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The ‘How’ and the ‘Why’

I haven’t mentioned The DARE Workshops over on this blog for a while now and predominately the reason for that is simply because I’ve been a bit rubbish with blogging in general. DARE is still very much a big part of my life; in that I’m part of the support groups on Facebook and the way that I approach my business is in alignment with the information that we share at DARE. What do I mean by information? I guess the philosophy, so to speak, without it sounding too wanky.

The support groups alone are a weekly reminder to stay on top of our own shit. If I can keep an agreement to post one image a week then mostly anything else I set myself a task to do I should be able to complete. That’s the simplest version of explaining it and it’s ALWAYS met with scepticism… and I know for a fact through my own life that it’s the small things that keep me on track.

A couple of weeks ago Gary asked me to set the members a task to blog about a certain topic and I chose to ask people to explain the how and why they began in photography to begin with. It’s always fascinating to know someone’s roots in that way and I think it’s a clear indication of what they hold most important in their photography.

I’ve ummed and ahhed over how best to approach this subject myself. I feel like I’ve explained thousands of times what my story is and I didn’t want this post to just be a dull timeline of ‘and then I did this and then this happened’. SO, very briefly, let me get that out the way.

2004 – 2007 Worked at Banana Row music studio. Boss bought me a Canon 450D and asked me to get some shots to use in promotional material for their wedding and events band who I was spending most weekends with. Got really into the music scene and took photographs at a lot of gigs for local bands. Drank a lot of Jack Daniels.

2007 – 2011 Worked in various other jobs, dipping in and out of photography but never very seriously. Spent a lot of time on Flickr and with a few photography friends. Bought an Olympus Trip 35mm film camera and developed at my friend Andy’s house in his bathroom/darkroom. Took the images that are in the above image at the beginning of this blog. Booked my first wedding but then realised I just didn’t have sufficient experience and recommended to the bride that she book someone who could do it properly. No way was I screwing that up for someone.. Found Chase Jarvis, Creative Live and WPPI online. Emailed the guy from WPPI suggesting I was interested in setting up a similar photography conference in the UK and how did he start. He replies telling me to check out SWPP. Book tickets. Go to London in Jan 2011. Meet a bunch of incredible humans (inc Gary).

May 2011 – May 2012 Move to London. Second shoot/adventure the world with Gary. Second shoot for a couple other photographers. Continue to socialise with aforementioned humans. Ran one of the first Facebook groups for building a photography community which got pretty big.

May 2012 Photographed my first solo wedding. Have continued to photograph between 15 and 40 weddings a year ever since.

Well, that was less brief than I had hoped but covers the most important timelines. Running your own business always has highs and lows but overall it’s been a really wonderful and successful journey. Long may that continue!

Okay. Onto the why.

Do me a favour for a minute. Recall the last time you watched a film or tv program that involves an American high school. The character who is always left out of everything, the ‘weird’ one that is always exaggerated to further prove the point that they are ‘weird’. That’s me. El from Stranger Things minus the powers. Wednesday Addams. Luna Lovegood. I spent the first two years of high school mostly not attending classes. In part because at times I had black and purple synthetic dreads and large shoes and neither other pupils nor teachers seemed to ‘get’ it. But instead of crying in my room to Dashboard Confessional I would get on a bus or train and go to the beach and the friends I had in North Berwick. Or walk across the Meadows to the Edinburgh Museum and teach myself about things. Or go to another group of friends I had out in Livingstone. It was never about ‘fuck the system’, it was ALWAYS about searching for connection.

And that is my why. Very much so in my life and very much so in my business. I’ve toyed many a time with the idea of dipping my toes into commercial photography (big £££ innit) but the idea of just being at service to a creative director gives me the cold sweats. I don’t provide a service at weddings. I’m an experience. The whole process is an journey and it’s hopefully one that disproves the idea that many still hold of weddings photographers being bossy and brash. Every single wedding without fail I get the feedback that it felt like having an old friend beside them, that especially in the morning I made the bride feel calm. That the guests quite often didn’t realise I was the photographer. I KNOW that I do my job well.

But, for me, it’s not just a job. It makes human me feel wanted and appreciated. It often gives a positive argument against my self doubt. It gives me connection, week after week after week. And sure a lot of the time they are complete strangers. A lot of the time I won’t ever see them again. But for that 10, 12 or 14 hours it’s that warm fuzzy feeling of being PART OF SOMETHING that I crave.

I won’t ever stop chasing that. And for that reason, I won’t ever stop doing this.

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