This is something I journaled about over a year ago while in transit on the GO bus from Toronto to Hamilton. I intended to post it back then but everything happens for a reason. Timing is everything. There have been minor amendments to acknowledge where things are today.
Competition is a noun, however for the purposes better understanding the message of this post I have included the definition of the verb compete: to strive to outdo another for acknowledgment, a prize, supremacy, profit, etc.; engage in a contest
Competition is a word I’ve never fully understood. Well, no, that is true, I understand it. But most definitely do not resonate with it.
When I went to school for Creative Photography in 2003, my experience was incredible. The teachers and my fellow colleagues were so supportive and encouraging. We never worried about someone ‘stealing’ the ideas we were working on.
This was a thought that never crossed any of our minds. It never was an issue because we believed in the power of community. We wanted to see each other succeed.
We knew we all had our own individual style; our own vision. This idea of competing with one another never existed because we understood that we were all unique. No one ever produced the same work as another, even when we were assigned the exact same assignment. Which was every week. We pushed each other to think outside of the box.
(Perhaps I should stop for a moment and clarify. Not everyone ‘got it,’ but there was a large group of us that did. And we were always open welcoming not only to those in our group but with everyone in our program. Fear and competition was never a place we worked from.)
We all knew somewhere in the very core of our being, that no one could ever be our ‘competition’ because we all had had very different life experiences, and it is through our life experiences that we all see the world through different colour glasses. And we celebrated that fact.
My first college experience is one that I hold dear to my heart.
When I moved out West, and went back to school in 2009, for Journalism I was so excited to be entering into such a positive and inspiring environment again. I enjoy reinventing myself; personal growth is high on my values list.
Unfortunately, going to JA school soon revealed I was not in this same nourishing environment, I was once familiar with, and this was a hard thing for me to come to terms with. There were very few of us that didn’t have this fear of competition.
I call it fear because it is the only explanation that I’ve thought of that can begin to explain it.
In the journalism industry, there is a saying: “First, best, or different.”
It was my experience that everyone wanted to be FIRST. Some wanted to be the best, but few strived to be different.
I often wonder if this is because of the pressure of deadlines. And how much of this plays into the dying newspaper industry. Perhaps the struggle to find a way to save print media lay in the fact that not many of the people in print journalism ever focused on the different aspect. Just a thought, not a judgment.
But I digress, in JA school you keep your cards close to your chest, out of fear that someone will ‘steal’ your idea. It was a sad thing to watch. There was little creative and outside of the box thinking happening.
Come assignment times, you would go to an event and, you would see 85% of the students all standing and shooting from the same place.
And the working journalists were no better, hell, they were worse! You’d always see them at news events, shooting over each other’s shoulders. It was amusing. Had anyone of them dropped their lens an inch and a half it would have been resting on the shoulder of the ‘competition.’
I still remember the day I was at an event and a photojournalist at a local paper came in, I had met her before so I stood up from what I was about to shoot, to let her pass by and say hello. Instead, she looked me up and down, looked at what I was set up to shoot, and then knelt down right in front of me, and took the shot! I could not help but laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of her behavior.
This type of behavior is not one that I resonate with, at all. It was that moment that solidified this was not the type of environment I wanted to be immersed in everyday.
I love writing, and I love photography. I love people and I love getting to know their story. I am an innately curious person. So I naturally I thought that I would love journalism.
And I do. But I do not enjoy the industry.
I have thought a lot about being a freelancer, whereby I am not submerged in that energy every day, but still get to express passion that lives inside of me. And it is something that I will eventually revisit. But right now I am focused on Aura, and connecting with as many women as I can. Getting to know their stories, and helping to inspire them to love beautiful bodies, so that they can go out with this new found confidence and kick ass in our crazy world.
One of the talks Dan and I had in the very beginning of starting this rad little business, was that about competition. And more so how I will never bring this idea of competition into Aura. I needed him to understand how important this is to me, if we were to go into business together.
I vowed from the beginning that I would always be open and honest about how we got here. About all the tearful failures, the mornings where I just didn’t want to get out of bed, to the joyful successes, and the days that I was beaming with excitement bouncing up and down on my bed unable to curb my enthusiasm, and everything in between.
I made that promise for many reasons.
One of those reasons is because starting a business has literally been the single most difficult thing I have ever done (make no mistake, I’ve been fortunate in my short life to have had many abundant experiences) and I want to be of service to those who dare take on that same feat.
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. And I applaud anyone willing to stick it out and make their dream a reality. It is hard work. You have to get out there every single day and bust your ass.
Starting a business, in this industry more specifically isn’t something you wake up one day and decide to do because your husband bought you a digital camera for Christmas. You will drown.
But if this is really your calling and your ready to put your blood, sweat and tears into it (no joke) and you constantly educate and reinvent yourself, you just might make it.
I have been a photographer for 13 years. I have worked in every area of photography you can imagine. I did not jump into working for myself. As I mentioned earlier, timing is everything.
It is only after 13 years that I can sit here and confidentially write this, fully owning every word of it.
I am writing this so that it has been said for all to read, that I do not believe in competition. I know that there is no one out there that can do what I do. Because they are not me.
I also know that I will not be the right fit for every client. I am ok with that. I get inquiries all the time that I never book. And I am being 100% honest with you when I say that I am ok with that. In fact, I feel great about that.
I believe that being open and honest about who I am, what drives me to do this work and who I want to work with will connect me with the clients that I am meant to work with. Since I started working from this heart-centered place, my business has exploded. I am inspired by every one of my clients, and I feel so blessed to collaborate with them.
To all the photographers out there reading this: I am writing this today to tell you I believe there is enough work to go around. Your client is out there waiting for you. All you need to do is get clear on who you are, and who it is you want to work with. I’ll say it again, Get clear on who you are and why you are in this business. Stop working from this place of fear, of competition, you don’t need to play in that sandbox. There is a wonderful community of open, welcoming and heart centered photographers out there. Won’t you join us?