image by Sonju Photography
I have had many friends, vendors, wedding planners and clients asking hard questions about why I would quit photography when I seem to be in my prime and business is overall really good. It has been a really, really hard choice. I hope this will put it in perspective.
As we all reflect back on the past year and think ahead for resolutions for the upcoming year, I am reminded of the resolutions I made for myself this time last year. I’m a big believer in progress, specially progress of character, progress as a family man and progress as a Christian. My friend and pastor, Rey de Armas, shared with us on Sunday, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6. God has indeed started a good work in me, but for those of you who are watching and know that I mess up from time to time, its good to know that its a work in progress. That doesn’t mean I sit passively. It is a progress in which I myself take active part.
As I stated in my 2015 New Year’s resolution, I wanted to address the biggest obstacles to my character development. I want to be a better person. The main two obstacles were gaining margin in my life and dealing with some anger issues. I’m happy to say that I’ve taken good strides in 2015 towards removing bitterness and anger in my life. I thank my friends and pastors, Dave Lopez and Jeff Borton, for their mentoring in that area.
The problem of gaining margin in life is a complex one and one that cannot be addressed without sacrifice. Sometimes what is good needs to be sacrificed for what is better. Photography is something that I love and it is most definitely a good thing, but is it the BEST thing? When I meet people and they are familiar with my work I am often asked, “Oh you must have the best pictures of your kids.” Every time I hear that I cringe a little and in a low voice answer, “ah, no. No I don’t actually.” Truth is I rarely take pictures of my family. I am so busy every day taking pictures of other people’s memories that I am not capturing my own. I work so much on photography that its hard to make that into a hobby as well. A hobby should take you away from work and into a leisure zone. For most people photography is just that but for me picking up a camera is associated with work. Does a professional fisherman go fishing as a hobby? Its work that I love, don’t get me wrong, but its work. Not only am I not photographing my family but I’m usually not present with my family during most weekends. When other kids and parents are at BBQs and birthday parties, I’m photographing another family’s memories at a wedding.
So then the question I get is “so why don’t you just take on less work and be more selective but still do it a little bit of professional photography for just a few clients?” I think these are just well meaning people telling me that they hate to see a good thing go. I appreciate that and love the encouragement I receive. I appreciate that people I care about and care about my work are wrestling with this decision. I’ve wrestled with it for years now. The idea of doing it “just a little” is not really me. I’m really an “all or nothing” type of guy. I believe on being insanely focused on what is important and leaving what distracts behind. I have 3 kids named Caleb, Grace and Phoebe. No middle names because I believe middle names are for indecisive people. That’s the type of person I am. For 10 years now, I’ve been running 2 businesses, which I thank God, have both been successful. In that time frame we have added kids to our lives complexity has demanded more from our time. The lack of margin in my life was and is an obstacle to my growth and progress. As much as I love photography I have determined that margin > photography. Something good has to be sacrificed for something better.
Earlier this year I stopped taking on new clients. I’ve been weaning off my calendar, little by little waging the battle for margin. June 2016 will be my last wedding and then photography will become what it is for most people…a hobby. I already see a significant increase in margin in my life and its making a difference. I don’t yet possess all the benefits of margin but checkmate has already been dropped. Will I miss it? Probably. Yes, I’m sure I will. I have had so much fun photographing over 300 weddings. So many awesome moments and memories. Crazy times I have witnessed and been a part of. So many intimate moments, laughter and tears. I’m gonna miss it big time, but everything in life has a season.
I’ve wrestled with the question, “am I a photographer? Is that who I am?” and I’ve concluded that I am not. No one should be defined by what they do. Photography is what I do but its not who I am. Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean that’s your identity. In fact it can be the opposite. I am not the best Christian, I often misrepresent Christ and fail at it, but that is indeed who I am. That is my identity and this decision is a necessary sacrifice for me to be a better husband, father, friend, person and Christ follower. I am a work in progress.