It has been one helluva year for me personally, and a roller coaster of a year for my work. As many of you know, I recently relocated to Italy with my (brand new!) husband, leaving my fantastic job as a staff photographer at a small daily newspaper in one amazing Virginia community. It was so, so hard to leave Staunton, and it was hard to leave the certainty of the paper, especially directly after getting so much recognition for the stories we had worked so hard doing for the past year, like our incredible reception at the Virginia Press Association awards with Best in Show for Norah's story. Looking back at my photos at the paper for the first five months of this year, though — man, I was shooting real shit. I was in a really weird place personally, as Tyler and I had no idea where we were moving or what was next for us. But also, I think I was just really tired of the newspaper game. I was tired of the pressures Gannett was putting on us for video, especially after we had done such amazing work. It never seemed like it was enough for the publishing company, though my paper was always incredibly supportive and my amazing boss, Mike Tripp, always had my back when the workload was getting too rough. Only one picture here was actually shot on assignment for the paper — everything else was from work I did on the side in Staunton, or after I left the paper.
Now that I'm finally settled in Italy, it's been hard finding myself as a photographer again. I'm not allowed to work or earn an income in Italy, unless it's on the base, due to some restrictions put on military families here, so freelancing within the country is a bust (though I can still work in surrounding countries and hope to at some point). The language barrier is also tough — though I've lived abroad before, in Denmark, English-speakers were plentiful there and here they are not. I'm hoping that it will become easier over time, as I feel more comfortable with the customs here and also remember not to be scared of making a fool of myself for doing a poor imitation of a foreign language I do not speak.
So, I've been feeling kind of confused lately. I've been mad at the situation I've been put in creatively. But after looking back at my work from the newspaper from the beginning of the year — I don't feel so bad about this past year's work anymore. I wasn't happy doing daily work, and that's so apparent in my images. The images that are on this blog — and there aren't that many good ones, but there are a few I do like — they were shot when I was happy and felt free to do what I wanted to do. And even though I did like my work at the paper, I don't think it could've sustained itself for much longer than I did.
I'm not super proud of my last year of images. But I also realize that one rough year does not a photographer make, and I need to remind myself to give myself a break sometimes, especially when I was in such a complicated place emotionally. It is frustrating, now — not knowing what's next, not being able to pursue what I really want to pursue. But, I also realize that I have literally achieved everything I wanted to achieve since I was, like, 15. Every goal I have set out to do, I did — I went to an amazing journalism school, I had a great experience studying abroad there, I was fortunate to have some rewarding experiences at fantastic papers through internships, and I landed a job at a really great daily community paper, which was always my dream.
So, if the powers that be need to throw a wrench in my perfectly-planned life and laugh at my 10-year plan, well, maybe that's for the best. I've always been a planner — I've always been goal-oriented. But this past year has really messed with that part of me, especially when it comes to being a part of a military family. And it's taught me a lot about myself — namely that I don't like to be uncomfortable. And I think, maybe, if I'm uncomfortable for a little bit — if I'm thrown out of my comfort zone, if I'm shook up — maybe it will make me a stronger photographer, and most important, a stronger person, in the end.
And I'm exaggerating when I make this year sound like a shit show. It totally hasn't been. I've talked countless times about how thankful I am to finally be with my partner, Tyler, after many years of long distance. Plus, I got to spend the summer with my seriously great family, which I was so grateful to be able to do before moving abroad. But I was also super fortunate to attend the incredibly prestigious Eddie Adams Workshop in October. And shortly after that, I launched a lifestyles blog with my best friend, Theresa Berens, called Freckle & Fair — a venture that we've literally talked about doing for three years and finally, because I had plenty of time on my hands, were able to do. And I'm having a blast pushing boundaries with her and just doing whatever we want to do.
I know nothing about what the next year holds. I think most of it will be spent in Italy, and I hope that a lot of it will be spent with Tyler, though the military will determine what of that will be true. I hope I take lots of pictures, but I do not know if they will be photojournalistic or food styling or travel photography or street photography. Hell, maybe I'll even get comfortable with portraiture for once.
I do know that thinking I know what the next year holds is laughable, but also that if I don't get off my butt and make happiness for myself, no one else is going to do it for me. And also that if I keep worrying about what other people think of what I'm doing, I will definitely not find happiness. So, here's a pledge of allegiance to the struggle — the struggle of creative types to figuring out what it is they want to do. And also a big ol' thank you to the universe for giving me the freedom and time to explore whatever the hell that might be.