Why do career and identity seem to be inextricably linked? I wanted to talk a little bit about identity as an artist. This will be a post in a newer section on my blog, “Mental Health“. I find this is really important, especially in the social media and blogging space. I’ll be covering a range of topics that are all related to mental health, thought processes, and the inner workings of my brain. Hopefully through this self discovery it will help others to navigate these complexities.
A few years ago I separated myself from my photography because it was consuming too much of my identity. I had been photographing for as long as I can remember. All of my life photography was my passion and focus of creative energy.
I was 13 or 14 when I took a photography summer camp. I then took dark room classes in high school, and majored in photography in college. From there, I went on to build my portfolio shooting in Madrid, Miami, Paris, Milan, and more.
It was a dream come true in many aspects. I collaborated with amazing hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, and models. I am forever grateful for these experiences, the teachers I had, and to the people that I met and worked with. Wherever I went I was photographing. This was a wonderful way to discover the world, but also a burden. I felt like I wasn’t a present participant in it. Rather, I was behind the lens experiencing it from the viewfinder, a smaller segment of the full picture. I felt pressure to bring my camera everywhere or I might miss “the shot” of my career.
Eventually, I felt like photography wasn’t what I did, but rather, it was who I was. There is a school of thought that you have to immerse yourself in your art fully to be successful at it, and that obsession will get you a tier above the rest. I was obsessed. When people asked me about myself, the involuntary response out of my mouth was, “I’m a photographer.”
It’s so deeply rooted in American culture and the English language that we are what we do, and that what we do makes us who we are. Identifying as a photographer was like a marriage that I learned and grew from, but it also brought out some aspects of myself I wasn’t too fond of. Everyone I had met up to this point, knew me as a photographer. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with being a photographer, but the title started to feel constricting. I was shooting 4+ times per week, but it wasn’t just burn out…
I knew I was more than one thing, and I had more to offer. It felt like I couldn’t share the multifaceted person that I was in that narrow identity that I had constructed for myself and that others played into. My move to Los Angeles two years ago where few knew me allowed me the freedom to reconstruct.
The Slippery Slope
I had both supporters and critics (and still do). As artists, we put so much passion, so much of ourselves, and our heart and soul into our work that it can be difficult to make the differentiation between who we are and what we do. If it’s not well received we tend to take it personally. It can be challenging to remember it’s just someone’s opinion. We feel we’re putting all of ourselves on the line, and when people don’t like the art work (because that’s so deeply tied to how we self identify) it feels like they don’t like us. That’s a mentally slippery slope.
Something that I once loved, had put so much time and energy into, now felt heavy and like it was preventing me from excelling. I needed a breath of fresh air. So, I pivoted. I’d had my blog since 2009 and so I pivoted to focus more on Nomad Moda, and on my jewelry, to continue writing, and to explore other forms of creative expression.
Many artists, if they had chosen the other path at a certain fork in the road could be expressing their creativity in a different medium. Photography will always be a passion of mine, along with many art forms that I do as a hobby such as painting, collage, dance, but it is not WHO I am. I will ALWAYS love photography. I even miss it, and want to do more shoots soon.
However, your career does not define you. What we do is how we choose to express parts of ourselves. We are not what we do, we are who we are. My thoughts around identity now are a lot healthier. Simply just being, takes a lot of pressure out of contriving an identity out of my art form or relating my career and identity. It brings back creativity and room for experimentation.
I hope this post helps others who are struggling with career and identity. <3