I haven’t really posted in a while. I know I posted that quick snap from Vancouver a while back. And I posted about mini-sessions, but I haven’t give you something to think about. And so here I am, trying to be honest with you. Trying to get beyond the idea that a photographer should only post photos – and not words – on a blog. Trying to get beyond the idea that everything should be happy and upbeat, because not everything in life is that way. Because I want you to know (because I want to believe) that I am more than just the pictures I take. I want you to know me. And I want to know you. That is the point of my photography.
And so here’s the honest truth. I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been too busy questioning. I’ve gotten to the point where the questioning borders on over-analyzing. Where I get to the point where I’ve nit-picked ever pixel of every photo I’ve taken in the past few months and I am disappointed in every. single. one. I’m asking myself: does this photo represent my brand? what is my brand? why do I have to define myself? can I be more than just a portrait photographer? a wedding photographer? can my passion for people and my passion for travel coexist? can all the parts of my heart and soul be together on the internet? is my work good enough to be out here? And I don’t have answers for any of these questions. And so I wait. For the answers to come. For the questions to stop. I just keep waiting. But it’s not getting me anywhere.
And that, big bad world, is what it has boiled down to. When I sit down for some self reflection, when I’m deep into meditation and I pull those questions from the depths of my soul, when I am honestly honest with myself, the root of it all is fear. Since putting myself out there as a photographer, no longer as a something-else-who-does-photography-on-the-side but as a PHOTOGRAPHER who does something else on the side (because, while we’re being honest, “photographer” does not pay off my student loans right now), it’s scary. And I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failing. I’m scared that the big bad world is mocking me. Laughing behind my back. I’m scared because when I look at my photos, I ask myself what does this make me feel? And when I’m not sure IF it makes me feel, I worry. Because the whole point of art is to feel, right? I want to pull at your heartstrings, yank those emotions right out of you. I want to feel. I want you to feel. But somewhere along the way, I forgot that it’s not all about feeling. It’s also about the story. The moments. The memories. So what if they’re not perfect? I’m not perfect. And I’d like to say, that you’re not perfect either. So, while I’m still struggling with my perfectionism, with my recovering Type-A personality, with my fears, I’m going to put it all out there. Including the pictures that might not be “good enough”. No more censure. No more second guessing. You’re going to get all of me. The photography, the randomness, the travel montages. Because that’s who I am. Honestly.
((A couple weeks ago, I donated a few hours of my time to help with the St. Louise School Sleepover. Part of that including taking pictures of their smiling faces for picture frames they made. So honestly tell me that these beautiful smiling faces aren’t good enough for the internet. I dare you.))
In March of 2008, I spent a weekend trying to get sunset & sunrise shots around campus. It didn’t work at all. Mostly because the first day it snowed, and the second day it was cold & clear with almost no clouds. Typical Spokane. However, I snagged a couple shots that even to this day, I love. In June of that year, we had a week of rainy days that cleared at sunset every evening for some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. I’ll share those soon.
Left: Sunset from across the river. Right: The McCarthy center at sunrise, across the lake. All shot with a Canon D60.
There is a lot I want to say about 2011, but I’m struggling to find the words.
2011 was a great year, but it didn’t pass without some hardships. 2011 gave me first a fiance and then a husband. A new career. A new home. And so much more. But 2011 also took three wonderful men from my life. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t think of them: Father Phil, Pastor Maynard, and Grandpa Fred — you are missed and loved. Thank you for all you did for me and mine and for all you continue to do. I love you.
The past year was full of changes. We got engaged, and then we got married. Friends from all over the globe came to our wedding. We traveled. Alone and together. My little brother graduated from college, and I flew to Michigan to see it, together we went to Curacao for our honeymoon (that’s the Kura Hulanda in Curacao above. I’d go back in a heartbeat. But bring bug spray this time.) We moved into Seattle, downsizing our stuff, reorganizing our priorities. I quit my job at Starbucks, started grad school, then quit grad school and made the decision to take a leap of faith and quit grad school to pursue my photography business more fully. I feel so blessed that H. supports me in this decision as well. I combined my personal and photography blog, even when people told me not to, because I’m not just a person who takes pictures. I’m a person who travels, writes about random things, and loves life in the in Pacific Northwest. And my site should reflect that.
As I think towards 2012, I am so excited. Excited because I know how much potential life holds and I am determined to grab it and take hold of that potential. But I’ve learned that life is about slowing down. We don’t need to rush through everything, we don’t need to be picture (or magazine) perfect. We just need to be ourselves. I’ve made some personal and professional goals for 2012. The one I think is most important is to make time for my friends and family. So often, I am content to communicate with my friends via the internet, even when they live in the same city. But it’s important to cultivate our friendships, to take time to meet with our friends in person. And sometimes I forget that. So one of my goals next year is to make time to meet up with my friends (and family) in person. Whether it’s coffee dates or dinner or just spending time together, I don’t want my life to pass by in a series of emails, facebook posts, or twitter streams. So let’s chat.
In closing, I want to wish everyone a happy January. January gets a bad reputation sometimes, but it’s really a great month. Bring on the snow and hot cocoa 🙂
Not long ago, I had a meltdown. A personal crisis. I had lost direction, I wasn’t sure where I was going with my life. And I panicked. And then, I wrote this piece on taking a leap of faith. And it was clear. I wrote it to get the thoughts out of my head. I wrote it to find my own truth. And I did. So, I made plans to drop out of grad school at the end of the quarter, and I redid my website as best I could on a budget. And then I launched Emily Wenzel Photography. And I worked. And worked. And worked. And for the past six weeks, I have been working. I took off two days at Thanksgiving, I made myself leave my work at home while visiting my family (you’re welcome, mom). But I worked hard. And I still have a list as long as my arm of things to do.
But I knew, I knew I couldn’t do this without lots of work. And so I have put my heart and my soul into my work. Into my dreams. And even when I’m exhausted and busy, even when I’ve apologized to my friends and family repeatedly for not making it to events, for not calling them back, I’m happy. And when I turned in that last paper, when I wrote the last word of my last final on Thursday. I felt a weight lifted. I had a peace in my heart. Because I knew that I was going in the right direction. And then, this last weekend, I realized that things were paying off.
That juggling my day job and photography is worth it.
That I’m working towards something amazing. That the people in this business are awesome. Really awesome. That there is a support network out there, full of people just like me. Full of people who are walking away from their day jobs and following their dreams. That I’m not the only crazy one.
And that, when you realize how awesome your life can be, it’s hard to sleep at night because it’s exciting. But those ups? They come with downs. And sometimes I crash. I sit in a corner, huddled in a ball and wonder if I can do this. Can I do this?
Every day I get up and I ask myself that. And every day, I tell myself yes. Because if you can’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anyone else to?
My heart is heavy with the ache of words unspoken. I find it hard to articulate what I feel right now. But I’m trying to say it all. I’m finding my life, my dreams, my aspirations, pulling me in a thousand different directions. I find myself standing at a crossroads, unsure of what I want on the surface, scared to acknowledge that I know exactly what I want deep down. I’ve kept my dreams locked away, deep inside. I’ve been afraid to let myself succeed for fear of the reality not living up to my dreams. I’ve been scared.
Scared to take a leap of faith. And I look around, I see all those who have taken that chance. Who’ve stood where I stand now, at a crossroads, and made their decision. They took chances. They lived the life they wanted. And they have prospered. And sometimes they’ve failed. And some don’t make it. But we don’t know, unless we try, do we?
I am standing on the edge of something great. I can feel it. I am able to dream of all I can be. But I’m scared. I’m scared that I’ll fail. I’m scared that I won’t be as good as I think I can be. I’m scared to crash and burn. And I want certainty. But certainty is not available. Even in this day and age, with technology so advanced, we cannot know the future. There are too many different possibilities.
It’s possibly, that I will succeed. It’s also possible that I will fail. But I will never know if I don’t take a chance. If I cannot take a leap of faith, how will I know how far, how high, I can jump. I dream of a life worth living, yet am afraid to put myself out there. I say I have talent, but do not pursue it. I want all the rewards, but have so far, been unwilling to work for them. I find my dreams pulling me in different directions. I find that my heart is not in what I’m doing. I find myself trying to be someone that I’m not.
And it makes my heart ache. But I’m scared to make the change and take a chance. I’m scared to find I won’t be good enough. I’m scared I won’t really love it. I’m scared to take that leap of faith. But I’m also scared of the regrets. Because it’s better to regret living than to never have lived at all.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
This Emily Dickenson poem used to be on my wall. It was my inspiration in so many ways. In one of my many moves, I must have lost it. I still have the book, but I don’t have this poem up any more. On a shoot on Sunday, I saw it again. Etched in stone at a library. And it reminded me. It reminded me that hope is always there, just waiting for you to listen. Believe in your dreams. Believe in your hopes. Conquer your fears. Take that leap of faith.
My (not so) little brother graduated from college this month. Wow. I flew to Michigan to be there for the weekend. It wasn’t as exciting as it sounds. Because of my flights, I got in late on Friday night and left first thing on Sunday. We spent Saturday at graduation and meeting his friends. I got a rapid from-the-car tour of Flint. It’s such an interesting city. Once a booming mini-Detroit full of industry, it’s fallen on hard times. But lately, things are getting better. At least, that’s what everyone tells me. Flint reminded me of Seattle. One moment, you’d be in a beautiful neighborhood, then you’d turn a corner and be in a bad one. There were so many beautiful homes waiting for a little love. I wish I’d taken pictures of them, but I was too sad. I wanted to take these homes and make them beautiful. On the upside, the people of Michigan are amazing and wonderful and nice. I look forward to seeing some of them again when they finally come out west to visit my brother.