“We work to become, not to acquire.” — Elbert Hubbard
“Work and love are the cornerstones of our humanness.” — Sigmund Freud
“It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.” — Pablo Picasso
When I graduated from college five years ago, I wanted a good job. I was passionate, ambitious, and idealistic, and I was dedicated to making a difference. But how do people actually produce real and lasting change in the world?
When I accepted my first non-profit job, I was thrilled. I joined a young policy institute with a talented, devoted, and collaborative staff. The organization’s leadership was fantastic, its projects were important, and I was given many opportunities to learn and grow. I was promoted from intern to director in three years, and was handed increasingly challenging and significant projects.
So why wasn’t I happy? Before, I’d worked mind-numbing corporate or factory jobs, so discontent made sense. How could I be chafing against working for good?
Scary question. Was I just lazy? Did I lack integrity? Was I destined to disappoint and flounder, to never really contribute?
The answer I finally arrived at required a leap of faith: I needed to trust myself enough to believe that I wasn’t the problem. I simply hadn’t yet found the right work for me.
When I finally gave notice, my co-workers were bewildered. When people left my organization, they usually went on to grander things — law school, public office, leadership positions with other organizations. But I was plan-less. Without plan.
The day after I left work for good, I packed my bags and hit the road, traveling from Brooklyn to Asheville to Austin to San Francisco and back again, worrying about exhausting my savings but knowing I needed to move.
I could live anywhere, I thought. I could be anyone.
Choice is a powerful thing.
And my natural frugality was further terrorized when I made the decision to buy a camera. Not some chintzy point-and-shoot job, mind you. A real camera, a Nikon, gleaming and black and fragile and powerful. I fell passionately in love.
My way of seeing began to change almost immediately. I would think That’s a good shot, at least three times a day. Then ten. Then thirty. It was as if a frame had appeared in my view. Everywhere I looked, I could move the frame up or down, from side to side, and see things differently.
I returned to Brooklyn with a plan. Shameless Photography! This is my mission statement:
In a culture where we’re constantly bombarded by images, messages, and standards designed to make us feel inadequate and insecure about our faces and our bodies, I aim to create a space where women can feel safe, beautiful, and empowered. Using makeup, lighting, and photography, I create images that are part fantasy, part reality — and entirely gorgeous.
To become a fantasy — and to know that you can do so whenever you want — is a powerful thing. No billboard model, no advertising agency can own the realm of fantasy — we all do.
In some small way, I hope that my photos can help women feel more empowered and more embodied — and to see our femininity as a space of play, pleasure, and possibility, rather than one of shame.
It’s only been a couple of months since I set up shop, and I’m still working to spread the word and get my fledgling business off the ground. But I can honestly say that I’m happier than I’ve been in years. I think about my work all the time, with passion and excitement and drive. I’ve never felt this way before — never has work been such an effortless, animal pleasure. I find myself staying up till 4 a.m. with only Photoshop to keep me company — and loving it.
Money will be tight, but I’m doing something I believe in, something that challenges me, feeds me, frees me. If the supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play, I think I’m beginning to do just that.