Why I took a step back from photography

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A lot of you have probably wondered why I took a huge step back from my photography 2 years ago. I'm here to fill you in because to be quite frank, my social media didn't explain anything much about the topic either. I just went quiet one day and there wasn't much else to it.

I have always seen photography as my escape, I believed it served a purpose for me. That purpose being, enabling me to focus on something without the fear of being judged. It enabled me to focus on something other than my mental health. I was struggling, I've always struggled with my mental health, even from a very young age. I guess photography was the only thing I'd managed to find that took all my negative energy away from my mental health and directed it into something positive whilst keeping focused on something else. 

I get people tell me all the time I've wasted the last 2 years, or that I should be doing more with my skills. Truth is, I never set out to succeed at all. I didn't have any other purpose for my photography other than allow it to be a positive distraction when the world seemed like a very difficult place for me to deal with. It served its purpose, of course it did and some. I never expected to achieve as much as I have in the 8 years since I first picked up a camera. In those 8 years I've taken 5 of them off - each time I've taken a break it's not been a short holiday, I almost felt I'd retired. I would go months, sometimes (like now) I've gone years and not really done much photography. So technically, I've been doing photography full time 3 years.

Why take so many breaks though you might be asking yourself? 
When I fell pregnant in 2014 with my son I decided to take a step back and embrace motherhood. I was still doing the odd bits of photography but fell in love with the whole idea of being a parent. I found more enjoyment reading through parenting forums and product reviews for new mums than what I did surfing photography portfolios and articles. Sounds crazy, doesn't it! I became quite frugal when I'd had him, I thought it was a huge game to see how many bargains I could collect per week and write weekly blogs about what I'd found. People were hooked, it kept me busy and it saved me money - all the items I'd sourced were items I needed either for myself or for my son. I started posting more and more about our weaning journey as we had major problems weaning due to Rhuns' underdeveloped muscles and gag reflex. I found myself blogging more about products that worked for us in our weaning journey and fell in love with writing product reviews. I started earning a steady income from my blog and had companies contact me to review baby-related products. It was a great new hobby, time-consuming but great none-the-less. 

I put my photography on the backburner. I was also in a position where I was struggling to compete with college students offering their services for free whilst I wanted a 3 figure sum to close the deal. It was hard work and I didn't feel I should have been begging for work to stay afloat. I honestly believe customers should approach you not vice versa - unless you really do want to work with certain individuals! I guess that's why it's so important to create a brand, get your work out there and let people make the decisions themselves rather than you desperately trying to push for and gain bits of work here and there. I've never been like that, it's not who I am. Sure I could have done more to promote myself, gone to networking events, advertised on my own page more, used more online portfolio space to promote my work and the likes but I just always found something else to occupy my time with. 

It always surprised me massively that when I would eventually return to my photography, I'd create my best work, almost without trying. It might seem big headed me saying that publicly on my own website but all my best pieces have been produced right after I've returned from a break. I believe it's essential to take breaks and not burn yourself out. I got to a point where I felt so pressured by everyone around me to keep going and pushing and promoting my work that I started to hate photography and everything related to it. I didn't want to pick up my camera, open any editing software or even contribute to forum posts anymore. I would finish assignments and hate the work I'd produced because my head just wasn't there. I NEEDED that break, I needed those breaks. I needed those breaks to reflect back on things, take new paths and decide what I was going to do in the meantime. 

I have never regretted taking so many breaks, or breaks that are so long. The last 2 years I've taken out and managed to raise a family whilst getting back into my blogging - which helps with the social aspect of promoting a brand. Do you see how everything I do ties in with each other? I know if I wanted to get back into my photography I could be at the top of my game easily if I invested the right amount of hours into a re-launch and invested my trust into others to guide me through the mud tracks and onto the highway once again. 

I'm so lucky and understand how fortunate I am to have such a gift I never knew existed until I took that leap into the unknown. It's not wasted, not by a long shot. I just haven't felt I needed to use my photography as a way of life. It served its purpose and got me out of a very dark place - or several. It was my saviour. Photography saved my life. The encouragement of others saved my life. My success saved my life. Knowing people started to look up to me and reach out and thank me for inspiring them when in actual fact I was in such a dark place and only trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel myself, that was a real eye-opener. My mental health was close to winning several times, I believe if I hadn't had used photography as an escape I'd have been backed into that dark corner with no escape at all. 

I've been pretty transparent when people come up and ask why I've stopped doing my photography, I just tell them that it served its purpose and I needed a break from it. Once I feel the time is right to return, I'll return. As a lot of you know, I don't do things by halves though and when I return, I return with a bang. So it may appear quiet on my social media and it may look like I have no intentions of returning but just know I make plans in secret and don't discuss my plans with anyone unless they need to be directly involved. 

I am though, taking things slowly at the moment and enjoying the last stages of this pregnancy whilst trying to maintain blog posts. It's nice and chilled as it stands, I have a steady stream of blogs to write but not enough I feel swamped. It also gives me chance to reflect on what I want out of 2019.

I'll be back, stay tuned. x

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