Rainbow, Somewhere in Scotland, 2001 © Emily Shur
This weekend marks the end of summer and what most people in our industry tend to think of as the start of a new season in business-land. The past couple weeks have been the typical up and down roller coaster of emotions regarding work…excitement, disappointment, excitement, disappointment. At this point, I can honestly say that I am almost too familiar with those two extremes and somewhat numb to both. Sometimes I think about what would have happened in my life had I not been able to take a risk in my early twenties and attempt to become a photographer. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I never left New York. Well, I would not be married to my husband. I would not live in this house or be dog-mommy to The Baroness. I wouldn’t have made the friends I’ve made here. I also may not have had such tumultuous recent years, professionally speaking, if I had just stayed in one place and continue to build a career. Then again, it might have been lackluster either way due to the economy and who knows what else. If my career had not been so disappointing at the time, I may not have put so much energy into my personal work which, in my opinion, has been the best thing to happen to my photography in the last five years or so.
Last week I photographed filmmaker Davis Guggenheim and had a really nice talk with him during the shoot. One thing that stood out to me was his acknowledgement of learning the most during the really, really low points in his career. I agreed with him wholeheartedly. As unpleasant as the bad times are, there would be no growth or change without them. When else are you forced to really look at yourself, your path, your decisions, and what could be possible? When everything is awesome, you’re just floating. When you’re stuck, you have to make a conscious effort to get un-stuck. It’s not fun, but I think it’s important.
Things have definitely been way better this year work-wise. They aren’t perfect, and I’m assuming they never will be, but I think having a couple of shitty years actually really helped me. Humility is an extremely underrated virtue. I read a lot of blogs and tweets and Facebook updates about what people are up to, how busy they are, what shoot they just wrapped, where they’re traveling, etc. Hey, I’ve done these things, too…I do it all the time (I think I just did it in the paragraph above this one). However, I think it’s refreshing when I read or hear something truly honest and not just a series of typed and/or audible high fives.
I’m writing this post with someone in mind, and I want nothing more than for this person to get past the shitty time they are having with work. There’s only so much an outsider can do other than be supportive, but I do feel like there is value in misery. For one, when you’ve been miserable you really appreciate when you are no longer miserable, and two, you are forced to make your situation better. And then you do. And then it is.