As humbling as it is to be here, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I have been asked to be a guest blogger on Scott’s site. It’s an honor to have this opportunity and be the little guy standing in line next to such ‘big leaguers’ as Jeremy Cowart, Joey L, David Hobby, Drew Gardner, Zack Arias, David duChemin, Joe McNally and so many others I look up to. Needless to say I have some big shoes to fill. It goes without saying, I’m truly grateful to be here. I really am.
Some people may ask themselves, ‘Who the heck is David Jackson?’ In fact, it’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a long time. Well, I’m just a regular dude from a small town in Wisconsin, who pays his bills with a camera, trying my best to make a living for my family. You see, I haven’t spent time on speaking circuits or been featured at international trade shows. I don’t have a timeless success story to share, a marketing tip or harrowing tale from behind the camera. I don’t have a lengthy client list riddled with celebrities and acclaimed publications. Heck, I’ve barely made a name for myself in the creative industry. Who I am however, is an emerging photographer struggling to have my voice heard over the roar of a very intimidating crowd. I’m standing in line to get on the roller coaster of my career and I need to find a seat before they’re all spoken for.
A few years ago a friend of mine called me out; He told me it seemed like I was merely passing time, using my wedding work as a stepping-stone to move into the area of photography that really tugs at my heartstrings. At the time, he knew I hadn’t fully come to terms with who I am as a photographer. He was right. I took those words to heart. There is an honest importance of defining who we are within one encompassing term.
During the past year I felt as if my direction was lost in an abyss of mix-matched client work and new attempts at finding my voice. I had spent so much time searching for my style, that I never allowed it to find me. A few months ago, we went to our trusty grease board at the studio and spent several hours digging into the guts of who I am artistically. You know, my identity. In doing so, we needed to examine my growing body of work, strip everything away to the roots and take a closer look at what I really want to shoot and where I fit into the bigger picture.
It was initially awkward to look at it from that standpoint, but it was right there before my eyes the whole time. Although my foundation is planted in weddings and senior class portraits, I could no longer deny my strengths only to end up getting lost on the path leading back to myself. It occurred to me; I’m an editorial portrait photographer.
I think that when we can connect with what inspires us at ground level, we can begin to overcome this inward anxiety of second-guessing our identity as a creative. When we begin to refine our personal direction as a creative person, we are presented with an opportunity to choose the right path to our career destination. I’ve finally arrived at a point where I can acknowledge all this and step out with an identity.
Where I’m at now, is finding myself working hard to begin transitioning into the editorial and advertising market and away from the body of work that has defined me up to this point. I have finally come to know the value of my craft and my voice as a photographer. I can see I have talent and I know it has its place. But for the longest time I wasn’t able to fully acknowledge that and take it to heart. My initial self-doubts have always driven me crazy. In days past, it’s plagued me like a burden of guilt. Not because I feel like a ‘hack’, but as a result of looking out into the sea of my peers across the nation and wondering ‘where the heck do I fit in to this mess and how can my voice get heard?’ We all have this natural tendency, don’t we?
I look at all these highly respected and talented photographers out there who are given the chance to let their vision stand on it’s own, grabbing work that speaks to their identity. These folks are out there, doing their thing and doing it on a much larger scale than me. It’s intimidating to look at from the outside, knowing I want to try to fit into their shoes. It’s like standing at the base of a mountain, looking up and determining the best route to reach the summit. Daunting, to say the least.
If you look at my place in the greater editorial photography market, I’m just one small fish in a large sea. It’s overwhelming, as I’m only starting to put myself out there. I have to start small, here in my community. Sure, over time I’ll grow. No matter how I look at it though, now is the time for me to put my strongest foot forward and seize new opportunities based on my talent. I’m faced with lots of hard work, personal sacrifices and many failures in order to re-invent myself. But I remain resilient and am ready to take on this new challenge with open arms.
As long as I stay true to myself, I will get one step closer to reaching my goals. If I let my work speak for itself and take a front row seat in my career, the pieces will eventually fall into place. The future lies within myself, the decisions I make and the courage to remain persistent.
Regardless of the fact that I hail from a small Wisconsin town, I still have to compete with all those high-profile editorial shooters from LA and NYC. I view it not as a struggle, but as a challenge. I need to be able to make my small voice heard loud enough, so that the west coast and east coast can feel the vibration.