Following your Heart ~ My Journey with Photography

 

“I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence.

I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love.

I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which finds no outlet in our quiet life.”

-Leo Tolstoy

I have wanted to write this post for a long time, but have never been able to find the right words or the right time. You might have noticed that I very rarely post any photography online anymore, and I so wanted to tell the story of how I fell in love with photography in the beginning, and how that changed over time.

 

I first picked up a camera when I was very little. My dad was into photography throughout my childhood and I remember even at a young age being in awe of how you could freeze a moment in time forever. I received a children’s camera as a present aged around eight and loved experimenting with it, and in the following years I owned a few other cheap cameras and disposables which I mostly used to take pictures of holidays and special occasions. It wasn’t until I was around fifteen that I began to think of photography more seriously. I would experiment with taking portraits and in my final two years at high school I started to use a lot of photography and mixed media in my final projects. Although I have always been creative and loved painting/drawing, in high school I lost confidence in my abilities with regard to traditional art forms, so finding photography meant finding a way I could express myself creatively.

 

Over the next six years I embarked on a journey with photography that took me all over the world and brought so many new friends and experiences . I went to college to study and became near obsessional about learning new techniques and trying to improve. I can remember nights as a teenager when my friends were out partying and instead I chose to stay at home and learn new techniques on Photoshop or practise lighting. I would follow other young photographers on the popular art sharing platforms at that time – Flickr and deviantArt – and ended up making friends with and learning from some of them.

 

In May 2011, when I had just turned 22, I officially set up my own business in photography, although I had been shooting for friends and family for some time before this. It started out slow, but I was lucky to still be living at home without the financial pressures that I experienced later on of affording rent and food. For a while I didn’t have many clients, and I worked other jobs at the same time for money, but slowly things picked up the more work I did and I began to have a regular client base and income. I was shooting a lot of weddings and portraits, and also some fashion and music work. I was also shooting A LOT of personal work in this time. I spent all my spare time focused on photography and was constantly planning shoots, making moodboards and editing personal work. I think creating personal work is vital to growth as an artist, and one of the biggest signs that I was falling out of love with photography was when I stopped creating personal work, work that was just for myself and not because I was commissioned to do it.

 

In 2015 I was lucky enough to get a contract with a big travel company and ended up doing a lot of work with them. I was shooting for this company throughout the week and at the weekend I was shooting weddings or other client jobs, plus all of the administration and other aspects of running a business. On the outside it must have looked like success, I was earning a living, I was travelling all over the world, and I was working for myself doing something I loved. But I wasn’t happy with how things were turning out. I wasn’t enjoying quite a lot of the commercial photography I was doing as I felt it lacked creativity. I fell in love with photography for the art. I loved the creative vision I could put into it, and I loved the personal projects I created which had a deep meaning to me. Having meaning in my work was always so important to me, and without any meaning the work felt empty and purposeless. Shooting for the travel company was a great blessing and enabled me to buy my camper van, but it also felt devoid of meaning. I wanted to create imagery that would make people stop and think, I wanted to be doing something every day in my work which would be a positive and loving contribution to the world. I was no longer doing photography for love, or for art, but for money, and as soon as I realised this I couldn’t continue. Life is so short and precious, and we have no idea how much time we have left; I couldn’t carry on spending my time doing something if my heart was no longer in it. I did try for a while to make the love come back, I tried taking short breaks, I tried forcing myself to create, but it was impossible, the flame had gone out and I was unable to re-ignite it no matter what I did.

 

I knew I would struggle without photography as an income, but I prepared myself and made an escape plan. I worked super hard for a while longer and bought my camper van and saved up a bit of money to live on over the summer. I continued to take on selective projects and weddings but I cut down drastically on my workload and over the summer in 2016 I stopped completely, save for my own personal documentation of the summer and photographing one festival. In November 2016 I travelled to New Zealand and Australia with the last of my savings with the intention of figuring out what on earth I was going to do with my life if it wasn’t photography.

 

It was difficult in that in between time. In limbo. Between putting my heart and soul into a passion I thought I would have forever, a career, a life purpose even, and realising that my heart was no longer in it. I didn’t know what I would do, and I felt lost. I didn’t shoot anymore, except for a few travel snaps, mostly on my phone. I still loved the spirit behind freezing a beautiful moment forever, but I wasn’t in love with the industry or the commercial machine which I had been feeding.

 

I write this post with two main intentions. The first is to explain my hiatus and say thanks to those of you who have followed my work and journey over the years and given me so much inspiration and encouragement both online and in real life. The second is to let anyone who is going through something similar know that it is okay. It is okay if your life is made up of lots of puzzle pieces all put together haphazardly. It is okay if it isn’t a smooth, clear path but more of an overgrown zig-zagging dirt track wild with ivy and weeds. I can now see the gift in what scared me before. I thought I had my life planned out, photography was my passion and my career and that was fixed. Learning that nothing is fixed and everything is fluid and flowing and transient is a beautiful lesson and one which I wouldn’t change. I am still a photographer. I will always keep that with me and I feel lucky to have this skill which I can revisit throughout my life. Lately I have felt inspired to pick up the camera again and shoot projects which really speak to me, collaborations with other creatives, combining imagery with words and poetry, beautiful authentic celebrations of love surrounded by nature, and documenting of life. I don’t want to stop photographing entirely, I just want to be selective about the work I take on and allow it to be a mostly a hobby with just a small amount of heartfelt client work that is meaningful to me.

 

Taking a break from photography has allowed me to spend time doing other things that I didn’t have time for before. I have started writing again. Long before I found photography I wanted to be a writer, when I was only four or five years old. I lost this passion somewhere in growing up, but in the past five years I have realised how much I enjoy writing, and I want to create space to write more. However my biggest love has been and always will be nature, and since I lost my inspiration for photography I have felt more and more inspired and called to be connecting more deeply with nature . I know that my soul purpose is to work with nature, and to help protect and heal the earth as much as I am able to. There is nowhere I am happier than with my hands in the dirt, planting seeds or walking in the forest, nowhere I feel more inspired than when immersed in the artwork of the best artist of all, nature.

 

The most valuable thing to me which I have learned from this whole experience, and from life in general, is how important it is to follow your heart. The connection you have with your heart and spirit will be the most important relationship you ever have in your life, and is something which needs to be nurtured and cared for. Sometimes, in my experience at least, following your heart will lead to lonely roads that other people don’t seem to understand, even those close to you, sometimes it will mean that you stay up all night writing or painting or travelling across many time zones to follow a dream or a vision, sometimes it will be spent doing really mundane hard work to create solid foundations on which to build your dreams, but it will be worth it. Even if it seems crazy, our hearts have a deeper wisdom than sometimes our thinking minds are capable of. It isn’t worth your precious days to stay in a situation which isn’t serving you because you feel like you should, or because other people expect you to. We are the only ones who are responsible for our own lives and the paths we choose, and we are the ones who suffer when we don’t listen to our hearts and the wisdom we carry. Letting photography naturally hibernate in my life has allowed all of these other callings come to light and I’m excited to watch these seedlings I am planting grow into beautiful flowers.

 

“Love bravely,

Love without

borders or fear.

Follow your heart

no matter the cost.

No matter

The cost.”

-Tyler Knott Gregson

 

~North Coast 500 Journal~

“Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him.”
― Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain.

I can’t believe the last time I wrote here was February. Oops. So much has happened since then… so much that I was hesitant about even writing this and sharing these images as it all seems such a long time ago now. I’ve been going through all the photographs I took over the past few months and it’s been nice to re-live summer through these images, and so I figured I would share them here instead of leaving them to gather dust on my hard drive as so often happens.

In May my friend Ellis and I decided that we would road-trip the North Coast of Scotland and loosely follow the North Coast 500 route which is an approximately 500 mile trip around some of the most beautiful coastline of Scotland. Ellis and I are both so in love with the landscapes of Scotland and so we spent most of the journey overwhelmed with the raw, wild, beauty and peace that can only be found in remote places in nature. The following is a short visual journal of that journey…

 

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Chilean poetry beautifully etched into the rocks at Sannick Bay

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Collecting fresh mountain water from the well

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(Selfies thanks to Ellis!)

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