So, last month was our annual AIPP Qld Professional Photography Awards (QPPA). Some of you may remember that I have enjoyed having great success entering awards since I joined the AIPP back in 2011. I was so excited, and so drawn into the process when I first began the journey. It meant so much to be validated, to know that I was on the right track with my work. Having been self-taught and working autonomously through-out my entire photography career, I never really did know whether I was “up to par” with my skill set and the level of work that I was producing.
I entered QPPA for the first time in 2011, and I was instantly hooked. I entered the AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPA) for the first time that year too, and was so excited by my achievements (1 x Silver Awards and 2 x Silver Awards with Distinction), I instantly decided that I wanted to keep pushing the bar higher, in pursuit of that elusive Gold award. I set myself the goal of achieving my Master of Photography status, and in winning a category title. I convinced myself that to achieve these goals would give me grand exposure, increase my income and client enquiries and give me added credibility for the loyal client base that I already had.
Fast forward 4 years, and to date, I have won the following awards for my work at both state and national level:
20 x Silver Awards
6 x Silver With Distinction Awards
2 x Gold Awards
Runner Up Qld Professional Family Photographer Of The Year 2012
Top 3 Finalist Qld Professional Family Photographer Of The Year 2013 (they no longer have a “runner up”)
4 x Silver Awards
Highest Scoring Print Family Category 2013
I have also entered a variety of other national and international awards/competitions with varied success.
So yeah, this looks like a pretty good haul for 4 years worth of award entries, I hear you say. And it is. I am proud of what I have achieved in those few years, and yet, it is bittersweet for me.
I have all of these awards and that is all well and good, but I ask myself, what has it actually done to benefit me, my business and my family? Time and energy and emotional considerations aside, I have spent literally thousands of dollars on printing, matting, entry fees and the like over the past few years, and can I sit here and say that this money has been a wise investment? Has this money translated to huge exposure, to a massive increase in enquiries and bookings and income? No. Not one bit.
In fact, over the years, I have had regular comments from clients along the lines of “Now that you are this famous photographer, I will never be able to afford you”, “I didn’t bother trying to asking you as I just knew you’d be completely booked out now that you have all of these awards”, “Now that you are at the top of your game, you don’t need us anymore”, and my personal “”favourite”, “I know you are winning all of these awards, so you wouldn’t care about little clients like us anymore”. Wrong.
What began as a quest for validation, has turned into a journey of self-absorption, ego, and obsessive comparison with other photographers who are achieving the titles that I dreamed of. I kept telling myself, over and over, that “I just want to win one title, so that I can own one trophy in my life to show my kids and make them proud”. But the truth is, in pursuit of this, I was ignoring my kids, my family responsibilities and my friends. I was constantly torturing myself and being self-loathing for not achieving the goals I had set. I was always putting myself under pressure to find that next level of creativity and feeling disappointed with myself when I felt that I couldn’t. I was constantly feeling bitter at other photographers who seemed to have the Midas touch and won every single thing that they entered, and bitter at myself for not being good enough to do the same. I was constantly blaming the flawed awards system for my own failings. “They just don’t understand my style”, “My work is too colourful and happy to win”, “That judge shouldn’t be on that panel”.
I was being completely self-indulgent and so overly critical that I was destroying my very soul.
Sure, my work was at a level that I never thought it would be, and I was kicking goals that I had only dreamed of years ago, but with each achievement came disappointment that I was still not quite “there”. I had achieved that “Gold” that I wanted very early on, and also my Master of Photography, and yet, that coveted title of winning a category continued to be out of my reach. “Why can’t I just win, just once?” “For once in my life, why can’t I just be the best at something?” “I need to prove to people that I am not just a one hit wonder” “I need the prize money” “I need the credibility for my clients/business”.
What a load of bullshit.
What I need is a business that provides my children with a secure form of income. What I need is to provide amazing images and a beautiful experience for every single one of my clients. What I need is for my kids to say “we have the best mum in the world”, not “our mum is the best photographer in the world”.
The buck stops here.
From here on in, there will be no more. No more self indulgence. No more comparison. No more obsession to win. The emotional, and financial burdens are just too much for me and my family to carry.
I am a mother of 5 beautiful, amazing, unique little individuals who are growing into wonderful people (and almost adults!). I am a lover of colour, whimsy, happiness. I am Tanya Love, photographer, whose heart bursts every single time she looks through a camera and sees a beautiful little soul staring back at her. I am a crazy, cliche “tortured artist” who is her own toughest critic and constantly second guesses her abilities in everything she does. I am Tan, the hardest working idiot I know, who is in the constant pursuit of perfection often to her own demise, but from now on, I will embrace these things, rather than chide myself because of them.
I may enter the odd awards or competition in future. But not at the level that I have done in the past. I will no longer make sacrifices to enter awards. I can’t say that I am going to go cold turkey, but I will say this; I will be putting the same amount of energy, and love, and effort that I have been putting into awards these past years, back to my family, my clients and some very special personal projects that I am planning. And for this, I will be a changed person, and I can only hope that this will be obvious in the work that I produce as a result.
Here are my award entries from last month’s QPPA, which achieved a total of 7 silver awards and 1 79 (you need at least an 80 to be awarded). I love each and every one of these images, and the beautiful people that are in them – each with their individual stories, personalities and nuances. And that is all that matters. That is worth so much more than any number on a piece of paper, or certificate can give me. I will never ever forget that again. I will never ever chastise myself because I didn’t achieve a gold award on something I put my heart and soul into, because what I get back from my clients and my family looking at these images and remembering the processes to create them, is worth so, so much more.
And for those who are looking to enter awards themselves, best of luck with it, I hope you achieve everything that you set out to do. Please know that I wish everybody well in their journey, and that just because I found myself feeling like this, doesn’t mean that it will be the same for everyone. We all have a different path to follow and goals to reach, and that is what makes us all individuals and makes our art such a subjective and personal thing. xx
Just before Christmas, I was contacted by a lovely lady with an enquiry about a newborn/family shoot. She was expecting baby #5, and it was going to be a lovely celebration!
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I thought of their family again with an idea that I wanted to shoot for this past weekend’s AIPP Qld Epson Professional Photography Awards. I contacted Abbey to discuss my idea. She loved it, however, upon driving past the location I had in mind, I realised that the gorgeous purple bougainvillea that I needed for my concept, had dropped all of it’s flowers!
However, something Abbey had mentioned during our conversations, resonated with me, and I my gut instinct told me that it was an important thing to do.
You see, Abbey, and many of her family members are carriers of the BRCA1 genetic mutation, which puts her at a very high risk of developing breast cancer. Abbey made the very brave decision to have a double mastectomy to protect her future and to ensure that her beautiful family would always have a mum, safe from the terrible disease.
With many of her family members having developed the disease, it was a very real possibility that Abbey would too, and in years to come, it will affect her daughters and their future generations in the same way. They will all need to be continued to be tested for the gene, until the mutation is no longer present.
Abbey went through with the surgery a few years ago, and underwent a successful breast reconstruction too. However, she has since welcomed 2 more beautiful babes into her family. Even though she faced the disease head on, it was not without it’s challenges and her two younger babies were not able to be breastfed. Having known the beauty and bonding of breastfeeding with her older 3 children and the health benefits it also has, Abbey has struggled with guilt and many other emotions for her youngest two.
Our final image is a beautiful celebration of the strength that Abbey has and her openness and honesty with dealing with the challenges that BRCA1 has forced upon her and her family. Her eldest daughters support her on each side, knowing that one day they will be faced with the same challenges. The pink tones of the image pay homage to the The Pink Ribbon campaign to raise funds for Breast Cancer research, as is the pink ribbon that Abbey wears over her bandages.
Her 5 week old baby daughter, is being lovingly bottle fed, by the beautiful, brave woman, who brought her into the world.
Unlike many breast cancer images, I chose to make this one beautiful, and colourful, just as Abbey and her family are.
This image scored a silver award yesterday at the 2015 AIPP Qld Epson Professional Photography Awards. This is a great validation for Abbey and her family, that her message is as wonderful as she is. Thank-you to Abbey for being so willing to share your story to support the journey that other BRCA1 carriers face, and for trusting me to be able to tell it for you.
You can show your support to Abbey and others just like her, by visiting the National Breast Cancer Foundation and making a donation toward further research.
Last week amidst 5 days straight of rain and dark days, I planned on doing a shoot on the beach for a lovely colleague of mine, Natalie Bailey from Natalie Bailey Photography. Natalie and her gorgeous family were here holidaying in Queensland, all the way from Lithgow, NSW. Keeping in mind the preceeding wet/stormy weather, we decided to do some Gold Coast family portraits on the beach to take advantage of the dramatic skies/dark clouds.
I planned the shoot, and arrived early so we wouldn’t have to rush. I figured that as it was raining/overcast anyways, we could begin shooting in the early afternoon rather than waiting around for the “Golden Hour” as we normally would.
However, as I drove from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, it occurred to me that the clouds seemed to be clearing. I could, for the first time in days, see the sun peeking out on the horizon. Nat had assured me that it had been non-stop dark clouds and rain all morning and I was fully prepared for that, but sunshine would definitely put the plan into a tailspin!
By the time I arrived at Burleigh Heads, of course, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! It was completely clear, sun beaming down, and all plans of our dramatic/stormy shoot concept were out the window!
Mother nature sure likes to keep us on our toes as a photographer in Queensland during the summer!
And so, here are the resulting images from our Gold Coast family portrait session together. MUCH different from what we initially envisaged, but beautiful all the same.
Just how *stunning* is this family?!?
Very special thanks to Nat and family as I brought my own kids along to this session for a frolic in the ocean (something they rarely get to do), and this proved to be quite challenging in the rough surf that day. They were so kind to allow me to do this, and I really do appreciate them being so welcoming and kind to them.
Well, 2014 has been a tough year emotionally for me and my family. We have had lots of ups and downs, and more downs than ups. However, as they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I am so lucky to have had the support of my clients to bolster us and help get us through.
As always, my work has evolved and I am really enjoying the focus that I have at the moment surrounding Brisbane birth photography. It never ceases to amaze me how my work changes and evolves, and the different directions that I find myself taking. However, for the past couple of years, I have been able to feel myself drawn more and more toward capturing the emotion of birth and in 2015, I definitely see my energies continuing in the same direction.
To me, birth photography is such a sacred thing, that I just never seem to tire of it. It is always such a rush when I get that call with an excited Dad on the end of the line saying “Tan, it’s time!”.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your loyalty and support and I just can’t wait to watch your families grow through 2015. I have had such a wonderful time with my clients this year, particularly with the honour of having been present to record so many of your little ones as they have joined us Earthside.
Together with the Earthside Collective, I have lots of projects in the works for 2015 and it is going to be great! So onwards and upwards my friends, and thank-you again, from my family to yours.
And here is a little window into what it is like to be me.
As a Brisbane birth photographer, it is not often that one gets to act as both support person and photographer during a birth. But when little Tasi entered the world on 27 September 2014, I got to experience this first hand.
Usually at the births that I attend, I respect the birthing space that the labouring mumma has created and go to great lengths to remain in the background, taking a very “stealthy” approach. I try to capture and document the emotion, and feel it myself, but don’t “participate” in what is one of the most sacred and precious moment that a family will ever experience together. However, little Tasi’s birth was different. Tasi’s mum is my sister-in-law, who is from Samoa and who doesn’t have a lot of family here in Australia. She invited me into her birthing space, along side of her mum, and her aunty, and as Tasi entered the world at the RBH Birth Centre, he was surrounded by so much love and feminine energy!
It was lovely to be more hands on than usual, and it really gave me some great insight into the support that midwives and doulas provide during the birth process. Knowing that I have given birth 5 times myself, in facilities much different to the traditional hospitals her mum and aunty had birthed their own children in back in the 70s, Audrey looked to me for support too.
I think we made a great team, and I must say that I am the best ice getterer ever! I was always making sure that she always had a fresh cube to suck on between back rubs, motivational pep talks, and actually taking photos too! Of course, as I was the photographer, I am not in any of the photos myself, so lets just call me the “ghost doula”.
Here is a selection of my favourite images as Audrey prepared to welcome the little man earthside who would make her a mummy for the very first time.