January 14, 2024

2023 And Me

Getting the ball rolling through trial and error

Hello and thank you to everyone who’s managed to stick around in the absence of regular writing. It’s been a regretful minute, and I do wish to let you know upfront that I plan on reigniting the frequency of my newsletter now that 2023 has come to an end.

As you may recall from my 2022 recap, this was my first calendar year as a freelance photographer. I began my new career in October 2022, and this year I completed 239 paid photoshoots.

That number—well, quite frankly, it blows my mind.

I previously mentioned my journey to become a photographer was precipitated by a challenging moment in my life. In order for this to work, I needed to get busy fast—so I made a promise to say “yes” to everything and trust the process of slow development over time.

Right off the bat, I was lucky to find a platform that accepted me as a partner photographer. This platform serves as an easy way to link clients with photographers, and I will rightly acknowledge its role in getting me such a productive jumpstart from zero. At the same time, however, I’d be dishonest if I omitted my colossal love-hate relationship with this platform—which, without, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Such is the balance of things.

2023 was, by and large, a year of fumbling.

From beginning to build a business without the confidence to talk with clients, nor having the ability to direct in the most elementary of ways, to now being able to do those things—at least in a modest (but effective) capacity.

Becoming self-employed had such a rocky start that on January 9th of 2023, my anxiety over “jumping into the deep-end” manifested in feelings of being separated from my body. I spent several days in this state, yet somehow managed to drive and get through several client shoots. On the fourth day, I drove myself to urgent care with the irrational assumption that I was dying. Among my symptoms were perceived heart palpitations and a lingering heaviness in my chest. With those words, I was prescribed a Zio patch heart monitor to wear for one week.

Thankfully, the week’s worth of monitor data came back clean. And the out of body experience had actually subsided the day I went to urgent care—when I was told by a doctor that I was not, in fact, dying.

I share this detour to remind myself of how much change can occur in such a little amount of time.

2023 became my proper introduction to a craft I have always admired, but now appreciate as one of the great and beautiful art forms. A great photographer, I’ve learned, is a master of light. A connoisseur of color. He captures time and preserves it forever. He is a documentarian and memory keeper. A conduit of emotion.

I believe photography is a form of art, but, as in all art forms, my belief is that the title of “artist” should be designated with care—and I will be candid that I am still wholly ignorant as to who the great artists of photography are.

My current sentiment, however, is that having a camera does not make you an artist.

Art comes from intention.

And of the 239 paid shoots I completed this year, only a handful might be included to fit this bill of intention—certainly none of which I am claiming to be art.

This brings me to 2024.

I have undoubtedly been successful in taking pictures that clients have been more than happy to pay for. My financial goals were achieved, yet now I aim for purposeful realignment.

In 2024, I will stop taking photos.

Outside of my direct bookings with regular and one-off clients, all the jobs I’ve been assigned through the platform have come without the opportunity for creative input on my end. I’m simply given a date, time, and place—all of which are pre-determined by the client.

Beyond scheduling logistics, I also do not get to choose which type of shoot I accept. If I am booked through the platform, I simply receive a text message with the details mentioned above. But while the lack of creative control has felt stifling at times, I believe it has overall been outweighed by the benefit of an incredible education in such a short amount of time.

Through this model, I’ve learned how to shoot portraits, headshots, corporate events, birthday parties, elopements, rehearsal dinners, engagement photos, real estate, interior design, landscapes, editorial, lifestyle, family photos, maternity, automotive listings, product, behind the scenes and more.

A year into it, I’m comfortable enough now to say I’ve earned my GED equivalent in photography. Now I aim to specialize.

In 2024, I will start making photos.

My goal this year is to build upon the foundation of 2023 by bringing attention and intention to my work.

To become a picture maker, not a picture taker.

I’m going to look back on this year as my year of purpose. In the metaphor of exploration, the ship has departed and now it’s time steer my work in a particular direction.

Since the beginning, my long term goal has been to work with clients in industries that have meaning to me personally—particularly in the outdoors, documentary, film, automotive and motorcycle industries. I am someone who resonates with the craftsmen of the world; the adventurers, the tinkerers, and the poets.

To guide myself properly, and with respect to the craft, I seek to first procure work as an assistant. To take a step back from shooting so that I can bring value as a great second—in order to develop beyond the limits of continuing to operate on my own.

As the great John Cassavetes said, “I want to work and I want to learn.”

I find great pleasure in knowing a lifetime of experience lies ahead in order for me to be truly great in my craft. I am an old beginner, yes, but photography has me waking everyday with the excitement of a child.

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Before leaving, please enjoy a handful of 2023 favorites that were made with intent:

2023 And Me

Getting the ball rolling through trial and error

The AI Antidote

Public Journal #1 - Maintaining meaning while robots join the game of life.

Yellow Daisies and Snackwell's Cookies

A search for the inner child.

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Brando Conklin © 2022