Taking the leap.

“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.

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2 Responses to “Taking the leap.”

  1. Undercover Punk Says:

    Congratulations, highfemme! Following your heart is the only path to happiness. And photography is incredible. I love to see what other people see. Sometimes my partner and I will be in the same place, at the same time, and take completely different pictures. I love when that happens.

    Anyways, thanks for the posts. If we’re lucky, maybe you’ll share some of your images here?? Cheers!

  2. highfemme Says:

    Thank you, Undercover Punk! I’ll most certainly post pictures soon, but for meantime you can check out the gallery on my website: shamelessphoto.com. Enjoy, friend.

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