My story · How I went from law to photography (Part 1)
Ever since Lucy from the Graceful Collective interviewed me last year (you can read the interview over here), I’ve been thinking about sharing my story in a little bit more detail.
Long time followers (or anyone whose read my about page) will know that I used to work as a lawyer - but for those of you who are new here, it might surprise you to know that I previously worked as a family lawyer. I was lucky enough to quit my job at the end of 2015 and leap into full time photography, something I'm really, really grateful for.
Something that surprises ME though, is how often I get people tell me how “amazing” it is that I chose to quit my job as a lawyer to become a photographer. I guess it is pretty amazing, considering the massive difference in the two industries! It doesn't really feel like that to me though, because it was just something that HAD to happen. The life I had been living as a lawyer was no longer sustainable for me, emotionally or mentally.
It was never about choosing between two things I loved, it was about choosing between what I felt obliged to do, and what made me happy. It felt like a choice between being happy, and being sad - and who wants to be sad? Sometimes we are sad without being able to help it, but I could help it, and I didn’t want to be the kind of person who chose it.
So I thought I’d write a little long blog post about my story and how I have ended up here, for posterity’s sake - and in the hope that it helps someone reading this who is a similar position, find the confidence to make the leap.
Let’s rewind a little…
SO How did I end up working as a lawyer?
Looking back on my life now, I can see that my childhood was overflowing with creativity. It's in my DNA - my maternal great-grandmother was a seamstress, and both my grandma and mother are talented artists. My paternal gran is the craftiest lady I know at knitting, cross stitching, crocheting, sewing, quilting - you name it. I grew up surrounded by this, and was hardly ever bored as a kid. And as a teenager, I was always that person who had a camera in my hands documenting all our crazy antics - but my journey to being a photographer is not as simple as that (obviously).
It makes me feel so bemused and befuddled that I studied law, rather than pursuing something artsy. I guess I never found anything that I felt passionate or talented enough in - I was crafty, but not talented enough to consider studying it or working in it.
I also blame my high school careers counselling program - it was a nightmare! Being handed a book that was the size of the Yellow Pages, full of every job under the sun is a bit daunting and overwhelming when you are fifteen, have no idea who you are or what you want to do. By the time I graduated high school I still didn't have any idea, but my favourite subject was Legal Studies so when it came to applying to university, I just chose to study a law (and I can't deny there was also a bit of pressure from my parents).
But right from the very start, I was very, very hesitant about becoming a lawyer; it seemed like a package deal with stress, fighting/debating, long hours, cynicism - none of that appealed to me in the slightest. I've always been very determined to pursue happiness over financial success, so part of me always doubted my choice. But like I said, I'm determined and I reeeeeally struggle with leaving things unfinished (I'm that person who always has to finish a book, no matter how bad it might be).
These thoughts/doubts niggled away throughout my studies. Why didn't I do something else? I just had no idea what I wanted to do.
Fast forward a few years, and boom! I’m a lawyer!
Soon after graduation, we moved to Melbourne where I found work as a lawyer, and surprise! It was a job as a family lawyer, the one area I never wanted to work in! Sometimes you can’t help where you land.
So - the first year was BRUTAL.
It was either sink or swim, and I was barely keeping my head above water.
Anxiety became my constant companion, and I experienced my first ever panic attack. It wasn’t all bad, there were pockets of good and I’m grateful for all the clients I was able to help through a very traumatic experience in their lives. (Also need to add a little disclaimer that I hated the job itself, not the people I worked with!). But I’m a lover, not a fighter - I should never have been a lawyer, let alone a family lawyer!!! Having to constantly fight/debate, and think on my feet quickly; well they are not my strongest skills - give me an hour to process what you've said and I will have the *perfect* come back for you! Life never really works like that though, lol!
MY JOURNEY INTO PHOTOGRAPHY
It all started with cupcakes!
Due to some personal trauma at the end of my degree, my life turned a bit topsy-turvy. I was hurt and confused and a bit lost. I didn’t know what to do, I had no outlet to turn too and it wasn’t until that moment that I realised how my four years of relentless study had turned my creativity and imagination into dried up little crones, or how desperately important they were to me.
I decided to take six months off before going back to uni to complete my graduate diploma (a necessary step to become a lawyer these days), and embarked on a bit of a personal mission to bring them back to life, by learning how to bake epic cupcakes and decorate them all fancy like. I don’t remember how or why I chose this specific path, I think maybe it was the first thing that came to mind. Eventually I decided that they looked pretty great, and that maybe I could start a baking blog – which meant I would need a camera to take photos of my creations.
At this stage, I knew nothing about taking photos – so when you look at these photos, just remember that we all have to start somewhere….
Unsurprisingly, the baking blog never took off (it’s okay, I know my photos were terrible) and after our move to Melbourne I had no one to bake for anymore, so I stopped.
And although I stopped baking, I never stopped taking photos. It became such a huge creative outlet, and while it wasn’t enough to defeat my anxiety it probably helped me to manage it. I've been on Instagram since November 2011, and in my first year as a lawyer I started a 365 Photo A Day challenge, and posted nearly ONE THOUSAND PHOTOS to Instagram!!!!! Whaaaat! I can’t bring myself to delete these images, it’s part of my story and they are all still there for the world to see. It’s visual proof that I used to suck as a photographer – something I can always go back and look at to remind myself how far I’ve come when I’m having a bad day; and that is kind of priceless.
Over time, I started to get bored with that and I turned my camera towards my family and then my friends. Through my boring as all heck blog, I somehow became friends with this amazing woman who randomly asked me to photograph her son’s 2nd birthday celebrations.
I thought I would hate it, and I loved it. I wanted MORE! But I was scared, so I did nothing for almost a year.
Eventually I went to a workshop held by a photographer I admired – and this changed everything for me. It was like all the puzzle pieces clicked into place for me, and four months later (plus a lot of sweat and tears) I launched this little business, while still working full time as a lawyer.
I will never forget the day that I launched my business/website. It was on a weekend, in the late afternoon. I was sitting on the couch, with my finger hovering over the “Post” button on Facebook – I felt like my heart was beating out of my chest because I was terrified about what people would think of me.
Putting your photography out there for the world to judge is kind of terrifying and I was worried about how my friends, and especially my family and colleagues would react to the news. But the joke was on me, because my friends and family only had kind and supportive words for me, and I’ll always be so grateful for that ♥
So I had to split this blog post into two, because I just talk too much and it was getting too long.
Come back next week for part two, which covers:
- my transition from full-time law to full-time photography;
- some of the lessons I've learned; and
- what this means for you (hint hint; mentoring)!
Thanks for reading ♥
PS: I double dare you to scroll all the way back through my Instagram feed. You can watch my photography journey unfold before your eyes! I can't bring myself to delete all of those images; it's part of my story, and a really great visual reminder of how far I've come if I'm having a bad day and need a pick me up. If you are REALLY BORED - scroll back and leave a comment on one of my first ever photos, and tell me if it gave you a confidence boost too (because if I can do it, you can do it too). Honestly, you'll make my day!
PPS: Drop me a comment below if you also made the leap/or are in the process of making the leap, from one career to another - I would really, really love to hear from you!