Marj Merges Beautiful. Honest. You. {and me}

Being a photographer

A year ago I was over a thousand miles from home beginning my journey as a photographer on the first night of my LeahandMark internship. I was nervous. I was intimidated. I was lonely. I was scared shitless that I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life.

Now, a year later, I know I made a great decision.  I also know the key to continued success is keeping a little bit of that scared shitless me around.  When I stop exploring, challenging myself, and finding moments of joy in this endeavor I’ll be finished.

A year ago I thought being a photographer was all about making pictures.  If my photos were good I’d be set and the work would come pouring in.  Now I know that’s just the entry fee.  There are so many photographers out there that it can’t be just about my photos.  It has to be about me.

I recently read Patti Smith’s story of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe before they were famous, Just Kids. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a book that challenged me to think about what it means to be an artist. Of what it means to be an artist in your heart struggling to find your voice. Of what it means to be an artist because you truly have something to say. And of one of the most beautiful love stories ever told for it is a love story.

I came away from reading that book feeling both humbled and inspired. Not humbled because I think myself a great artist and they showed me otherwise. No, just humbled by their hunger. Their hunger to create. To share. To give themselves.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m worthy. I love what I do for sure. I tell stories, really important stories of people’s lives. But am I an artist? Do I want to be one? Where’s the line? It’s a question bound up with the meaning of art and with the acceptance of photography as art.

I’m still that same nervous girl and I never want to loose her because her passion is what keeps me going. What gets me excited for a new day. And what makes me a better artist whether I am worthy of the label or not.

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