The myth of “When you love your job, it isn’t work”

People always ask, how long have you been a photographer? I respond with a puzzled look, because in my mind, I have always been a photographer.

8 Years Old - Old Point and Shoot FilmAt age 8 I set up a portrait session in my living room in our run down old house, with my baby blanket as a backdrop and my 5 year old neighbour as my subject. I used our junky old point and shoot film camera and I have to admit, the results were awful. But for an 8 year old, I knew what interested me.

It wasn’t until years later in 2004 when I went on a trip to beautiful Montreal and tried to take some photos with a similar film point and shoot, not realizing the challenges of 1. shooting indoors in low light, 2. using a film speed below 800 indoors, and 3. the joy of humidity and the havoc it would wreak on my shots. The results were terrible. I was frustrated, upset and angered at myself for not being smarter or more knowledgeable of how to create what I was trying to (a similar feeling I got years later when attending a conceptual art school for 4 years with no actual art instruction!). I arrived home after picking my film up at the photo lab, and my heart was broken.

8 Years Old - Old Point and Shoot Film 2Days later, motivated to learn more and create the images I saw in front of me in the best light (literally), I ventured to a popular electronics store on a mission to find a fully manual point and shoot camera, a DIGITAL camera, my first, and the first of many of those I knew, to try and learn what went wrong on that fateful trip to Montreal. It was that trip that changed everything. From then on, I read the manual back to back. I read as many photography books as I could stomach. I photographed everything I saw: concrete, cats and dogs, trees, the ocean, rubble, friends, myself! I toiled over my camera until I knew it inside and out. Then I challenged myself again by purchasing a higher end point and shoot. I did the same with that camera.

In 2005 I visited some friends in Calgary and to my surprise, they gifted me a vintage film camera they had found in their garage, an old rangefinder that their parents owned – the Canonet QL-19. Knowing my struggles and my endeavor to shoot until it drove me crazy, they handed it off to me with the hope that it would motivate me even more. It didn’t scare me this time because I knew what I was doing. I was wrong. Film conquered me yet again. The difference in film and digital is substantial and the control is less easily attained. I didn’t let this stop me. A family friend who I looked up to and who made a great hobby out of photographing landscapes gifted me a professional grade film SLR in 2006. I started to play and experiment on a mission to finally get it right. And I did. I learned about lenses, film stock, development, I put my hard earned experience with digital manual cameras to work and I overcame my frustration with film. A joyous day that was, years in the making.

I decided at that point that it was time. I was going to take photography seriously. I learned to dance with light and capture moments and it made me yearn for more. I went out and bought my first amateur DSLR and this camera brought my work to the next level. I learned to trust my instincts, to experiment and to learn to let go. After all of this time trying to gain control, this was the hardest task of all (for those that know me, you know I am a little bit of a type-A personality…). Art school (UVic) for 4 years nailed in the notion of controlled chaos, but it was never something that came easy to me. I bought a medium format film camera in 2010, with a broken light meter and the guts to experiment again. The result were some of my favourite shots to date, despite not being perfect.

As the story goes, a few cameras later, and a multitude of lenses later, here I am today. Still trying to keep control while letting go enough to surprise myself from time to time. The struggle is real, my friends. It has been an adventure getting to this point. It has been stressful, frustrating, enraging, solid hard work. Today, my photography is fairly consistent but the feeling of that struggle persists. Every session challenges me. Every wedding gives me butterflies. Every client is different in their needs and expectations. But I rise to that challenge as I did from the beginning. I don’t let it defeat me. I keep learning. I love my job, but it is work. It is work that I enjoy, but work nonetheless. And that work is the reason I will get better, stronger, and keep reaching for the skies.

Today, my work involves about 80% of sitting in front of the computer (a new challenge!) and about 20% shooting. Most photographers get into this business to shoot, and it is often the inability to handle the 80% that crushes them after a few years. I love my job, don’t get me wrong. But it is pure and simple hard work. Thomas Edison said he never worked a day in his life because he loved his work. I call BS. For me, I work hard every single day (sometimes when I don’t want to!) because I love my work. Not every day is a joy. Sometimes the work is tedious and frustrating and trying. But it is worth it because I love it. But as they say, “nothing worth having comes easy!” Love included!

Taken with the Yashica-Mat 125 Medium Format Film Camera


Taken with the Canonet QL-19 (Film)

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