I got the “photo bug” more than 40 years ago, yet recently, when I happen to tell people—who I know or have even just met—that I am trying to build a photography career in middle-age, many of them tell me I should reconsider. Seriously, straight up people tell me to reconsider because—and many use the exact same wording—they think it is far too competitive, far too challenging.
It has been happening for a few months now, and I have more or less given the same answer to each person who said this to me. “I was a competitive swimmer in my youth, if I backed down from competitive or challenging situations, I would never have lasted, forget achieve some of the things I did in a pool.” While I admit I haven’t always been, as a working adult, this possessed of the confidence that I can make it, I am now. It may take time yet, it may take some perseverance of the ebbs and flows of interest in my work, it may mandate sacrifices on my part to sustain things, and it already clearly needs me to navigate through the requests of people who want work for free, or at such a low rate that it costs me more to do than it brings in.
If one thing has been true in my life since I was still in the single-digit age range, it has been an interest in and passion for photography. My first camera was a gift from my grandmother in the 1970s. It was a Kodak Instamatic X-15, replete with the little four-uses-each disposable Magicube flash cubes and the 126 film cartridges. While I haven’t found any of the photos—they could yet be in a box at my parents’ house—I can still picture in my mind’s eye the photos I took with the first few rolls of film: portraits, if you can imagine, taken by a seven-year-old boy of his grandmother and great-grandmother sitting in chairs in a living room.
Later, when my family bought a new camera in 1982, to take with us to attend a relative’s wedding, I continued to have an interest in photography and used that little Canon SureShot model the best I could when we had film and an event to shoot; I even shot photos of the first car race I attended in 1986 in Toronto using that Canon.
Less than two years later, I had become an SLR user when I had the opportunity to learn to shoot and develop black and white film in high school. From there, it was a done deal, photography was in my blood.
The thing about it, even when you set aside a passion for a while, is that it stays with you. For years I shot as much as I could with the resources I had, and most years between 1988 and 2004 (when I bought my first digital SLR), I attended at least one Formula One race and photographed my racing heroes in action. I’ve loved racing since I was a little kid too.
For a long time, since my first licensed photos were sold in 1999, and especially since I became a DSLR user, I have longed to take my working life down a different path. And while it may have taken me some time to take the turn off the road I am now on, I made that turn and plan to keep going even if the pace slows, or there are unexpected detours. The passion for photography stayed with me for decades, and now I need to make it happen. There are more things I need to learn about it, and many things I need to learn about being an entrepreneur.
Where the passion will be important, I believe, is in continuing to have the drive; continuing to have the motivation to forge ahead even when the competition and challenges predicted by the naysayers might make it seem like it’s easier to just give up.
As humans we all need to keep challenging ourselves, and most of us do it without being aware. And, we all know, we also give many new businesses a try when we hear about them. There are always new restaurants opening and while indeed some flourish and some flounder, “we” are generally game to try a new one at least once. If every would-be restaurateur gave up on their goals because it’s a competitive business, we might only have a few restaurants around to choose from, but we know there are restaurants-a-plenty in every town and city.
Robert Pearson Photography is open for business. My goal is bringing your stories to life today, tomorrow, and beyond. The photos we make today will be the shot that sells your product in tomorrow’s ecommerce catalog; the personal profile shot that lands you your next job; or the family outing that you look back at fondly for years to come.
I’ve still got the photo bug!