People ask me all the time why I decided to become a photographer. The thing is, I didn't choose it, I didn't decide. Photography chose me.
Photography grabbed my interest when I was fifteen. At least, thats when I began paying attention to what the universe was telling me. Looking back, never in a million years did I think I'd become a two-time award winning photographer. Photography, or becoming an artist is not something you choose to do. It's something you are called to do, and it's persistence is heavy.
I used to think being an artist meant I had to be angry, depressed, or a tortured soul. I used to think that this craft I love so much was going to be my undoing, because that's what we're taught. Of course, art is a freedom of expression, and if you're feeling those things, please let it out the best way you know how, but a tortured soul? That's not me.
My craft is something that brings me joy, happiness, excitement, and peace. Why should I do it if it made me feel anything but? I never know what to say to people when they ask me, "why did you become a photographer?" with this intense curiosity in their eyes, in hopes of a deep, traumatic story that brought me to where I stand now.
I do have a deep, traumatic story, we all do, but I choose to not let it define me. I choose to not let the trauma of the past make it's way into something that brings me so much happiness.
Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't get frustrated with this gift. There isn't a day that goes by, where I don't ask myself, "what the hell are you doing?" I'm human. I have doubts, struggles, and frustrations with the business side of things, but when it comes down to just taking the damn photo, none of those things cross my mind.
Every photographer will tell you how "passionate" they are about photography, but what does that even mean? Where does the passion come from? I fully believe that something that you feel called to do, should not be misinterpreted as something you feel forced to do, or for the wrong reasons. If that's the case, then you're doing it wrong. A calling should be embraced with excitement, not a dreaded weight to bare.
When I first began photographing, I thought, that in order to become a professional, I had to do weddings and portraits. There are some phenomenal wedding and portrait photographers out there, I recently realized I am not one of them. Sure, I can take a great portrait, but it's not how I want to spend my time. I knew I needed to stop doing the kind of portrait sessions that don't bring me joy because I could feel my creativity being squashed under the pressure of producing photographs for someone who would be dictating what comes out of my camera. That's not why I'm a photographer.
One reason is philanthropy. I have always been a philanthropist, and feel as though I was called to do the kind of work I do to give back to my community. In this case, I've appropriately chosen Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is the world's first national park, and it needs to be protected and preserved, so that folks can continue to enjoy it for years to come. I feel a strong, spiritual connection to Yellowstone, and I want to do my part in ensuring it's longevity. Anytime someone purchases a print from my Yellowstone Collection, I donate $10 to the park. You're saying, "$10? That's nothing." Wrong. If four people purchase something from my Yellowstone Collection, that's $40 that goes towards an educational scholarship for one student to be able to experience Yellowstone, and learn how to become a steward of the world's first national park through natural and cultural resource programs. To me, that's priceless.
Of course, this is my business and I create prints to sell, but that's not the whole part. I'm delivering an experience. How many people get to see a bear snacking on dandelions? How many people get to see mountains in their lifetime, or the wonders of Yellowstone? I know, that so many people want those experiences, but aren't able to fulfill them for a plethora of reasons. That's where I come in. I'm not just delivering a high-quality product, I'm sharing a moment, an experience that would otherwise be gone. My photos are a ticket to the natural world, to an adventure of wildness.
My craft is not here to torture me. It is not here to leave me for dead. Photography is my breath of life, and it's something I get to share with others. It is my soul's purpose and I feel so lucky to be the shell for this gift.