Nearly 4 years passed since I published my last blog post and decided that blogging isn't really for me. And it's true, blogging probably isn't. Especially not the strange form of it that I was trying to exercise those few years ago. But writing for me and so is sharing photos and telling stories, sharing experiences opinions and inspiration.
Straight and easy is not the only path to success.
I often get asked a seemingly simple question - How long do you do photography? When did you start? Before I spill out the answer I get awkward like a lover with a complicated history of friendship interwoven with sex before love happened. I want to be able to give a simple answer, because the one who's asking, is probably asking out of politeness but the answer to that question is not simple.
How do you define a starting point? Does owning a camera already make you an amateur photographer? Or is it actually the point you start caring? What if you don't even own a camera and you care a lot? What if you have one and don't actually care about quality photos?
Well, as much as I would like my story to be more straightforward, photography wasn't a love from the first sight for me. When I was younger this profession in my head always belonged to the realm of dreams impossible to achieve such as becoming a president or an astronaut. For a very long time even taking breathtakingly beautiful photos seemed to be in that territory as I could not afford a DSLR until I turned 21. I believed that you can take nice photos with a basic compact, but as you can imagine, my aspirations weren't very high. Just as much as having nice profile picture or holiday snapshots. Keep in mind that was way before Instagram era and mainstream smartphone, when everyone who owned one was automatically given a simple tool good enough for an amateur photographer.
I got my camera with the first the money I saved from my first job as a waitress in Italian restaurant in Glasgow in the only in the autumn of 2012. So when I finally started taking photos with a nice camera, shit started happening and the satisfaction of creating good imagery motivated me to learn more and more. Finally, in autumn 2014 I knew enough about photography and had enough confidence in my craft that I dared to believe that one day I could become a professional photographer.
Don't get me wrong, I would be the last person to claim that you can only take good photos with a proper gear. I believe my on an off interest in photography for years before I touched a camera with interchangeable lens has precisely been the reason why I found it easy to control a DSLR. Having only used crappy contacts before forced me to practice composition, as this was the only way I could control the image. Also never underestimate how much photography education happens behind the scenes, when you're not holding your camera or editing photos.
But let's come back to the beginning. Wherever it was. Maybe you can find me help the day when I started being interested in photography.
I am 8 years old and I am going for my first school trip in Solina holiday resort by the lake. My parents give me the family camera with abundance of as many as whole 32 exposures of film. I take photos of trees, flowers, buildings, friends and get scolded by a teacher for getting to close to the edge of dam elevation trying to get a shot o gigantic artificial waterfall. Other offences include climbing a roof of a hostel and scaring other children with stories about ghosts and a snake. After I'm back from the trip and the film gets developed and my parents share their disappointment about the lack of photos of me in front of monuments. I think some of the photos are good but I don't understand why in my artistic shot of a bottle the backgrond isn't blurry and the bottles aren't sharp. But I don't get the chance to touch camera often enough to actually care. This pattern repeats every school trip or summer camp once or twice a year until 2007, when my parents finally give up on film and get bored with their digital compact they got in 2004 and let me play with it.
A wonderful summer of my life. I am 15, listen to unhealthy amounts of punk rock, I dream about becoming a rock star and dress like a seventh child of a janitor that escaped from circus (my father's words). I get invited to spend summer in Toronto to stay with my uncle and his family to practice English. Luckily my uncle is cool, he shares my love for good guitar distortion, takes me to my first music festival, buys me an acoustic guitar and lets me use his hybrid digital camera. This is the first time I discover that actually I am taking some really cool photos, contrary to my parents opinion, and that actually photography could be a nice hobby for me. Nevertheless, I spend way more time "jamming" on my new guitar, having a crush on the boy next door who was teaching me first chords and writing songs. After all I am destined to become a rock star.
2007 - 2008
I finally get to use family digital compact and I use it a lot. As per usual I get blamed for its death in summer 2007. But then the camera gets replaced by a newer model and I continue to share it with my sister. My photos are mainly experimental but no one cares because hello, they are digital. I use photography to enhance my coolness factor on sprouting social media by posting heavily edited photos. By the way this is about the time I discover photoshop, my editing style can be sumarised as a mixture of bw, heavy contrast and saturation occasionally spiced up with selective coloring. I still believe in my future as a rock star.
I read an reportage about street photography in a Saturday cultural issue of national newspaper ("Duży Format" if anyone is interested, but I don't remember the title of the article anyway). The interview with the photographer inspired me to try to document strangers on the streets. I am very scared that people would shout at me, when they notice I am pointing a camera at them. Elderly strangers in small times aren't very friendly to teenager. Stealthily I capture some good shots. I start to frequently carry around the family compact in my bag and take photos of whatever interests me.I start a photoblog under a nickname dazedandconfused, where I publish the more successful of my photos along with my poetry and thoughts. I get old Zenit as a gift for my 18th birthday but the shutter is broken so I only use it on one film and never again. Around about this time I get interested in street fashion. I throw away my converse covered with ink and dirt and I hit second hands in search of quirky and unique outfits. Around about that time I discover lookbook.nu, which back then was full of alternative and second hand wardrobe and an invitation only community for people to share their style across the globe. I also use the blog to sneak in my outfits and receive the invitation to that secret community which would soon blow out into a international fashion phenomenon and hub for professional fashion bloggers. My unshakeable faith in becoming a rock star finally starts to crumble as years of practice on guitar don't show any signs of talent. But not all is lost yet. At the age of 18 I start opening up to music that does not use divine guitars. I start exploring electronic music and discover that maybe there is more to music than guitars. Inspired by newly discovered truths and a solid argument of straight As in hard sciences to win a battle with my parents and apply to all the Audio Technology related degrees at University.
2010 - 2011
I get accepted to study Audio & Video Engineering at University of Glasgow. My degree is a lie and it turns out to be Electronics with a fancy name. I want to quit uni but my parents convince me to stay at least one more year and eventually I stay till the end. Thankfully, I discover Subcity Radio. I become part of technical team and start my own radio show about trip-hop. I try DJing a bit but nothing I create seems cool, so I never share it with anyone. I meet a lot of talented musicians and DJs during my time in a radio station but not many close friends. Maybe I just don't have what it takes. During that time, I completely stop taking photos.
University workload becomes so heavy I temporarily stop my involvement with Subcity Radio. Temporarily eventually becomes forever. My interest in photography is limited to collecting pretty pictures on Pinterest and running a bohemian tumblr.
Third year starts and finally I get that one course that I thought entire degree was supposed to be about - Audio & Video team project. I get to direct one short documentary and become a director of photography of a short fiction film. I get involved with side projects and assisting one of my professors, Bernd Porr, who apart from being a researcher is also an independent filmmaker. He's a living proof that when creativity meets science great things happen. He becomes my role model till the end of my degree and inspires to learn more about cameras. I finally start believing that maybe all the things that I'm good at will eventually come together with things that I love. I finally get that damn first job waiting tables and save some extra money. I buy Canon 550D with intention of shooting my own films but the degree is so intense in the third year that I barely get to use it. I only take photos at occasional parties. I start playing with photoshop again, nothing better for hangover than photoediting. I am adding zits on faces of people who annoy me.
I buy an m42 adapter and mount the old Helios lens from the broken Zenit. The magic begins. All the photos start looking the way imagine. I get more and more hyped and I start taking my camera everywhere. My friends get annoyed but eventually they get used to it. After all no one makes them such cool profile pictures on Facebook.
Me and my camera become inseparable. I start identifying as a photographer and become an active member of Flickr community. In the summer I travel and extensively document my journey with photographs.
I start a graduate job as a software engineer working on Video Encoder Team. I move to Watford alone to start an adult life and earn some money. I don't know what to do with my life so it makes sense to accept an offer after my summer placement in 2013. I leave my boyfriend and all my friends behind in Glasgow, needless to say, the transition from freedom of University to a full-time job in a company full of geeks in a small town is rather painful. Photography and frequent visits to London keep me sane. I need hope that things will get better because frankly I can't see myself living like this until retirement. I am clueless about what to do with my life, so I choose photography, as this is one thing that I love and I am really good at. On a dark rainy night November 2014 I decide to pursue photography as a profession.
A very active year. I build my first portfolio, launch a website and socialmediaplatforms. I start blogging and collaborating with other creatives. I am still not entirely sure what direction in photography to choose. I contemplate on wedding and reportage photography but as I crave more and more creative control over my work, I start drifting towards portrait and fashion photography. I move to London but I am still working at my day job.
"When routine bites hard and ambitions are low and resentment rides high but emotions won't grow." My unrealistic expectations about how fast I can build a career as a photographer finally get confronted with reality. I get frustrated with the quality of my work and lack of progress and I feel clueless about my actions and their results. I experience a major creative crisis and a breakdown in general. I take 2 month break from photography and nourish my tortured soul with chocolate, wine and therapy.
May 2016 - now
I am back in a game, but this time I am going slow and steady. It does not matter how long will it take me or whether I will ever get there as long as I get to create some beautiful photography on the way. However, to my surprise, my effort finally start bringing results, first freelance jobs, first publications and more interest with collaborators.
One of my new years resolution was to keep publishing regularly on the blog. It's a few weeks into January and I am already failing. In my defense, I was moving flats. As usual I underestimated efforts it required despite my best intentions to downsize my belongings. Once I settle down, in a week or two, I am hoping to bring my posting rhythm down.
Several days ago, before we started moving out from Shepherd's Bush, I figured out that most likely I won't have many opportunities to explore this location photographically in the near future. My life happens too fast and I run for too much, sometimes I leave places without having a chance to look back. Unless, of course, I meet some cool people keen on photographic collaboration in that part of London. Shoot me an e-mail 🙂 So I decided to go for one last walk around the area with my tripod and a camera.
Shepherd's Bush is a weird neighbourhood, full of dissonances and contrasts. It will stay imprinted on my skin, in the story of my life forever. At the beginning of October we lost our Kentish Town flat after just over a month of living there. This is how our nomad life in London began. This city is beautiful and dazzling and over 8 million people want to be here as much as we do. There are many dishonest crooks her that don't hesitate to take advantage of. This is yet another way in which London resembles a beautiful, exploding with life but wild and dangerous urban jungle.
We had a couple of days to find a new place and in desperation we decided to rent a tiny, shabby, overpriced room above an abandoned pub Duke of Edinburgh. Three months ago with a shaking hand I signed the contract knowing I will regret this decision. After I left the letting agency I burst out into tears. I will not be getting into details about what went wrong and why living in that place has left us so emotionally distressed. After days of searching with an eviction notice hanging over our dishonest landlady we realized that early autumn is a season of high demand in the estate market and we will not find anything good within our budget in such a short time. I knew whatever decision we would make, it would be a wrong one. But we didn't want to end up on the street, so some decision had to be made. If we had to live somewhere crappy, let it be at least well located.
There is nothing wrong with Shepherd's Bush itself. It's a place that served us a shelter in the tough times. A place that motivated me to work harder, partly because I didn't want to spend much time there. Flats there are probably one of the best deals in West London when it comes to transport links and flat prices. Our horror house was just 3 minutes away from the Central Line, Overground and my train to work. From our window we could see the busy Shepherd's Bush roundabout, bustling with life shops and people rushing to work into the underground. Westfield ahead of us and Holland Park behind us. On one side of the road busy junctions and 24/7 shops stocked with anything you can imagine. On the other side quiet streets with white picket fences and beautiful doors and windows you could see on the photos. On the border with Kensington some of the houses in the neighbourhood were a marvellous sophisticated. I am sure there are plenty of affordable and gorgeous flats around there. Unfortunately our wasn't one of them. If it was, who knows, maybe despite my love for North London we would have stayed there for good.
As promised before I decided to show my face on this blog more often and some photos here was my first proper experiment with remote and tripod friends. Once again a portion of doors and windows for you, this time in Shepherd's Bush, which I am leaving with relief. Let these photos be the only thing that will be the only memory left after my time in Shepherd's Bush, after the years pass, wounds heal and I am a stronger and wiser person.
Today I will share with you my plans for 2016. Start of the year is a good opportunity to rethink your strategy and clarify the things that will bring you closer to your dreams coming true. I am deliberately not talking about resolutions because I think they imply some form of enforcement and change. As if you’re not good enough at who you are. Last year has been a wonderful time of growth for me and I have come to understanding that you are not becoming the person who you want to be by enforcement but by love. Cherish your values and pursue projects that reflect them. Even small steps will bring you closer to where you want to be than self-loathing and bullying yourself for being this or that way or not being cool enough.
I will share with you 11 plans for 2016 and the 12th one will keep secret for myself. 12 goals for 12 months, so that it’s easier to portion my workload and fully concentrate on one of the objectives each month. They are not in any particular order of priority but keep your fingers crossed for me!
Learn more about the business side of photography. 2015 was all about building a portfolio, blog and social media. Right now it’s crucial for me to understand the business side of photography, how to market it and seal the deal with potential customers.
This brings me to a goal number 3. – Make it easier for my potential customers to reach out for me. Soon you will be able to easily find on my website how to book a portrait session, what can you expect from the shoot and what are the prices.
Include longer and more in-depth articles on the blog about photography techniques, creativity and inspirations. Many of you have been asking me about an advice in these areas, so why not sit down and write it down nicely and clearly for all of you.
Redesign my website to be able to feature more versatile content without compromising the photography. You would be surprised how difficult it is to find an ideal WordPress layout when you have a very precise requirements. I would like my layout to be as good for photography as the current one. The main thing that discourages me from the layouts I frequently come across is that you have to scroll so much, especially when featuring photography in portrait orientation.
I would like to collaborate even more this year. I always wanted to write stories about inspiring people. I would like to support emerging talents and people who independently pursuit their dreams in the new Nation of Dreamers cycle of posts.
I am much more comfortable behind the camera than in front it. In the beginning of my photography days I was much more brave to experiment with some forms of self portraiture. I would like to devote some time to it this year too! Also I really like the blogs where you can get to know the person, who is behind all that texts, so I think it would be a good thing to show my face on my own blog every now and again too.
I have managed to establish a small presence in social media but it’s mechanics are still a mystery to me. This year I would like to strengthen my social media presence and discover new territories of the Internet promotion.
Start regularly submitting my editorial work to magazines. It has been at the back of my mind for entire year and I did have a go at submitting some of my photos but to really break through in the publishing world, you need to be very consistent. I would like to make it a habit to be proactive about having my photos published.
Take care of my health. Full time job, one hour commute each way every day, photography, blogging, coding, designing, networking, my head is exploding every day with thousands of ideas that I want to do. These things eat up most of my time and almost completely pushed out procrastination and all the other things from my life. Sadly this has taken it’s toll on my healthy lifestyle habits and every now and again they drag me to the corner of stress and sleep deprivation. This year, I would like to find time to regularly take care of my body, because in healthy body the healthy spirit lives.
I am learning a lot of theory about user experience an interaction design lately. I am fluent in Photoshop and have taught myself Illustrator and InDesign. Sadly, I have not sat down and design any interface myself yet. In 2016 to overcome my fear that I am not ready to build a graphic design portfolio, I will challenge myself to complete 100 UI Days Challenge.
As I mentioned above the last one is a secret that I will share with you once it comes true! In the meantime to keep the list complete, I would just substitute it with a plan to keep writing the blog. I had a hard time initially with writing regularly but I seem to have caught a momentum. Let it stay that way.
I would like to wish you all the best with your plans for 2016! Let them all come true.
The photos illustrating this post were taken on the last day of 2015. It was a lovely walk around Shepherds Bush, London, right before the nightfall. As usually the photos of me were taken by Ivan.
2015 has been a great year. It’s been hard, I admit, but I can’t say I regret any minute of it. It was a year of hard work and action. I challenged myself in a paradigm shift and change of my philosophy. This was also a year, in which I fully and boldly went for a run to chase my dreams. I am happy and proud of myself for a year of consistent work and not giving up.
In 2015 I completed a Graphic Design Course for the beginners at Central Saint Martins and build a photography portfolio. I soon started blogging, something that I always wanted to do. I photographed 3 gigs, did 21 photoshoots and published 26 posts. I challenged my shyness, approached and befriended many wonderful people.
I learned a great deal about social media, networking and branding. I gathered a lot of theoretical knowledge about design and skilled up in using Adobe Creative Suite.
I daresay that in 2015 I have done more towards achieving my dreams than throughout my entire 4 years of university. Everything started with admitting in front of myself that what I like, is really what I would want to do with my life.
I would like to thank all my fantastic friends and family. The close ones and the ones I haven’t seen for years, thank you for all the support you gave me!
Let the next year be even more productive and fruitful than this one! I am wishing you all in 2016 to go after your dreams! Happy New Year!
I graduated university one year ago. I remember how confusing and overwhelming that period of my life was. I am not going to lie, this one year after graduation was probably the hardest one in my life but I am not writing the post to freak you out even more. Quite the opposite. I remember desperately searching through the Internet looking for popculture pieces picturing the struggles of recent graduates, searching for blog posts about graduating university and friendly souls that could understand. I felt completely alone, because it seemed as if all of my friends were either still in University living completely different problems and summing up all my troubles with a sentence 'at least you have a job', or older, so my problems have been long behind them.
For the first time becoming 100% financially independent from my parents I managed to appreciate some things my parents did for me while trying to bring me up and became more compassionate towards their negligence of ideals in favor of just having a peace of mind. However, even if I can understand it better now, I still can't bear to sign up for it myself.
Floating between the land of monsters and all-nighters recompansated with a bitter-sweet careless emotional rollercoaster of freedom and fear with the mountains of adulthood and full time jobs on the horizon.
Take a deep breath and dive into the deep waters of your life. There are going to be hard days ahead of you but as they say a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. Open your sails, this is just the beginning and the whole world is there at your feet.
I have prepared a handful of tips for you to remember, whenever you get confused and upset.
1. Don't be afraid of failures.
Nothing is graded in real life anymore and your failure won't matter to anyone. What's the worst that could happen if you fail an interview, miss a perfect flat or screw up an application? You are going to have an evening with ice-cream, tears and Bridget Jones and next day you are going to get up and try again. That leads me to another point.
2. We are living in the world of opportunities, and this sea is full of fish, so go out on a hunt and try to catch a next one.
Making your dream come true at the first go is nothing more than luck. Making your dream come true after battling a series of obstacles and sea monsters is a skill. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger and in the real world you actually get the chance to learn from the mistakes and correct them with more attempts than just a mere resit exam.
3. In 6 months no one will care if you did or did not nail that First Class degree.
Even you are not going to care yourself. What will become important is how much you actually learned from your university times and degree and what lessons you derived from your mistakes.
4. You are not going to be the best anymore, so give yourself a slug.
It's important to keep your aspirations high, especially if this is what keeps you going but most likely you will be working alongside people with as many years of experience as you are walking on this earth in total. None of your grades can compete with that, so learn as much as you can but give yourself time. Don't try to rush things that require time to grow. If you concentrate on your aims and devote yourself to your projects, you won't even realize when things once difficult became easy.
5. Do not listen to the rules of the old world.
Do your own research. The job market of start-ups and freelance opportunities is expanding and by the time you are going to have an established position on the world of work, these things are going to be even more ubiquitous. So if you fear corporate life and you are afraid that if you don't do everything by the book you are going to be a lifetime looser, I am telling you once again - these are the rules of the old world - you can obey them as long as the old generation is in charge. This will not last in eternity though, they are at the front steps of retirement and at their footsteps there are young people, willing to introduce the order of our generation. Make their own rules. If you fear selling out for a corporate life while you're dreaming about faraway lands, use this time to save up money for your dreams and learning from people wiser than you. It won't hurt to be smarter when you finally feel ready to set your sails for your dreams.
6. Live like there's no tomorrow, dream like you live forever.
During my degree, I always postponed learning new things that interested me and all the things I wanted to try for 'the day I will have more time'. I was naive to think that after graduating, when the coursework will not be my priority anymore, I will have sea of time after 5pm and tons of energy for all the hobbies in the world. That reality turned out to be quite the opposite and I faced constant lack of time and tiredness. However, it made me realize, that if I want to do all these things I have to start now, because 'the day I will have more time' doesn't exist, so if I want to make all these thing happen, I need to go out and get them. As busy as my degree was, I still could have devoted some spare time to work towards my passions but I couldn't motivate myself to do it. Surprisingly, it was the lack of time that was a kick strong enough to make me do it. You won't run away from the impression that you don't have enough time, so if we agree on that matter, ask yourself a question - what do you value more - your dreams or shenanigans on Facebook and reddit?
7. Every cloud has a silver lining.
Sometimes life puts you in a situation when you have no other choice than learning new things that are very contrary to your nature. As hard as it may be, you are going to learn new things and you are going to come out smarter out of this thing. I learned how to become organized, something I thought is impossible and I am completely doomed to failure with all my attempts to master it. It's incredible what a human being can learn, when put in a situation when there is no other way out. Who knows what new skills the future is going to bring your life? Maybe you always had problem with improvisation? Or maybe you are unable to work under pressure? Most likely you will be exposed to these things whether you like it or not and yes, it's going to be terrifying, but there's a limited amount of stress we can stand before we learn how to deal with things.
These are 7 golden tips I thought of, that are going to help you with this confusing period of time, but I could probably go on like that for ages! I hope I managed to fill you up with a good vibe about your upcoming independence and I am here to answer as well as I can. Let me know, what are your thoughts on upcoming graduation. I feel this topic might reoccur here on the blog as I strongly identify with the young and the confused but in the end I want to leave you with my recent motto "We are going to be tired, but it's going to be worth it."