Sometimes failure is as obvious as the nose on your face. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, take note of what went wrong, then start all over again with a suitably refined course of action or a completely new strategy. Yet, as I learned recently, failing can be a far more subtle and private beast, holding you back silently until you recognize it and let it go.
I launched into wedding photography in 2007 after years of working in IT. I’d done most of my training using film and had loved every second of it. However, there was a digital revolution happening in the world of photography, and like most other photographers, I jumped onto that bandwagon feet first. I stopped shooting in film and devoted all my time to digital capture.
It felt amazing. It was new. It was fun. It seemed limitless - for awhile. Eventually it just became unbelievably tiring and overwhelming. I was spending more time in front of the computer editing images than I was meeting people, creating new projects and taking photographs. I kept getting distracted by what other people were doing and wondering whether I should do the same. I started following other people’s trends instead of finding my own style. I was spending less time with my family and losing something of myself in the process.
So in 2009, I decided to get back to my roots and begin shooting in film again on a limited basis. As it was much more expensive than shooting digital, I was forced to slow down, take my time, think about each image in detail, and aim for my best work with every shot. Even though many of my peers threw up their hands and asked why, I knew that for me this was a necessary and crucial step to developing my style. I find film to be imperfect, organic, light and airy, and these are qualities that lend themselves to my way of seeing the world.
However, not long ago I hit a crisis point in my photography. To the outside world, I seemed successful enough but I knew something wasn’t quite working. I was still influenced by other photographers’ work in a way that wasn’t in my best interest. I was failing to truly follow my heart when I knew I should, no matter how far away it might be from the current fashion. So I committed to making film the focus of my work. Although I still love digital photography, I now shoot up to 80% film for weddings and 100% film for portrait/lifestyle sessions. I also preferentially shoot on film in my travels around the world.
Best of all, I learned that while it is great to be inspired by other photographers, it is more essential to be inspired by other art forms. Painting, sculpture, dance, even music and writing - anything can spark your imagination and take your photography to the next level. I also now understand the value of devoting more time to work that affects me intimately. This fires up my creativity, fuels my paid work and helps me in my desire to tell my clients’ stories, and my own story, with heart. It’s a deeply personal success that exists both inside and outside the realm of career. And that’s a success we all need.
Every summer Adrian Tuazon seriously considers a sea-change. Every winter he escapes the cold and heads overseas with his family. Yet he always comes back to his home in Melbourne, Australia, drawn by the magic and the colours of the seasons and the events that happen throughout the year. He loves to travel and will shoot any assignment anywhere in the world. You can view his personal, editorial and travel portfolio here.
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