Hi all –
You heard the rumor? Yep. I’m closing my doors.
It sounds like it’d be a ‘downer’, painful, or as though it should be considered ‘bad news’ – – – but I assure you – no apologies are necessary. In fact, it’s freeing! Here’s the scoop….
I do have a passion for photography – but I think I just see it very differently than most.
I was once caught-up in the magic of photography. It’s this amazing combination of art & science, and when I realized that I didn’t need to ‘master’ the science to adequately and charismatically create this art – directly from the heart, it was even more energizing! It has always come very naturally to me. Instinctively.
I had run-ins with many different photography-types over the years, and in some ways (though I’m primarily self-taught) I’d also been ‘taught’ to a certain degree by those same many people. I found myself taking into consideration what they had to say…. but then recognizing that my passion went deeper than that. I didn’t want to be bound by ‘rules’ in this. It’s art, after all…. the epitome of self-expression; What should be completely void of rules – and subjectively appreciated by those who ‘get it’.
They often had a real rigid and hand-me-down perception of what “good photography” meant…. What makes a great image, really? That would likely be defined in 9 ways by asking 9 different people.
I had a hard time finding back-up assistants for when my primary gal (& friend) wasn’t available – because so many of them came to me with a preconceived notion of what wedding photography should be. But I was doing something very different. I was breaking that mold. And I loved doing it that way.
Most of my ‘teachers’ over time, were people whose work you would never find in National Geographic, or even our local MN State Fair for that matter. (I happen to have bragging rights for the latter – for 2 years in a row!) Not implying that they aren’t ‘good’ in their own right. Just nothing stood out. Nothing is intrinsically unique. It can be good – without being interesting or moving. And – these people simply did things differently. They followed the ‘rules’. They followed the trends. Definitely not MY way. Not my view of the world. You can take photography classes and art courses until there are no more to take. You can know all there is to know about the mechanics of a camera. But it doesn’t mean people will understand or appreciate your work. You can teach people how to ‘create art’…. You can teach people how to run a camera. But you cannot teach people how to view the world, apply their vision to their art, or interpret other art pieces. (This is one of the beautiful things about art!)
For many years – I carried a camera with me to most any event, special occasion, and certainly on travels. The PRIMARY reason I adore photography so greatly – is that you can capture moments in time. Fine details that may otherwise be forgotten or become foggy. You can look back and re-live events, moments, memories. THIS is what is at the heart of it for me. The ability to capture these images of life – while doing so with a unique point of view – that is the art. It’s (in my opinion) a fantastic combination! I like to look back on life as it happened. Not as it was contrived. Not as it was ‘supposed’ to or expected to ‘look’ in a photo, per someone else’s ideals and ‘teachings’- or cultural expectations.
This is where the decision to no longer do this as a business comes in. It’s not about the ability to get that ‘perfect shot’. It’s not about the ability to earn an income, or derive value out of the images from someone else’s perspective. It’s about LIVING LIFE – and REMEMBERING the moments. The magic.
Slowly – over more recent years – I’ve realized that I was off-balanced with it. I wanted so badly to remember EVERYTHING…. or get that amazing shot of XYZ…. I took in too many of life’s experiences from behind that lens. I want to remember these things. I want my children to remember them, and to be able to show and share with their children. It’s important to me. Sentimental tendencies are a driving force behind my passion.
BUT. I can take 3, 4, 5 photos to bring me back to a memory… maybe even as few as 1 photo will do the trick. I don’t need dozens or hundreds to choose from! I started to find balance. As much as I appreciate and enjoy the way I can capture these moments with a camera, I started to appreciate being in the moment without the distraction of the camera much more often.
Additionally, the value of photography for most people not only disregards the fact that it is meant to bring you back to a memory in all of its detailed glory – but the idea is so cheapened by the new technology and an over-saturated market. The good stuff, is – well – very good. In some ways – it is grand. And let’s face it… it is economical, and efficient. It is tailored to our digital lifestyles. But most people don’t care much about anything beyond that.
This technology should be well beyond what our parents and grandparents were using…. But instead, we see regular portrayals of grainy, low-quality, partial images everywhere. Camera phones, or point-&-shoot hand-helds that mean you actually MISS the moment due to shutter-delay… For me, that’s not of value. I look back at images from my parents old 110 camera (most probably don’t even know what I’m talking about here) and see FAR better quality images than most people are getting now. Again – this is not true for every digital camera. (Obviously I use higher megapixel, quality cameras in the biz, AND in my life!)
Add to all of this the fact that my priorities in life are family, CREATING those memories to capture, and freedom & joy – and I realized I couldn’t uphold the business and accomplish those goals at the same time; I had one of 2 choices… A) Keep working for little to nothing, and still not make an actual income when all was said and done at year’s end…. all while booking up multiple Saturdays away from my family, and oodles of hours spent behind a computer screen processing photos after each event. Literally – in exchange for nada. OR, increase my rates to where I should be for what I offer (something unique. No cookie-cutters here! And 10+ years of experience) – only to struggle with people who do not see the value in my style of imagery. I capture reality. I capture it with unique angles and perspectives. I create art out of your memories (instead of creating your ‘moments’ to get the art.)
As all of these variables and factors were boiling up inside of me over time…. I finally watched the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. That moment when he finally meets up with the photographer – and the photographer passes up his shot as they have this convo:
Walter Mitty: Are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.
This was the culmination of my emotions.
Now again – it’s about balance. I want to be in the moments more… Right there. Right here. But I also want to have some memory of that moment – and so I’ll have my trusty camera in my bag – for the RIGHT moments to remember the experience by. And I’ll do it for JOY. For my family. For my soul.
I’ve had some AMAZING experiences (such as my fave – a destination-honeymoon photo-shoot with two individuals who will remain lifelong friends!) I’ve met other exceptional people, and have enjoyed almost every wedding I’ve had the opportunity to photograph. (Admittedly, there was ONE…. just one in over 10 years – that I couldn’t get into. But it never broke my spirit!) I’ve learned so much. I’ve grown. As an artist. As a person. I’ve learned countless business lessons and will apply those teachings to my new business venture. My passion for clean-living can be shared in a way in which I can make sure my schedule follows the lead of life and family. It’s another soul-feeding mission, and one that serves everyone who takes an interest (regardless of artistic taste, budget, style preferences!) THIS passion serves EVERYONE, and stands to help fuel the movement toward a sustainable future for all. Please do check it out! TheVitalityLounge.com
Many thanks to my supporters over the years. I’ve enjoyed working with every one of you! If you’re inclined to support me on my newest business adventures – I will appreciate that too.
BOTTOM LINE: I Love the art. Love the memories. Love the art of capturing the memories. Love the joy. Not loving the industry so much. AND – If you love the art of capturing memories, consider treating yourself to a good camera, and then remember to stay in the moment!
Best wishes to everyone! It’s been a fun decade. 🙂