“The page wants to stay white” – J. Robbins.
As I sit here at my desktop contemplating new motivations, I’m struck by the fear of not meeting expectations. In other words… I have a case of imposter syndrome.
Let me explain- My photography career began the day after Christmas, December 26, 2000. I was in a transitional phase of my life and found myself directionless. That’s when I put my hands on my mother’s new Canon camera. (I don’t remember the model, but it was an APS film camera) At that point, I had never held an SLR camera and had never experienced autofocus. The autofocus alone blew my mind. I only wanted to play with my mother’s new camera. I ran to Ritz Camera the next day and bought a Nikon N65 with a cheap Tamron zoom lens.
Within weeks I had subscribed to several photography magazines, signed up for photography classes at my local community college, and started plotting how I could build a darkroom in the basement of my best friend’s house. 6 months later, I would be experimenting with developing both black and white and color negatives and printmaking in both.
Despite a rapid start to my journey to becoming a photographer, I had one huge problem to overcome- I was still directionless.
After several years of trudging through a life riddled with mistakes, a good friend finally suggested I take a look at iStockphoto. In the summer of 2006, I took his advice and signed up. After several months of steady uploading, keywording, describing images, I finally received my first “sale.” I made ¢20. Despite the woefully small amount, I somehow saw the potential as this was the first time I had earned a dime doing photography, and in this case, it was two!
Inspired, I had found my direction. I was going to be a stock photographer. I failed pretty miserably the first couple of years but finally found success after buying an Alien Bees strobe from a friend and setting up my tripod to make some self-portraits in front of a white seamless background. The portraits were such a hit that I rode that wave into doing character portraits for stock photography for hundreds of people, mostly friends. I wasn’t making enough money to quit my bartending gig, but I was making enough to help support my growing family. It seemed I was onto something.
In 2013 I had become disillusioned by the stock photo industry, mostly because of dubious actions by Getty Images (parent company to iStock) who kept inventing excuses to cut contributor royalties further. Looking for a way out, I had suddenly received a fateful email.
“You are invited…”
In March 2013, I had to make an impossible decision. Join a startup stock photo website that sounded too good to be true and give up an exclusive contract with iStock, which came with a massive loss in income or carry-on, risk burnout, and probably hang up my lenses. Well, despite my wife’s insistent demand that I carry on, I ignored her and canceled my exclusivity. The following 6 weeks were… tense. But I looked her in the eye and explained that it was something that I HAD to do and to please trust me. (folks, take my advice, do not say stupid stuff like this to your wife, girlfriend, partner, etc.) Call it a hunch, or more accurately, hubris, followed by incredible luck.
The good “luck” came in the form of getting hired by that company. That was it; I was now “all in” on Stocksy, the first stock photography co-op. I started working as an editor, quickly worked my way up to Team Lead, then Content Manager, and eventually Director of Artist Relations. Not bad, really. Sadly, one of the realities of working for a successful start-up is working around the clock. By December 2019, I’d had it. I officially burned out. There might have been more to it, but for the sake of word count, let’s round it down to burn out.
Throughout the entire duration of my time with Stocksy, I had been photographing events in Washington D.C. This no doubt contributed to my burn out with the exception that I still enjoyed it. As luck would have it, I began increasing my clients rather quickly, just as I was making my exit from Stocksy. Three months later, Covid-19 came and washed all that luck away, 100%.
As it stands on the day of writing this post, Covid has morphed into several variants, and we are now experiencing what is hopefully the tail-end of the Delta variant. I’ve only recovered a fraction of my previous business. Many of my former clients are either gone, still holding out on events, or the contacts who hired me have moved on to entirely different organizations or careers. I’ve been quite slow to take the hint, but it would seem that life is trying to tell me something. And that thing might be to try something new. So here I am. Starting all over. Not quite from scratch, but after 20 years of building up a resume, it certainly feels like scratch.
What’s next? What’s this “Aperture Mood?” A blogger? Yes, I think I do have imposter syndrome. Thanks to a lack of commercial business, I’ve got a bit of time on my hands. So I figured it was as good a time as any to do what I like to do best, talk. So I’m starting this blog. I plan to write mostly about film photography, but I’m open to seeing where this goes and being open to new opportunities. I will talk about my current photography, how I did it, why, etc. If you’ve gotten this far through my first post, then I suspect you may be along for the ride. If that’s the case, welcome aboard!