At one point in my life, I dreamed of being a photographer for National Geographic. I think it was around the time I was 14 or so, before I had picked up a DSLR and even gotten serious about photography. I dreamed of traveling to far off places and photographic exotic people, animals, and landscapes. I had little notion of how dangerous some of those places could be, how inhospitable and desolate, how lonely and isolating. I didn’t think of what it would be like to leave loved ones at home, or even to leave home itself. I was naïve. My notions of being a globe-trotting photojournalist were romantic ones, not realistic ones.
I’m now 26. In the past six years, I’ve held 15 jobs in five states. Next month, I’ll start three new jobs and add a sixth state to the list of places I’ve been employed. I’ve had assignments that have taken me abroad and to even more parts of the U.S. Sometimes I sit behind a computer for hours on end, other times, I’m in an area so removed from civilization that even satellite phones fail to work and days pass without seeing other people. My life is always in flux and constant change has defined who I am.
One day, I’ll have a “real job” I say to myself. One day, I’ll grow up and be responsible and independent and self sufficient. One day I’ll work constant hours, have a steady paycheck, and reliably be able to pay all my bills AND save for my future. One day maybe I’ll even have my own house and a family. One day. Some day. In the future.
My mom says times are tough. I’m not the only one suffering through this, she says. Jobs are hard to come by, full time jobs even more so. Employers don’t want to pay benefits, she says. It will all work out, she says. Follow my heart, she says. Follow my dreams.
Dreams change. People change too. I’m only 26, and I’m tired.
I’m tired of sitting at the computer doing things that don’t really make a difference. A little computer time is fine. A bit of lazy self-indulgence is healthy. But hours and days at the computer spent editing and emailing is not how I envision a life well spent. I’d rather be out and about, discovering the world that never fails to remind me that I’m alive. I’d rather be with people. I want to make a difference.
I no longer want to be a professional photographer. Not for National Geographic, not for Kari Post Photography, not for anyone. I don’t want to be forced to photograph, to write and edit, to promptly answer emails, and to market my images because they are what pays my bills. It’s not fun! Frankly, it sucks! I just want to take pictures because I love taking pictures. I want to write because I love to write. Feeling obligated to do either takes the fun right out of it.
I’m not willing to turn something I love into something I hate. I’m not willing to turn myself into someone I feel sorry for. I’m not desperate. I’m alive, and I want to live a full life.
So I’m tossing in my towel as “pro photographer.” I never liked that title much anyway. It’s time that I turned photography back into a fun hobby. I no longer want to feel dread when I return from an amazing trip or weekend with friends because I know I’ll need to spend the entire day catching up on emails and other online projects. I want the computer to be a tool, not a trap. I want to define my photography, I don’t want it to define me.
I already know who I am.