I’m reading a great book about vocation and calling right now. In The Art of Work, Jeff Goins writes about discovering what we are meant to do; he talks about “listening to your life” and noticing how one thing leads to another, even ventures we’d categorize as failures.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I feel like I’m experiencing a bit of teenage angst at the age of 52. I’m looking at my life and really trying to “listen” to it to figure out exactly how to move forward. I know I’m supposed to be a photographer but somehow get lost in the whole social media, marketing part of it. What I’m learning is that I need to focus less on that and more on finding the people I’m supposed to do good to with my gifts.
I’m so thankful for the success I’ve experienced so far in my photography career. Every time I get an encouraging note, excellent review, or heartfelt thanks, I’m inspired to continue to grow and to continue loving people by helping them preserve timeless memories.
One of my favorite quotes from The Art of Work says,
“Every story of success is, in fact, a story of community.”
In light of that line, I’d like to post a tribute to a few people who have been that community to me. I’ve taken photography courses and classes online and in person, and those have been amazingly helpful, but I’d like to thank folks who have given of their time, knowledge and talent to help me without any kind of reward or payment.
First, there’s Bethany Baird. Bethany was a teenager in our youth group who ended up marrying the “like a little brother” young man who lived with our family for three years. Bethany and Aaron moved to California a few years after they married, and two of my daughters and I went to visit them for a week for my birthday one year. While I was there, Bethany (an amazing photographer) decided she wouldn’t take her camera anywhere that week but would instead help me learn how to shoot in aperture-priority and manual mode. What a game-changer that was! I will forever be grateful for her kindness to help me, not to mention her expertise. Despite the many miles that separate Virginia and California, Bethany and I have remained close and have managed to see each other at least once a year. I’m so thankful I got to take her family pictures when I visited in 2014.
Next up is Amy Bare, another former youth group member turned photographer. Amy and I often shoot weddings together, but maintaining our friendship has always taken priority over our business. Amy started learning photography before I did, and when I was first considering pursuing it, her advice and insight were invaluable. She leant me books, gave me helpful critique of my images, and encouraged me to take a long-term perspective toward my art and business. Amy has taught me to pay more attention to the little details that separate good images from great ones. I will forever be thankful for her advice and even more thankful for her friendship.
Fast forward a few years to when my good friend, Coleman, got married. My four daughters and I were in her wedding, and therefore I could not photograph it. Coleman’s wedding photographer was Jon Abrahams and his wife Teviya. They were amazing…kind, attentive, professional, creative, and skilled. I learned quite a bit from them just by watching how they shot Coleman’s wedding. Jon made the mistake of offering to help me out if I had any questions about photography or editing. A few months after Coleman’s wedding, Amy and I got to spend a few hours with Jon as he taught us some of his PhotoShop tricks. Jon’s kindness and willingness to teach me to improve my editing helped me deliver better images to my clients.
Another person who helped me is Steve Bokmiller. Steve isn’t a photographer or graphic artist. He is a business man who helped me figure out the very boring, but necessary, parts of owning a business that keep me out of jail. Steve taught me that the Commonwealth of Virginia requires photographers to tax their services not just their products and that I should be an LLC and other important but not creative stuff. I’m so glad there are people like Steve in the world.
And finally, I’d like to thank the families and brides of the first three weddings I ever photographed. I’m so thankful to Katie, Katie, and Isabella for taking a chance on me when I was still pretty new to the world of professional photography and brand new to the world of wedding photography. Your weddings and the images from them remain some of my all-time favorites.
Whatever measure of success I’ve experienced so far, and whatever measure of success I’ll experience in the future, are parts of the story of community in my life. Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me, thanked me, given me helpful input, and prayed for me. I am grateful for you.