It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Justin Van Leeuwen!
Commercial photographers are tasked with producing salable imagery in a client-driven environment; we’re hired to help create an image that itself is a product, and that often means that we’re working to a client’s specifications. In a busy year that could mean you’re constantly reacting and trouble-shooting ideas and concepts without a break to recharge your own creative battery. Many photographers take the time to fit in their own creative projects to do this. These personal projects can also lead to more work.
I love what I do and so I typically only take breaks when they’re presented to me, like a slow period when I’m not booked for any shoots and have few deadlines. I typically take this time to watch movies, read, and play video games which all can act as alternate sources of visual inspiration outside of photography. Of course, unplanned breaks can also have unplanned interruptions.
My last shoot of 2016 was local artist working out of his home-studio. We had a fun session and I came away with some environmental portraits that I was happy with. I tweeted my thanks for everyone’s support over my fifth, and best, year in business. I unpacked my bags at home, uploaded my photos started some edits, welcomed my kids home from school and heard the scream and cries as one of them broke his left femur.
I wouldn’t consider myself a documentary photographer or photojournalist, but I instinctively grabbed my Fuji x100t – I bought this little camera after I found myself taking fewer photos of my children – and away we went to our local children’s hospital, CHEO.
From Emergency, we went to traction. From traction, we went to Surgery, and from surgery we stayed, filling the hours with Lego and Advil.
Days before Christmas, Santa even came to visit the children, some of whom wouldn’t be home for the holiday.
All the while I was taking photos. Not something client-driven. Not a personal project. Just documenting a part of my son’s life because. “Because?” Because it’s what we do. Downloaded and edited on my iPhone. I updated his journey with friends and family. Letting them know he was well and, eventually, home.
When I was asked to do a guest-blog post I thought maybe I’d write about the process of managing a commercial photoshoot, or a click-bait list of useful gadgets I use. I had a whole week on break to come up with it, but a different kind of break changed everything. A sort of personal project in a style that I rarely ever do. Something not technically motivated, but personally. Something that is likely to outlast anything I create for a commercial client. Something just for me and my son.