I’m not sure how to begin this post, so I’m going to start typing and hope it comes together.
As a society, we are obsessed by labels. An artist, an author, a designer, a banker, a lawyer… Western society often defines people by what they do. And yet on the creative side, we are hesitant to give ourselves the titles we have already earned, simply by being who we are.
I know countless people who speak of the thing they love most as something they do, rather than something they are – but who won’t attach the relevant label because they don’t feel worthy of it. Or because they spend the majority of their time, or their working life, doing something they don’t want to describe themselves as.
But everything we do is a facet of ourselves, and what we love to do and do by choice rather than necessity is are facets of our true selves. While the ratios of love-to-necessity can vary, describing yourself as a sailor is no less valid whether you sail once a month when you can escape the daily grind, or whether you live on a round-the-world catamaran. It’s the talent, skills and passion that counts, not how often or how much you do whatever it is you love to do.
A lawyer who runs an online shop for her muffins and brownies and cakes is a baker as certainly as the owner of your local bakery. If, outside of your regular job, you draw and paint because you can’t help yourself, you can’t not create with those materials – then you’re an artist, whether or not you claim that title.
And it’s funny – when you start talking about what you do because you love it, rather than what you do because it pays the bills or it’s what you are expected to do, people start to associate that with you.
It can still take a while to accept it, though. I’ve always identified as a dancer, even now I don’t dance so often, because I’ve always danced. It’s been part of my DNA since I was three years old and I don’t know how to not be a dancer.
But the other things I do… I’m rarely without my cameras (or at least the camera on my phone) and I can’t help but record life – writing on a screen, in my day job notebook, on post it notes, in a journal, photos of everyday life and little details around us – it’s what I do instinctively.
But for some reason, I resisted describing myself in those terms until recently. Yes, I’ve always blogged and yes, I’ve always had some kind of camera with me, but that wasn’t my “proper” job or place in the world, however much I longed for it to be so.
I accepted the mantle of writer more readily than photographer, because it has so long been part of everything I do, work and home and play (I am the queen of lists!). But I didn’t really and truly see myself as a photographer until two weeks ago, when I shot my best friend’s wedding.
It wasn’t planned, they had a very small and informal wedding and had originally planned not to have a photographer. But true to form, I couldn’t help documenting the day – and not only are they delighted with the results, I am ridiculously happy with and proud of the photographs I’ve produced. I finally feel like I have the key to being able to describe myself as a photographer, though I still have so much more to learn.
When I voiced this to some friends, it turns out people have been describing me to others as a writer and a photographer for years. Who knew?
And now, when people ask me what I do or what I am or about myself – I can reply, I’m a writer, a dancer… and a photographer.
What would you most like to be? Can you make it true by saying it out loud? Do other people already think of you that way?