Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lost the Muse

Much as my work has been thriving in the photography field this year, the muse has eluded me in finding inspiration in personal work.

It's a problem that's been persisting since the business picked up to the point of richly blooming late last year. Since the domination of professional affairs and calculated business decisions there has been little room for private outings for personal satisfaction. Frankly, it's hard to focus on the things that once inspired me on the regular. Whereas it was once commonplace to take time out of my routine to capture images over a weekend for no reason but my pleasure, anymore it's a struggle to slow down and catch those little moments and scenes on the drive to the next job. And it is finally a problem I have to admit to, a problem detrimentally affecting my day to day life. It is gravely depressing.

My situation is unique among those pursuing photography as a profession. Those seeing the level of success I've had the good fortune to achieve expand their careers in photography or visual media exclusively. In my case, the road of career advancement is split, multi-pronged. Unlike those able to indulge their passion exclusively, I am fostering a corporate business career simultaneously. The loathed standard 9-to-5 office job. It isn't greed which has me pursuing these two very different career paths, but rather a sense of love and desire to function as a caretaker to my partner. Our household is single income as he does not work, not because he is sloth but because he deals with debilitating anxiety problems which preclude his ability to function in the working environments available to him. I do not hold this against him as he is dutiful around the house, taking care of our pets, cooking, cleaning, and emotionally I am confident of my hypothetical failures were he not present in my life to provide the support I need when life's conflicts, both internal and external, reach the point of overwhelming. But it is undeniable that being in this position, combined with the admittedly selfish refusal to sacrifice the boons this relentless work ethic has enabled in my lifestyle, has finally led to an unsustainable point of emotional exhaustion. Not a quickly descending veil of lethargy, but a slow dissolution of spirit. I am unable to find enjoyment in my day to day life, only finding thrill in the comparatively few hours I spent photographing for clients on the weekends, and it isn't enough to satisfy my needs.

I've spoken with my partner many nights about this issue. We've often returned to the same conclusion each time, that my spirit will not be satisfied until I fully shed the weight of my structured office work for a completely focused pursuit of photography. Despite my penchant for adopting risk in my private photography work in years past, I am surprisingly unwilling to dive so completely into photography as my sole career strictly because I still perceive it as a risk. Photography is a dying industry, with a rare few able to eke the kind of living to which I have grown accustomed solely through its pursuit. Were I only affecting my own life it is a jump I would likely have made 3 years ago when I first found a foothold after 10 years of trying. But such a decision does not solely affect my life. Not for 11 years. Much as he does not want to concede to the fact, my partner's life and well being are as much my responsibility as my own. As such, I cannot fathom adopting such risk when the consequences fall on more than myself. And despite his frequent reassurances and persistent faith in my ability to thrive, I am far less confident in my potential. I've seen far too many others with skill easily exceeding my own sink into the muck in this global society with a grossly diminished attention span and tendency to consume media voraciously for a week, then allow the talent behind its creation fall into obscurity. Culturally, the world is unkind to the artist. Our value is a forever fleeting thing.

My decision has always been to take the long road. Instead of making an abrupt all-or-nothing leap into photography, my intent is to nurture my photography business to the point wherein my weekend work is all but eclipsing the office career. It is a road that is inevitably flawed. As my income from photography augments, it continues to sit on top of the steady paycheck I am already receiving, and thus my lifestyle adjusts to another level of vanity. Going out to expensive restaurants with friends and paying the check without care. I am beyond the conventional concern for budgeting. To combat this trend, I began saving more and more money earned through photography, but it has been an unsuccessful maneuver. My partner and I are living well, living the "high life" inasmuch as is rational given the area we live and our inherent personality quirks. That fact makes me happy, however that happiness is also tempered by the considerable scarcity of time I have available in which to enjoy that lifestyle. A lack of time breeds exhaustion and lethargy in the time I do have for myself, and thus I do nothing with it, or begrudgingly tend to the errands and obligations of typical blue collar life.

Instead of transitioning away from my corporation oriented career, I find myself in a position wishing to move away from the photography career of which I dreamed to achieve for so long. I cannot openly flake on my office obligations, to do so would represent too high a level of risk, but the volume of photography work I endure if fully within my control, and now it is the only time I am capable of reclaiming. But in reclaiming that time for satisfaction with my non-working life, the momentum built toward a viable career in photography is stifled, and in such a depressed industry any loss of momentum will inevitably end the prospects of that career. The rock and hard place into which I am wedged comes to light in that analysis of my situation. Abandon the dream find happiness in my free time and ensure financial security for myself and my partner, abandon the safe and secure career and bring risk and assured financial hardship to our situation, or continue relentless pursuit of both simultaneously and be forced to stomach that stress, hardship and unhappiness with my private pursuits that have endured for 6 months now.

While this introspective self analysis may not speak to it, I am an optimistic person. My decision to continue pursuit of both careers is ultimately made, and I hold out hope that it will change for the better sooner rather than later. Similarly, I hold tight to Hollywood story lines in which those who dedicate themselves wholly to corporate driven lives fall into their own sort of personal hell, full of regret in old age of unaccomplished dreams. Difficult as my chosen path may be, I am truly fortunate to be in a position to realize a lifelong dream without having to step outside the commonly accepted bounds by which society holds the typical person. I can tout myself as living proof one can be both the office slave and successful eccentric artist simultaneously, which is the oddest of marriages. What I'm enduring in this current phase could best be described as growing pains as I learn to manage my life under new circumstances. Perhaps I lied earlier in regard to my partner's faith in me. I do believe I have the fortitude and endurance to deal with this transition and maintain happiness. It will always be a consequence of taking the long road that the struggles presented will be endured over a longer timeline, less immediate and thus quickly over, instead very persistent, like a dull ache or soreness.

After enough years that constant build of persistent aches and pains will kill me, surely. However, I have no intention of maintaining a straight line of a growth pattern in my working life. Big changes come to us all over a long enough timeline. I have the patience, the endurance, to wait for mine.