Humans plan, God laughs.
Ten years ago when I declined my graduate school acceptance and started a commercial photography business instead, I had a plan. I was going to start out small: work on my own fashion/portrait photography and assist other established photographers. I would learn about the business by assisting and phase it out little by little. Soon, I wouldn’t need to assist any more. I would start to get magazine assignments and then I would be shooting advertising work within five years.
The plan was working! I was even ahead of the plan. I must have been a rock star! Not only did I have a plan, I had a vision. I knew why my photography was different and I could articulate the value I offered to clients. My perception of women was so empowering and liberating that it had to be the next thing in fashion photography. I had a list of dream clients and in ten years I was going to be shooting for Prada, Gucci, Jill Sander, Alexander McQueen, etc.
*Insert God laughing here*
I never knew the depth of my own naïveté. I worked on this plan of becoming a major fashion photographer as hard as I could. I was landing advertising jobs with Jr. Miss labels in Los Angeles (that is all there is in LA in regard to fashion) and a steady stream of catalog work. But something was not clicking. Through the years I would travel to NYC for work and to show my book to agencies; the sense I got was I needed to be in NYC in order to have a shot at being a top tier fashion photographer.
I started to focus on my personal photography project, Wok the Dog. The more I worked on it, the more all encompassing it became until I found myself becoming a documentary / fine art photographer. Documentary photographer is not an adjective I would have used to describe the 22-year old me. It was a new branch and a mighty one at that.
My finance wanted to start a small boutique graphic design agency. Another branch out of my ten-year plan.
The economy collapsed and I left my marriage. I went out on the road and took the long way home. There, I started writing again. I moved to NYC. I started a contemporary art gallery.
At last, ten years later, I live in NYC but my interest in fashion photography pales in comparison to all of the other aspects of the life I’ve lived. Documentary photography, advocacy, writing, traveling, contemporary art, marketing and branding appeal more to the person I am now.
Every deviation from the path I took seemed to supplement the main focus. If I became an excellent assistant, it would help me be a great photographer. If I had a good grasp on the graphic/ marketing/branding aspect of advertising then I would be able to better deliver what the client/agency needed. If I worked on my personal project I would develop depth and dimensionality as an artist. I like to think that I never took my eye off the ball. Yet, if my phone rang today and I was offered the next Prada campaign, I am not sure how I would feel.
If you must plan, then plan for growth, plan for excitement, authenticity. Plan on being pleasantly surprised.
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