Today I’m in the family home in Canberra with a spare day up my sleeve before heading to Sydney tomorrow.
I’m in the office, I look over and see my name on a vertical box.
Being the sticky beak that I am, I had to take a look inside.
And what I found was some memorabilia of my personal, travel and professional history.
Photex ’94 was the first competition I entered as a teenager in 1994.
First prize went to David Paterson, who became the person who opened my first solo exhibition called Leaving Traces in 2010, and who endorsed my book in 2014.
Then there’s the plentiful postcards from many corners of the world that I travelled to throughout 2003-2012.
A letter to my Grandmother written on my first professionally designed letterhead when I was 22, which I still use, 15 years later.
And a set of five business cards that were artfully created by the same designer, and beautifully embossed.
My booth at a wedding fair that was professionally designed with a black and white gallery theme.
And a picture of me at age 5 that was taken before I even knew what a camera was.
These items on the floor show me a few things:
- The evolutionary journey
- Quality execution was always present
- I didn’t know what to do next
It’s that last one that brings me to the title of this post: Are you being paid to do this?
Currently I am working through a body of work, a project, called Humans. In Business. In Sydney tomorrow and Wednesday I have two lined up, out of the goal of completing 52.
Each one requires about 8 hours of time commitment. They are not paid.
When I held Leaving Traces exhibition in 2010, it was entirely self-funded. The overseas trips, the exhibition space, the printing, the invitations, the opening night, all the paraphernalia that went with having an exhibition and doing it ‘properly’, I paid for myself.
The book took countless unpaid hours to write, get edited and printed, and three weeks of full time commitment to the crowd funding campaign to help pay for the book’s production.
Back in my early 20’s I started with wedding photography. The stand was part of the marketing drive to bring in the next wave of clients each year. I paid for the design of the stand, the flooring, the books, the artworks, the framing, it goes on, without any guarantee that anyone would actually book me.
All of it is a bit like placing a bet. It feels like you’re having a go, or taking a risk.
I did the art not because I might get paid for it, I did the art because I wanted to create it. And great, if I could find a way to get paid to do the art, even better.
Each time I’ve gone through a new cycle of creating, from weddings (which was paid, and well), to holding an exhibition, to the family work (sometimes paid), to writing a book, and now, to this current project, it’s all done with a huge time investment and a ‘wait and see’ mindset.
And all the while the people who care most and want to see me succeed say, ‘with this project, are you getting paid to do it?’.
And the answer is no. They don’t like that answer because they see me getting older and they worry about my future. They’ve seen me do all these things over the years and not ‘get paid’ perhaps as much as I should have. They start to wonder, is it worth it? Why does she keep doing this?
Even though the answer is actually no, I am not getting paid to do this, it’s OK with me. I want to create it to completion, and I have the drive to do it. I’m curious, I want to see what happens at each fork in the creative road, and also once it’s completed into a book.
Besides, the sideways answer is yes, I am getting paid for it, because it is leading me to paid opportunities:
- A recent participant decided to buy her Hero Shot & Story, and a collection of ten portraits we also took that day.
- A web designer saw the weekly posts online, and thought I would be the perfect fit to work with his client, a family law firm, to help them personalise and modernise their marketing through photography.
Additionally, I have plans in motion for what to do with Humans once it’s complete, and for meetings to have with connectors now, like the web designer, who may have clients that need what I do.
In my earlier days, I had no idea how to get myself out there. I knew how to create, but I didn’t know what to do next, beyond holding a stand at a wedding fair. My marketing knowledge and probably more importantly, confidence or belief in myself, was very limited.
It’s a different deal now. Opening the box on the past has been a good reminder, that in the first instance, create, no matter what.
And in the second instance, do the work to figure out how to get paid for it, because there is surely someone, out there, somewhere, that wants what you do.
Time will tell, but I’m positive.