My name is Lizzie and I’m a wedding photographer, as well as a few other things that make me smile and that I just love to do, I cook, craft, sew, laugh with my friends and have somewhere managed to be brave and pose in my undercrackers in front of the nation.
I’ve crossed swamps, slayed dragons and killed demons to get to where I am today and I’m expecting a few more challenges along the way. I’m here to tell you how being brave, in all aspects of life, can be the most rewarding thing you ever do…
People tell me that I’m brave, that they admire me for the decisions I have made and for the things that I have done. Yet for the last few years I haven’t really seen it that way. I don’t know what switched but my life changed and I began to realise that if you want something, you have to be brave enough to go out and get it. I am not the blueprint for a life of happiness, nor am I extensively business savvy or as yet, financially secure. However, I am confident of what I want and what I can do and I’m willing to take risks in order to get it. I know better than most that having confidence in yourself is hard to keep hold of, yet I also know that life is short and I’ve learned that if you can find the courage and be brave, life will reward you somehow.
Nb. CONFIDENCE: Never to be confused with arrogance.
I am just excited by life and have a fire in my belly.
For the purposes of this blog I’m going back to the summer of 2009, when I was not a wedding photographer, I was a little bit lost.
In 2009 I started being brave and making big decisions, the first of which took me away from my family, friends and away from the hustle and bustle of London life, a secure job and enough money to keep me in clothes and cake. Up until this point I’d been living in London for six years. I was relatively happy, relatively well off, and also relatively bored. It’s brave to say you’re bored in London when everyone you know starts quoting Samuel Johnson, “No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Hogwash! As much as I miss it (I visit frequently) I knew my life was more than London…yes MORE, not LESS. I talk brave too, before occasionally quivering in the corner for fear of the comeback. I must say though, once you step on the wheel in London it is incredibly tricky to find a way of getting off. My job wasn’t anything to scoff at either, which is something of a hindrance when making the decision to leave.
Nb. HINDRANCE. Also know as a hurdle and something that can be passed over.
You just have to be bold and you just have to be brave.
Never ignore those niggles at the back of your mind, if you’ve identified you’re not happy, be brave and do something about it. Don’t get me wrong I’m not preaching, I didn’t wake up one morning to sing halleluiah on a mountain top…I took a little while in getting there. I finished a Media Studies degree specializing in photography and went straight to London to hunt for work. I started as a Photo-Coordinator for a gorilla marketing company looking after a street team of photographers, organizing campaign logistics and compiling client portfolios. I went from there to be the Production Assistant at one of the UK’s leading indie film distributors working on both cinema and DVD movie releases. Finally I made it as Senior Product Manager for a specialist producer and distributor of children’s programming. But if someone had asked me where I wanted to be in ten years I would have said, “I don’t know, not here?” If truth be told the only thing I really wanted to do at the time was write a book and take pictures but without really realizing, I’d steered away from photography and followed the jobs that had offered me money. I don’t remember waking up one morning and deciding I needed a change but I finally reached a point of enough being enough and decided to make some changes using the desire to write a book as the basis of my motivation. I’ll interject here that the book I set out to write is still not finished, but the adventure I have had since I started it is one that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.
So, in May 2009 I gave up my flat, upped sticks and moved to Italy for the summer.
I went from Brixton to Tuscany in a few short hours and took stock of the summer laid out in front of me full of rolling fields, red wine, great food, sunshine, swimming, photography, cycling and writing. I knew I had finally made the right decision for me.
I bought a bike and took to the hills, sweating on the way up and rejoicing on the way down. I like to think of life this way now, hard work on the way up followed by the rewards hitting you on the way down. Something about Italy is so simple, their way of life, the way they cook. It was so far from London that it didn’t take long at all to identify exactly what I needed to survive. My bike, my camera and my laptop. In that order.
My summer in Italy taught me some important lessons. I learned that when you’re unsure, what you need most is time to think. Italy gave me the time to do that, something I never had in the madness of London life. Life there just sort of carried me away. So in Italy I spent five months thinking, photographing and writing, oh, and drinking wine which as we all know is vital to productive thought. What I also did was communicate. I spent five months actually talking to people, and in Italian no less. And when language failed me I waved my arms around and pointed at things! I couldn’t just get on a tube knowing where it would take me mindlessly listening to my iPod, I had to figure out where the bus went, buy tickets, find the right stop, I had to request a bikini wax for goodness sake! That trip out of my comfort zone gave me more confidence than I could have ever imagined.
So far I’m sure all this sounds like a holiday, yet I’m no believer in getting something for nothing and despite the conviction that starting with something you love can lead to fulfillment… no one was ever going to pay me to sit on my arse and drink wine in the sun. Damn it!! Instead I worked my butt off to ensure I had enough money for Italy and worked every morning whilst there at a B&B for free room and board. For months before I left I didn’t go out, bought no new clothes, no extra indulgences and paid off anything outstanding that would hold me back. Not only did I make the decision to up and go, I worked sodding hard to get there. After working my ass off in London, Tuscany was nothing short of bliss. I cycled up the hill and got to freefall on the way down. There is nothing sweeter than being able to enjoy something you know you’ve earned.
At the end of the summer I had another decision to make. I knew in my heart I couldn’t return to London after time in Tuscany and I knew that what ever I did, it had to be something I loved. So, nearing my 29th birthday I decided that I would move home to the place I grew up. The place I moved away from when I was 18 and the place I had not wanted to live for 11 years.
*Sharp intake of breath
So, I moved back to Rutland. England’s smallest county and more often than not, the one that no one has ever heard of.
Those of you that have visited will be aware of it’s beauty, charm and intimacy, all three being things that I loved about Tuscany and things I wanted to hold onto. You learn, you move on, but always take something with you. Tuscany inspired me and I knew that if I moved back to London that would be lost so I went ahead and made the brave decision to start again and set up my businesses elsewhere.
I hate to state the obvious, but Rutland is not London in any way shape or form and a few inspirational (or) off the wall ideas can often be met with glassy stares. In moments of near poverty and eerie silence I often I’d made the wrong decision. The easy way out would have been to move back to London, reinstate myself in the ‘scene’ and work away in a job I knew would pay. But I didn’t want that.
*Stamps her feet in defiance
Instead I started saying yes to EVERYTHING. Opportunities are out there no matter where you are, as are likeminded people, you just have to find them. I found myself a PA job a couple of days a week to pay the bills. In my spare time I volunteered at a local primary school in order to keep myself motivated and following another volunteer opportunity at local children’s film festival I landed the first of my varied freelance roles in production. People I’d worked with in London called on me for freelance PR and I made sure to mention my camera wherever I went which resulted in intermittent Photography work. I took photos all over Rutland and had them accepted in to the ‘Rutland Photographer of the Year’ book as well as recently having one of my pictures on the front page of ‘Rutland Living’. Some may giggle at the publication but I’m proud of my achievements no matter how small and each and every one of them gives me the confidence to be brave and go on to make more. I’ve since established relationships with two local magazines and I am slowly chipping away at the walls that starting again had formed around me.
When I started photographing weddings it was at the request of a few friends and family and I took on the challenge because I loved them not because I thought it would be the start of a new career path.
It’s strange that I had never really thought of wedding photography before when people are my favourite thing to photograph. I always think back to a quote by Philippe Halsman when I think of my foray in to wedding photography;
“I drifted in to photography like one drifts into prostitution. First I did it to please myself, then I did it to please my friends, and eventually I did it for the money.”
And once I’d handed over that first set of pictures to an overwhelmed and eternally grateful couple, that was it. I. Was. Hooked. This is what I needed to do. In the beginning I relied on word of mouth and having no money for advertising I built things up slowly. When I wasn’t taking pictures I was doing creative work and maintaining a busy and varied life, always giving myself the opportunity for something new to come along, work, contacts or just a conversation.
My advice to anyone who is a little bit lost is simply to take any free time you have and make yourself available to the things that you love. Say yes.
During a bit of lull I was thinking once again about what to do next, how to push things and give myself a boost when the opportunity presented itself to me in the strangest of ways. I decided to enter a modeling competition…in my underwear.
I should inform you that I am in fact 5.5”, a size 14 and a 32H bust size. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t throw myself to the wolves and enter a standard modeling competition that would just be bravery on a silly scale, like doing a bungee jump without the rope. I entered Curvy Kate’s ‘Star in a Bra’ competition which, as a reader of this blog, you will know cater for the bigger busted girl and varied body types. Being an established, popular, healthy and fun brand, it was something I would never object to being a part of. They put women together and encourage support instead of setting them apart and pitting them against each other. I needed a boost and after turning 30, even just taking the photos and hitting submit was the injection of confidence that I needed. If I could overcome my body fears and do this, I could push on and do anything else I thought was difficult too. After nervously pressing the submit button I was insistent the pictures would go no further because there was not a chance in hell of me making the top 30. It was a personal statement of defiance more than a step towards becoming a model and I felt a sense of accomplishment for yet again stepping out of my comfort zone.
To cut a very long story short (and one so many of you already know!) I made it to the top 30 and then I did what I do with everything in life, I worked my ass off. I went on to win the whole god damn thing
*Picks your jaw up from the floor
Being taken to Paris to model underwear was so far from my vocabulary at the beginning of last year that I would have assumed you were talking Greek had you told me. But I did it. And now I’m a part of a brand that has afforded me the most enormous of rewards for all of my brave endeavours.
I can translate everything I’ve learned and every moment of happiness from that experience, in to my life, my business and how I want to run them both. With good relationships, a brave heart and a creative hand. I never imagined I could win but I did and now I imagine the world at my feet.
I’ve learned through all this to have a little faith in myself. I’ve learned that if you don’t try you’ll never know and if you ask, the worst someone can say is no. I’ve learned that rejection is not grounds to give up, nor is it always reason to change. I’ve learned that you can succeed in doing what you love and I am a living, breathing example of that fact. I’ve learned that networking doesn’t have to be done in the most obvious of places and that a friendly conversation changes everything. I’ve also learned that there is always room for improvement, time for fun, space to take a risk and the energy to back it up. I’ve learned to be brave outside my own comfort zone, and that I can now be brave in business. If you believe in what you do then you have the strength to be brave. And if you don’t believe in what you do…do I actually need to point out the problem?
My favourite quote and the one I originally set out to achieve is this;
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing”
~ Benjamin Franklin
I’ve done what I set out to do and the great thing is, I’m nowhere near finished. My one piece of advice to anyone reading this is simply: BE BRAVE & PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE.
What’s the worse that can happen? When half the world has seen you in your undercrackers, the answer from me is ‘not a lot’!
Do It Momma