Inspiration

So, We're Writing A Book!

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Elena Bazini, Erin Brosha, Dave Brosha

Elena Bazini, Erin Brosha, Dave Brosha

SO, WE’RE WRITING A BOOK

What will this book be about? A book about living your life as a creative soul...but to take a step further, a book about living a life simply walking your own independent path. A book about being able to say f*ck the "traditional" life that is sometimes the only life that seems to be presented to us as a society.

Well this book is happening, and it's started - and it’s going to be a 360-degree approach to the subject. What does it look like for us? What does it look like for other creative professionals also living an independent life? What does it look like to be an equal part of a team in making a life like this happen?

This book will feature insights from creative professionals, independent souls, and the incredibly supportive people that is the glue that holds it all together.

AUTHORS:

DAVE BROSHA - Dave is a photographer, writer, father, explorer, and educator living on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. He has kissed the Blarney Stone and now writes way too many words.

ERIN BROSHA - Erin is a Logistics Manager for OFFBEAT, an international photography tour/travel company and community, mother, organizational force, and loyal soul from Canada’s Prince Edward Island. She speaks English, French, and Golden Doodle.

ELENA BAZINI - Elena Bazini is a passionate photographer, successful business owner and creative storyteller based in Chicago, Illinois. She considers herself raised on coffee, rock and roll, and the belief that life is truly what you make it. Photography has taken her down a unique path, and she has been striving towards the independent lifestyle ever since.

Photographers: You Have Impact

Douggie, Hantsport, Nova Scotia

RE: Why We Do What We Do (note: I originally wrote this in May, 2017)

In addition to creating photographs of penguins, swirly green particles in northern skies, diamonds, filter-blurred oceans, and random rocks, I take photographs of people. Lots and lots of portraits of people.  

Young people, old people, beautiful people, interesting people, heavy people, black people, awkward people, middle-aged people, sexy people, long-haired people, creative people, sleep people, baby people, boring people, pregnant people, and everything in between.

I’ve gotten paid for many of these photographs of people, but many - if not most -  of the photographs I shoot of people…I don’t.  I just do them.  Photographs, I mean.  Of the people I find interesting.  Because…I have to.

Much of it, I admit, is selfish.  I love the thrill of the chase.  The unknown.  Taking a random face that the universe has aligned to put in front of me, scoping out the surroundings around me, and trying to fit them together.  Like a puzzle.  With a bunch of tiny, impossibly hard pieces like emotion and angles and light and contrast and colour and structure and storytelling. 

I photograph to come up with a photograph.  That seems obvious, but it should be stated.  It’s my purpose.  To come up with an image that impacts me and hopefully impacts others.  If it doesn’t impact me, I don’t have a hope in hell of impacting others. So I shoot until I feel something.  And then repeat.

In the blind self-centred world of a photographer creating for themselves, it’s easy to forget that what we do impacts others.  Of course it does - how could it not?  But that’s often not the primary reason we pick up the camera, as much as we would like to think it is.  We pick up the camera to satisfy the voice in side, primarily, or to try to make a paycheque, or to try to convince ourselves that somewhere and sometime, we might be considered artists.

However - whether we know it, strive for it, or like it…we have impact.  Our photos create reactions in people.  They look at them and they feel either boredom, intrigue, excitement, repulsion, love, and so on.  We’re bombarded by images in our current day with the abundance of social media, but yet…we still love looking at images.  By “we” I don’t just mean photographers.

Once again - it’s easy to forgot in this bombardment, and in our own internal artistic processes (and sometime selfishness) that our images have impact.  If not always on an “audience”, sometimes profoundly on our subjects.

Twice in the last two months I’ve gotten notes from subjects that have surprised me.  And inspired me.  And reminded me why we do what we do.  For they’ve both come from people that (I would have thought) confident.  Two beautiful, strong people.  People that on the exterior have that special look.  Special abilities.  But their notes have reminded me that people aren’t always as strong and confident as their exteriors betray.  I should know better, myself.  My own confidence isn’t nearly what I would have social media project.  But yet I expect others to pick up my own slack.

The first note is from the man in this photo.  Douggie.  I think he said he was 6’ 6”.  Cut.  Built.  Brick shithouse.  Nice.  Good-looking.  Has everything going.  Seemingly.

A note that caught me surprise.  On Facebook.  After a day of portrait modelling for a group of photographers just trying to do better.

I never like how I look in photos.

Like ever.

But you….

I have dealt with self esteem issues all my life... and I actually broke down a bit at the very end in the basement. No one saw it cause it was dark. 

Anyway I'm just proud to see that for once in my life I have self worth, and all the shit I've been going through has come with a positive outcome. 

Thank you so much. You don't even know how much it means to me.

WHAT?  This guy…this guy?  Wow.  But, how?  Yet….it is what it is.  We judge many books by their covers, and their covers don’t always show what’s inside.  Far from “always”.  I would venture to say rarely.  

Another note, about six months earlier.  A few details have been changed for identity protection:

Hey Dave, 

I just wanted to send you a quick note to say thank you! 

You have no idea what working with you has done for me and my self esteem. I was always such a shy and slightly awkward kid and this is something that I've carried with me into adulthood, I didn't grow up with great self-esteem or confidence.

I didn't ever think that I was overly pretty, I was just always 'average'. 

Before meeting *****, I was in a really bad relationship that totally rocked my self image and self esteem, it's taken me a really long time to build this back up (***** has been a huge part of this and has worked wonders with his damaged wife!) but I also thank you for helping me. 

As you and I work together more and more, it gives my self esteem and self image such a huge boost!  I never in a bagillion (yup, that's a word!) years that I would be asked to model for a magazine, then ********* contacted me because one of their designers had seen a shoot that you and I had done, the designer told me that she had wanted to work with me since she saw our first shoot!! 

After our last shoot this past weekend, I was contacted by ***** asking if I would model for the catwalk show...they asked me because they saw the last photos that you took of me. I never would have imagined being asked to do that...ever!! 

Thank you so much Dave, you have no idea how life changing working with you has been for me. I look forward to working with you in the years to come! 

Reading both these notes…well, they made me cry.  Like hide-in-case-someone-sees-me-tears.   

Because I myself forget at time that images have impact (even though I know deep down they do).  I just create.  Because it means something to me.  But again and again and again examples like these spring up….and they always manage to surprise me, even though they shouldn’t.

Because we, as photographers, have impact.

Repeat that.

Aloud.

Because we, as photographers, have impact.

It’s up to us to follow the path of inspiration that each of us feel, individually.  And we’re all drawn to different things.  But the next time you’re feeling down about yourself, your images, your path….

Remember that.

We, as photographers, have impact.

Whether it’s a photograph that makes someone feel good about themselves, a beautiful image of a far-off mountaintop that gives someone hope, or a photograph of a moment in time that can’t ever possibly be replicated (but somehow you, as a photographer, have captured)….

You have impact.

The Power of Now

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One of the things that I see most photographers of all levels struggling with has nothing to do with f-stops, mastering lighting, seeing, creating, competition, making a living, or any of the countless other “stress” factors that photographers seem to worry about. Rather, a trend that I notice time and time again—and I’ve admittedly fell victim to this trend myself frequently throughout my career—is the failure to simply recognize that things, in this moment—right now—are actually far better than you give the present moment credit for.

What do I mean by this? Let me give you an example.

Let’s take a fictional photographer—a fictional photographer that many of you may see bits and pieces of yourself in. I see parts of myself in this photographer as well. Let’s call this photographer Apollo.

Apollo wasn’t born a photographer. He was born a person who grew up with diverse interests and friends and a great deal of uncertainty about his place on this planet. At some point he discovered that he enjoyed photography and that made him happy. He liked the feeling of clicking the shutter and seeing his creations appear on the screen. They weren’t all winners—he had far more duds than masterpieces but he didn’t really care. He simply enjoyed the process of using this piece of technology to express a little sliver of his soul in a completed image. Those images brought out an artistic side in him that he never knew he had; he felt like they gave him some degree of purpose and the moments in which he was behind the camera and lens, creating, he felt more peaceful than most other times in his life.

But then something happened. He looked around and saw other photographers doing their own photography thing. These other photographers were creating their own images and sharing their own little slices of their souls. He saw that his images that he was creating didn’t really measure up to theirs: the other photographer’s images were clearly stronger. This made Apollo feel bad and his self-worth went down.

Not one to quit, he used this fact—that others were better than him—to push him to try to better himself. He said to himself “if I spend 20 hours a week on my photography instead of 10 hours a week” I’ll definitely get better and then I’ll be happy. So he did: he shifted around his life and found an extra ten hours a week and pretty quickly, he started seeing the fruits of his labour: his photography skills improved vastly and he got better and better.

A funny thing happened, however. Even as others were recognizing that Apollo’s photographs were getting stronger and stronger, Apollo still wasn’t happy. Sure his photographs were stronger, he thought, but when he looked around and saw that other photographers were getting in magazines and having exhibitions of their work and he wasn’t…well, that made him sad. “If only I could have my work published and have that big exhibition, then I will be happy!”, Apollo mused.

Fast forward a year. Apollo sent out countless portfolios to countless magazines and made meetings with various art venues. It took a lot of doing….a lot of frustration and cursing all the rejection notices that arrived monthly…but Apollo finally got his break. A magazine agreed to publish a small photo essay of his (and even gave him the cover!). The next month one of the most prestigious galleries in his city agreed to a weekend showing of his work: his first major exhibition!

At the exhibition, people sang his accolades. His work looked beautiful hung up and behind glass. At one point on opening night, someone approached him with the magazine that he was just in: they wanted him to sign the cover that he photographed.

Apollo signed the cover, but he was distracted. He was a little upset, truth be told, because he had just heard that his camera manufacturer choose a photographer he knew to be part of their sponsored team. He didn’t have a sponsor, and this made him sad.

A year later, after thousands and thousands more images that he crafted to perfection and through a lot of grim determination, Apollo got sponsored. He wasn’t enjoying creating these images as much any more because he wasn’t getting as many Facebook likes as he once did because social media algorithms kept changing, but he finally got a free lens in the mail, so that was something. His friends in the photography world were so proud of him but still Apollo wasn’t happy: he’d be happy, he thought, if he could just get onto National Geographic’s team. “They’re obviously flawed if they don’t choose me…look at the work I create!”.

********

The point of the above is pretty obvious. We, as humans, tend to live in states of being stuck in the past (“I could have been happy in life but I never had the money to go to photography school, so now I’ll suffer the rest of my life saying ‘what if’”), or looking ahead to the future as the elusive cure to being happy (“I’ll be satisfied when xyz happens”.).

Neither mindset—living buried in the past or placing happiness as a conditional future state objective—is a healthy way to live, generally, or to approach your photography.

Why? Because all you have is NOW.

What is now and why is important to recognize that you have it better than you think you do? Because you do. All we have is now: life is a series of moments that unfold one after another after another after another and if you constantly tell yourself that you’ll never be satisfied with the current moment unless something in the future happens? Well…you’ll never find happiness. You’ll never be satisfied. You’ll never find peace. You’ll never appreciate just how much you’ve accomplished and how talented you really are. How FORTUNATE you are (imagine how many people in the world would love to simply afford to own a camera, let only worry about whether you get 250 likes on an image on Facebook opposed to 10).

If you’re always looking to the “next big thing” as that magical place where happiness and contentment resides, you’ll never find happiness and contentment, because as soon as you hit that place—that goal—you won’t recognize the moment for what it is (beautiful) ad you’ll be looking for the next thing as the magical place where happiness and content resides. It’s “all retch and no vomit” as the great Alan Watts preached.

Truth be told, you’re doing pretty damn well. Right now. In this moment. You truly are. You’ve accomplished, I’m sure, a lot in this life already. No matter where you are on your photographic journey, you’ve made some pretty incredible gains. Maybe you finally understand the exposure triangle. Or maybe you’ve sold your first print. Or maybe you simply enjoy being outdoors and photographing images that make you happy. Lock onto and appreciate that—all of that—because that’s what it’s all about.

Appreciate the power of NOW. That’s not to say don’t have goals, of course. Goals are a great thing: they motivate us and keep us moving forward. But please don’t attach your happiness to a future state: happiness and contentment is here, right now, in this moment. You just have to recognize it.

People often ask me something to the effect of “what is your ultimate dream in photography….cover of National Geographic?”. My answer is pretty much always the same: “to be able to do ten years from now what I do now…and to just enjoy the ride”. And that’s the God-honest truth. I have goals, but I don’t feel a pressing need to do anything in particular with my photography other than enjoy it. To not only not hate it, but to always have the same satisfaction being behind the camera as I did when I first started out. I picked up the camera because I loved creating. I loved knowing that I had an artistic side and that this was my medium. I want to hold onto that feeling. Forever.

End note: for some great reading on this subject, I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”. I read this book about a decade ago and I can emphatically state this book has changed my life like no other book I’ve ever read.

How Do You Find The Time?

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One of the things I’ve heard most in my career is “how do you find the time to do all the things you’re doing?” - especially before I took the plunge to go full-time and was still juggling a 40-hour per week job and a family and, well, life.

One thing I found, early on, is that you have to take time to nurture your passions or else:
(A) they won’t flourish
(B) you are left feeling dissatisfied

Dissatisfied, that is, because you know you love this thing and you know you want to get better at it. NOT doing it leaves a hole.

“But”, you might say, “I don’t have the time I need to let that passion flourish. That’s my problem. I KNOW I could be a great photographer/guitar player/painter/singer/mountain climber/friend if I only had the time. I just don’t have the time.”

Well, at the risk of sounding like a used car salesman…you DO have time. We all do. We have more time than we think we do. Time is there. We all have the same amount, every single day. 24 hours come, 24 hours go. It’s how you use the time that counts….but I think you already know this, inherently.

I used to make excuses. I used to struggle with time. But then I started looking at how I used my day - my precious time (because it’s one of our most important resources) and I realized just how much time I wasted. There were the not-so-fun time-suckers that I couldn’t avoid, of course (my job, chores, errands) and “great” time commitments (family/friends), but it was the other moments that I looked long and hard at.

For me, I realized how much time I spent watching television and movies. Sitting in front of a TV and - at least a decade ago before the advent of Netflix - and channel surfing. An hour would turn into two which would turn into sometimes four or five hours per night. With this kind of habit, too, comes other bad habits: junk food and inactivity.

About a decade ago, I made a change. TV wasn’t going to rule my life anymore. I was going to make a hard change. “Even, I thought, if I made a small change a cut out an hour of that time and did something productive with it…”

Rather than just that hour, though, I pretty much started turning the TV off. For long stretches. Sometimes days and weeks at a time. It's not uncommon, now, for me to go a straight month without watching TV.

Imagine if you even had an hour, per day, to dedicate to your passion. Let’s say that passion is photography (go figure). An hour, admittedly, is not a lot of time…but it’s a start. Those initial hours, for me, didn’t mean always using the time to go out and actually shoot (more on that later) but I started using those initial hours to dedicate myself to the learning process. Books. Blogs. Researching techniques. Looking at images and being inspired.

I became hooked…addicted, even. I found that this extra time I spent “book” learning (or internet learning) translated to real gains when I had shooting time. I went out more inspired, or with more purpose. I had ideas I wanted to try. My former TV time became inspiration time.

Around the same time, I also started doing some “hard dedications” to shooting time. What that meant, for me, was to make a sound commitment to myself to set aside creative shooting time. To the stage of actually setting this time aside in my calendar weeks and months in advance. Every single month I would ensure - and still ensure - that I have in my calendar AT LEAST TWO blocks of time dedicated for creative shooting. Whether that’s a sunrise down at Canoe Cove or a creative portrait session…I bet you if I went back through my calendar for the past ten years I would find 99% of the months have at least two of these creative times set aside.

Why is it important blocking these off in advance? Well, if I actually leave it to a given weekend…life happens. The morning comes and you lose yourself to the weekend shuffle. Or laziness. Or a wine night. When it’s in my calendar I almost ALWAYS stick to it.

TV probably doesn’t take away as much time for most people as it once did with attentions shifting more to smartphones and Facebook and the internet….but what if, in the evenings, you promised yourself even for one day a week to not pick up your phone for an entire evening and instead do “Passion Time” with those minutes/hours (you know as well as I how much time these things suck)?

I know not every person is the same and we all have different commitments/obligations (family/work/sickness/stress) but I’m willing to be that almost every single person has more time than they give themselves credit for. It’s about shifting how you use that time.

For me, my new obsession is the guitar. I’m loving it. And despite being incredibly busy I am actually finding time to practice. Not as much as I’d like, mind you, but when I’m hanging out with the kids, or wake up and have my morning coffee, I usually pick up the guitar even for 10 or 20 minutes. Not a lot, but enough that almost every day I find this 20 minutes. And I’m seeing progress as a result.

In short (after a long essay, here): find the time. Look at your time-suckers or your non-productive time. We all have it built into our lives. Look at it, long and hard, and make choices. Do you really need 3 hours for Netflix or could you spend only one hour a day watching something and spend those other two hours (or even 20 minutes) for your passions? I bet you could.

Footnote: I still love binge-watching Netflix like most people. But it's in very dedicated blasts. It's time, too, that I hold dear...because, like, Game of Thrones....