I feel it is important for me to pass along the things I’ve learned on my photography journey. In the last few years I have also had the opportunity to teach and lecture all around the world including some of the industry’s top conferences, including the first conference I’d ever attended when I was starting out, ShutterFest. I’ve begun hosting my own workshop, The Embrace Workshop, a comprehensive photography workshop where I help new photographers expound upon their current training to grow their business just as I’ve grown my own.
If it appears that my upbringing put me behind the eight ball, you’d be sadly mistaken. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you have to be fearless! Just wait until you learn to laugh at fear and embrace failure. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’d better be disciplined and most certainly be prepared to outwork everyone. If you’re even thinking about long term business/career success, then you have to set extremely high standards for yourself. Individuals and companies won’t hire you for mediocrity. I employ all of these traits instilled in me during my upbringing daily in my professional and personal life.
Stay motivated and be persistent by continuing to satisfy not only yourself but your client. “Fame and fortune” will come in its own package designed especially for you. Ease into this process of your photography business and know that every mentor or professional in the industry may not be for you. Their vision should not necessarily be your vision, but you can watch at a distance and create your own.
The life of an entrepreneur is not easy, and I work more now than I did at any 9–5, but realizing early on what made me happy and turning it into a business is what allowed me to redefine work as enjoyment, relief, and excitement. My days start at 4 a.m. and don’t stop until the work is done, but ever since I was laid off, I have never worked again.
Sometimes I wonder, where did I get it from. I remember when I was a child and my father used to take me with him to the darkroom to develop film. He loved to take photos and enjoyed his time developing them. I grew up in Western New York, in the suburbs of Buffalo where the photography community was pretty much non-existent. Forget about a community of African American photographers. So I guess it's not surprising that I was never inspired to take up photography.
Trust me when I tell you, I am right there with you. Turn on the news, negativity. Go to social media, negativity. Family, friends, negativity everywhere. So what happens? This eats away at you, eats away at any creativity you may have left in you. It leads you to start questioning everything you believe in. Am I resonating with anyone yet? Or is this just me?
In the end, we are who we are, we love what we love, we do what we do, and that is sufficient. Being female in America is a journey. Embrace the skin, the gender, the size, the role, and everything that makes you, You. This no doubt is what your client initially sought you for. Stay in the fight and continue to reach. Your talent and skill are what others see.
If you’ve been around long enough in this industry, you know how we’ve fought to build community instead of competition. Thankfully, it has gotten a lot better lately. It is nothing like when I walked into my first local photography meeting 18 years ago. It was like walking into a boys’ club where they measured themselves by sharing how many weddings they were booked for that year. Whoever had the most won, even if he wasn’t charging very much for them.