Hi everyone. What’s up? Look, I’m holding a camera. That means I’m still a photographer.
As many of you know, I haven’t been shooting nearly as much as I used to. I got burned out and disenchanted with the medium as a career, which is what made me take a step back and re-examine what I’m really passionate about. That led to my slow and steady “re-branding” of myself that’s been going on for the last several months, flying my geek flag high and proud with YouTube videos, starting the Mana Pau Hana podcast, etc… – and to the drastic reduction in photographs I was making. I think I honestly got bored with trying to take the same old Hawaii landscape photos that would keep my audience happy, and the problem with having cultivated a specific niche audience is that they don’t respond well to me mixing it up.
Even when I was regularly shooting bikinis, my sunsets and rainbows always got more traction on social media…which is fine, people will like what they like. However, I think that I let myself feel trapped and frustrated by that, because let’s be honest – I wasn’t only shooting for myself, I was shooting to build a name for myself and cultivate an audience. Just about all of the income I’ve ever made as a photographer has been a result of networking through social media, so as much as people like to scoff and say social media is stupid…well…it does matter in my life.
I still have so many talented and amazing photographer friends around the world who travel to the coolest places, but I’d lost the drive that they all share to go outside and be at the right place and right time to create something spectacular. In fact, the only times I really wanted to go out and shoot was when I was traveling and exploring a new place.
Unfortunately, because I’ve been investing so much time and money into building my new business of being a “professional geek”, I’m left without the funds for travel, and so I began posting much less to Instagram, and have watched friends and followers leaving in droves. I can’t blame them though – why should they follow someone who posts geeky cosplay photos and paintings that they don’t care about when they came for the landscapes? I need to find an audience who likes me for who I truly am.
But then, after more firmly integrating myself into the cosplay community during this past year, I have come to the realization of what direction I am going to pivot my photography in. I’ve known of famous viral photographer Benjamin Von Wong for years now, and have been lucky enough to call him an internet friend, and he’s been a major inspiration for me to take my cosplay photography to the next level. The way he crafts his images, by designing costumes and creative special effects in any location, ranging from a simple studio to a freaking underwater shipwreck, is something I’ve always avoided due to what is honestly my innate laziness, but it’s time for me to step up and take my work seriously.
My husband Ed has also been telling me for ages now that I needed to combine my photography with my illustration and painting skills, so I’ve finally started doing so.
Not the highest professional quality, but a definite turning-point for me.
I have a long way to go and a whole new category of skills to develop, but I’m finally feeling excited and inspired by photography again. I’ll probably still shoot landscapes, but only when I feel like it, rather than feeling a pressure to perform as a landscape photographer.
When I’ve been asked what I’m passionate about, I’ve always had a hard time answering. Sure, I love pretty images. I love paintings, I love beautiful movies and video games, and I love gorgeous photographs. But if I dig deep within myself, I think the two things I’m passionate about is stories and entertaining people. And when I say stories, I don’t even mean just me telling stories, but I love to experience stories, and I get really excited about how a single moment or symbol can be a million times more powerful with the emotional weight of a known story behind it. Allegorical symbols in artwork have always been like crack for me, but now I can recognize my passion and begin incorporating it into my artwork.
As far as entertaining people goes – yes, that means I am passionate about growing and cultivating my online audience, because I am the type of artist who sees my work as a performance, and I want people to love that. I’ve never been the type of artist who does art for art’s sake, for myself, to express my inner thoughts and feelings. I want to ignite that spark of interest and joy in people who view my work.
And so, this whole spiel has been a result of me realizing today is World Photo Day. I’ve actually been saying to people that if photography and I are in a relationship, we’ve been on a break, and it’s been a little heartbreaking, but we needed the space. However, now I can say that we’ve restructured our relationship, and are back together, ready to show the world what we’re made of!
So what can you expect from me? Not everything will be complex painted images with special effects and a lot of Photoshop…but there will be some of that. I still love it when I capture a simple, candid moment that worked out perfectly…like this one of Ed hiking through Kalapana’s lava fields a couple hours before we shot “Lava Kiss” (the image that keeps on defining my photography career…it will never go away, sorry.)
Best friend, love of my life, and personal butt-kicker, carrying my gear as usual. And a rainbow, because you all love rainbows.
Yes, I’m doing geeky podcasting and YouTube videos and Twitch streaming and cosplay and painting fan art and I might even be starting a web comic soon…but despite all of that, I will always be a photographer.
Happy World Photography Day! Hope you all stick around and see what I come up with next.