work. Not many amateur photographers make it professionally.
Nevertheless, The Photographer has been determined for years to make this happen.
‘I've been doing photography since I was like eleven years old. My mom would get me a tiny camera and I'd get my friends and go to a park. And I remember as I got older and it was time to apply for college and stuff like that, I was torn. My family was telling me, you know you can't do photography.'
'You can't be a photographer for a living. You need to get a degree, get a college degree.’
Convinced that it would be impossible to make any money from her passion, The Photographer decided to study biology. She’d be a pharmacist instead, she decided.
‘I was in a lab, where we were making aspirin and things like that from scratch, and I just had this moment where I was like, I don't want to do this. I don't want to do this for a living.’
What next? Still being pushed by her family, she thought she’d study photography and graphic design. As it turned out, it was actually just college that wasn’t for her.
‘I just remember feeling like I was almost wasting my time with the projects that they were giving me. Sitting in a classroom for three hours was time I could be spending building my portfolio with work I wanted to do. So I stopped again.’
She's unsure whether her family are convinced by this decision, even now.
‘They do support me, but it doesn't feel like the same kind of support as checking the college box off of the list. I have a brother, who's three and a half years younger than me, who's currently a biology major. And so I see how my parents react when he's getting into his masters, always applying to all these things, always getting accepted. And I'm like, I could have done that, but I didn't want to.'
'To some degree, I'm trying to prove I can be successful at the thing I've been wanting to do my entire life.’
What’s surprising is that her parents were the ones who inspired her in the first place.
‘My dad is a drummer and is very into music and gets very excited about my photography from an art standpoint. My mom on the other hand, was the one who implemented the strict bedtime. Do your homework. Get good grades.Things like that. My mom was a Sears mom. I don't think you guys have Sears over where you are, but it's basically a place that had photo studios inside of it. She would bring my brother and I there about four times a year. Up until we were like sixteen or so. It got to the point that my brother and I memorised all the poses. We had them all down. The photographer was like, 'oh, they're well trained.'
In some ways, The Photographer has succeeded. She works full time as a company's in-house photographer. However, it’s her freelancing in the gaps that she enjoys the most.
‘When you first meet someone, it can be very awkward. And so I find it very rewarding to be able to see the person come out of their shell like within an hour of doing a photo shoot. I'm like, oh, this is the real you. It can be very vulnerable to be in front of a camera, and I know that, so I always try to make my shoots very casual. Then they get the photos back, and they’re like, how did you get all that? I'm like, well, I kept you distracted. I kept you enjoying what you were doing the entire time instead of just doing stiff poses.'
I ask The Photographer if she ever gets in front of the camera herself.
‘I have a goal to do self-portraits at least once a month. It is draining to be in front of a camera, like, especially when you're the one trying to direct yourself, make sure the camera is pointed at you correctly, control the app that's managing everything - you're wearing a lot of hats all at once.'
'It definitely helps you remember what your client feels. I think it’s really good practice.’
Her boyfriend also helps her to refine her work. He’s an artist too, but a different kind. He’s made his living as a guitarist.
‘One thing I love about dating another artist is he's not afraid to critique me. He has this personality where he's completely okay with saying, oh, shouldn't that be a little brighter? Maybe next time do this. I feel like some people are just too hesitant to comment on those kinds of things and so to have someone like that in my life is very helpful.’
I’m sure that the reason he feels so confident being able to offer his suggestions is because the pair have known each other for such a long time.
‘I actually dated my current boyfriend when we were about thirteen. We were in eighth grade. And then - I don't know - we kind of lost touch for a while. We would talk every couple of years and things like that. And then he moved back to town and now we've been dating for almost two years, so…’
She tells me she’s learning to be a musician too. Her grandmother gave her a guitar when she was seven, and she’s been trying to pick it up ever since. I can tell she’s a big music fan, because there are at least twenty vinyls stuck up on the wall behind her. Ed Sheeran is the only one I can pick out at this distance, since it's just an orange-hued image of his face.
‘I like a lot of eighties music. But Prince is probably one of my favourites.’
The Photographer watches television too. Just before she goes to bed.
‘I always watch an episode of The Simpsons. It's just like a nice, colourful, funny, friendly comfort show to just close the day off with. It's never too intense. I like to end on a kind of happier note.’