Resilience, and learning to bend with the wind
Those who have created a good career from photography are those who have demonstrated the resilience to embrace change. Of course, change is not easy. It is always challenging and rewarding.
I’ve seen an enormous amount of change since I did my degree at RMIT in the mid-80s. Photographers evolved from working in dark rooms to learning and understanding Photoshop, along with so many other programs. They went from shooting film to working with digital cameras.
Actually, I was involved with the first digital camera that came into the country. My role was to help to educate the creative industry on how this huge machine, one that could only shoot stills with a continuous light source, was one day going to evolve into a camera I could hold in the palm of my hand. Now that was a challenge, and especially dealing with the scepticism. However, the digital camera changed commercial photography as we knew it.
Throughout this time, photographers showed a great resilience and a die-hard attitude of ‘seek and ye shall find’. They educated themselves, experimented, and, for many, took out large loans to buy the cameras and the gear they needed to perform at their best.
Of course, cameras keep getting better, and we’re now faced with the constant challenge of keeping up with the trends and the latest gear. And this also demands resilience. Understanding the latest offerings in cameras and software while still maintaining your creativity is a huge undertaking, expensive, and, at times, overwhelming.
Today, COVID-19 is possibly the biggest obstacle facing the world, and likely the biggest in lifetimes of most. Throughout the year I have spent many hours working with photographers prepared to ask for a guiding hand. They have shown resilience by wanting to swim, and not sink. Together, we have reworked their folios and websites. Many have taken to working on personal projects and sharing them on social media while waiting for a time when they can exhibit.
Others have finally had the time to clear their desktops, put their files in to order, clean up old personal work, and consider new directions. And many have worked around not being able to leave their homes and shoot, by developing photographic projects around the house.
Greg Elms is a great example of this. As a passionate cook, Greg turned to his kitchen for inspiration and began to shoot a series based around food that he considering for a future exhibition. “I like to show how amazing the everyday world can be,” Greg said. “During lockdown I am doing that with objects around my house, and mostly food. Things such as a bunch of thyme from our garden or a leaf of silver beat from our vegetable delivery. I want to enhance their inherent beauty and make viewers contemplate them in ways they never have before,” he said. “Smaller objects like these have become a much larger presence in my life at the moment, and I’m thinking of calling the series, Shrunken World.”
While change is inevitable, as a photographer you can be at the forefront of making it happen. There are no hard and fast rules in photography, so be fearless and show resilience when dealing with what arises. Look at each situation individually, and think, plan, and execute your photography with strength and conviction.
Sometimes it seems everyone in the world is becoming a photographer with universities and private colleges churning them out each year. Just hold onto a true sense of who you are, your grit, determination, and hunger. The cream does rise to the top, but in order for that to happen you need to fight your way through the maze of obstacles that constantly occur, show resilience, and move on confidently.
I love that each day is different, from the proactive work I have planned and booked in, to the reactive work that inevitably happens. Surrounding myself with a great team capable of showing resilience in the work that they do helps me navigate my way through the working week.
Don’t be fearful of the future, whatever it holds. Rather adapt, learn, teach, and embrace new opportunities. When things blow up, perhaps take a step sideways, regroup, refocus, and start again. You never know what lies ahead.
I’ll leave you with a quote from The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan: “The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”
About the author
Sally Brownbill is a creative industry icon and the owner of The Brownbill Effect. She is renowned for providing folio and website consultations that spin straw into gold.
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