I always find the form that goodbyes take to be particularly interesting. Something I have noticed about being friends with photographers is they will often want to leave you with a portrait. This kind of time keeping is a quiet but powerful reminder that you exist, you hold a place in someone's life, you took up the space that was made for you.
Portrait photography is something I have long admired, and something I have long convinced myself is not for me. I have found that many of my hang-ups come down to feeling inauthentic. For me, there is no difference between feeling and being. There is no feeling foolish, there is only being a fool. And the same goes for my creative pursuits: if I do not feel like a photographer, even though it happens to be an aspiration of mine, then I am not a photographer. I am just a designer who happens to own a camera. (Welcome to my brain on Imposter Syndrome.)
And, there is safety in that approach. If I am not a photographer then my work cannot be judged by professional standards. But there’s also not much room for growth when you’ve painted yourself into a box for safe keeping. It’s difficult to make space for aspirations (the trying, the learning, the failing, the improving) if you’ve already written yourself off, based on your own unachievable standards. It's the icky dichotomy of taking yourself too seriously over things that don't truly matter (like caring what people think or feeling like a fool) and not seriously enough over the things that do (like pursuing a life or career you'd enjoy).
A wise friend once wrote me a lovely card, and in it she included an Abraham Maslow quote that has stuck with me since: “You will either step forward into growth or you will step backward into safety.” Since I have already declared this THE MAGICAL YEAR OF TRYING, I plan on spending my time abroad stepping forward into learning, into growth. Photography has been an area of keen focus for me for several years. It seems only right, then, to start with something I have always been afraid to explore: portraits.
The upside of living out of a hotel while my work placement is sorted out? A few other folks from my training program are stuck in the same position, so we’ve become a rag-tag group of misfit toys – to say the least. I am more than comfortable traveling and exploring alone, but it’s actually been refreshing to have friends to share experiences with. I’ve been beyond impressed with the depth of conversations we’ve had (as well as our stamina for hours of late-night karaoke). A few of them were kind enough to let me take their portraits, as practice, and as a reminder of our crossed paths.