I’m a photographer. I am a photographer. Hello, my name is Tina and I’m a professional photographer. I’d like to think that anyone who has started their own business, especially in a creative field, might understand why saying those words out loud…to people…can be daunting and at times terrifying. Why is that? When I turned sixteen and got my first job at Sonic, I was never nervous to tell people I was a carhop. When I was a secretary I had no issues with telling people what I did. Now, as a photographer, put me in a room with people and suddenly my voice gets shaky, my palms sweaty and I’m stammering something incoherently about taking pictures and then…clear as a bell…” and I also work at Earl May.” Sometimes I don’t even mention the photography, I just go straight to my day job and then, if conversation lends itself I may mention something about being a photographer. I love my job at Earl May but I know, deep down, my heart is behind the viewfinder of my camera.
So, why the trepidation when I hear that question, “What do you do?” Is it fear? Insecurity? Lack of self-confidence? I know, to some extent it’s all those but more than that, for me anyway, it’s this overwhelming concern that the person or people I’m talking to hear me say, “I’m a photographer,” and they automatically start making judgments. ‘Oh, a photographer. So you just walk around and take pictures. Isn’t everyone a photographer these days? Huh…my aunt’s cousin and her sister are photographers and so is my neighbor, and my wife’s uncle Fred also takes pictures of squirrels and birds on their back deck.’ Now, do people really have these thoughts? Yes, I’m sure some do, maybe more than I really want to know but why is it that what someone may or may not be thinking has so much control over how I feel about my work? Honestly…I have no idea. Now, I have listened as people poked fun at the idea of taking pictures for a living and I was raised by a conservative grandmother who had strong opinions about what real work was but when my adult self is standing in front of someone, shaking at the knees and trying desperately to sound confident, I’m not thinking about my grandmother and her opinions. I’m thinking about the person in front of me and their opinion. Why?? They are not living my life. They do not have my dreams, my passions, my specific desires. Most of the time, they hardly know me at all, yet somehow they command a great deal of control over how I feel about what I do.
Here’s the thing. While people do matter to me, their opinions are just that…THEIR opinions. They are influenced by their own backgrounds, experiences, dreams and talents and unless they have my history, my talents and my specific point of view then their opinions about what I do are probably going to differ from mine and that’s okay. That’s okay because the only opinion I should be concerned with…is mine. Not the opinions of my loved ones, my friends, my acquaintances and certainly not the opinions of total strangers. I’m the one who should be commanding control over my own dreams. I think it’s wise to seek out advice and input from those I trust and, while I cannot say that I don’t value the opinions of those close to me, it is my humble opinion that when overcoming fears such as this, mine is the only opinion I should be focused on.
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Eleanor Roosevelt