Some of my readers have asked how I ended up being a photographer and doing what I do full time. So, since we are in this season of reflection, I thought it’d be a good idea to answer to that question with probably the most personal experience I’ve shared since I started writing on this journal.
I’m not a guy who likes to talk much about himself. In fact, I believe my story is plain and uninteresting but my close friends and some of my students have found it interesting, encouraging and inspirational. I guess, in one way or another, I owe it to them to share this openly to whoever finds it.
A bucket of ice-cold water
In 2013, I came back from a Christmas holiday to the restaurant I was managing. The owner phoned me up in the morning and said to come in early, we needed to have a chat. Long story short, he said he sensed my commitment wasn’t 100% in his business and has made the decision to let me go and not to worry about anything since I wasn’t needed for my next shift.
It hit me like a bucket of ice-cold water first because it was the first time that I was let go of a job and it felt like a tragedy then. Now, looking back at it, it was the best thing that could have happened to me!
For the past 15 years, I had worked in the food industry managing restaurants, being a sommelier, cooking to cover chef’s shifts, putting in the hours, the physical effort, getting trained and educated to follow a dream that never seemed to be materializing. At some point, I wanted to have a wine bar or a little restaurant but the harder I worked the further away this dream seemed to slip.
As years went by I found myself with 30 years of age, grumpy, intolerant, with no social life, no social skills, no time in my hands to spend with the current wife, and no money saved. Basically, I dedicated half of my life working for someone else’s dream. That’s the sad reality of the food industry for many of us.
Or a wakeup call
I took the payout which gave me about 2 months to figure out what to do with myself and since the only thing that made me happy then was being out there with my camera, I decided to try to become a photographer.
Now, I’ve been taking pictures all my life, from an early age. This doesn’t mean that I was ready to put myself out there as a professional. I’ve always been very realistic when it comes to certain skills and where I’m at so I knew I had a very, very long way to go before I could call myself a photographer.
I could see the beginning of my journey but not the top of the mountain I was about to climb.
What followed were months of research, observation, trial and error and findings that just fueled my frustration and got me angrier because whatever I did would lead to dead ends and shut doors.
My close circle didn’t help either, I am far from home, in a foreign culture and those who were close to me had the very best of intentions but had made bad decisions in their lives. I needed people around me to lift me up instead of dragging me down. I soon realized I had to change my tribe and go solo on this journey.
A Leap of Faith
While I kept training my eye and mind, I took several part-time and one-off jobs to meet ends. The current wife saw something in me I guess and decided to support me as much as she could but she gave me a deadline to make it work.
I finished a degree in professional photography which gave me all the answers that I needed and got the confidence to know that I made the right decision. My first paid jobs came about that same time shooting for a couple of editorials and for an interior design company.
From my time in the food industry, some contacts heard I was doing photography and they asked me to shoot their new ventures; I was so against it because I wanted to get as far as possible from the food industry but the current wife insisted to give it a go and confessed that she believed all this time I should have focused on food photography from the beginning because she knows how much I love food and how much I know about it.
I can’t give her enough credit for this. Stepping in to do that first job terrified me, I feared to get back to my old ways but in fact, it was a leap of faith into new ways of finding myself and fighting my demons.
If I wasn’t fired that day, I probably wouldn’t be here telling you this story. It’s been 6 years since then and I still can’t see that top of the mountain.
When people tell me that I’m brave for making such decisions, I say there’s a very fine line between brave and stubborn and the truth is, I never know which side of the line I’m in but I’m proud of the decisions I’ve made.
Fear and doubt follow me on this journey every day and hunt me on my sleep, besides the uncertainty and instability of freelancing I like to create my own opportunities, to work for my dream and to choose what type of work to create and how to create it.
I was educated to be a freethinker and a free-spirit, I was told from an early age to pursue my goals and I’ve learned from the most important people in my life to work hard for it and to work responsibly. I’m not very good at being caged in an office, follow orders and have a schedule so all of this I’m telling you makes sense.
Why It Makes Sense?
This makes sense of why I teach photography and mentor others. Those who I approached on my way up pushed me away, said no and shut their doors. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to discover things by myself.
But I don’t want to be like them, instead, I want to pass on knowledge and experiences. I love teaching. It comes naturally to me and is my duty to try to inspire and motivate others to follow their dream.
It makes sense because I’m learning to be sociable and to meet all sorts of people while working, teaching and now through writing.
All of this makes sense when a client shares my work with pride and joy; when a student shows me their progress and their success or when someone writes me to say “thank you you did a great job or you’ve made me find my passion”.
It all makes sense because every time I’m working, I’m finding myself and growing at a personal level but most important because I know this is my last chance to do what I love doing. Life is too short to be miserable hating everything and everyone because of the wrong choice of career.
Thank you so much for reading!
Please get in touch if you want to know more about my photography workshops and classes.