TLDR version: Bought a camera in 2008 and now here I am.
Back in 2008 I decide to buy a digital camera. Armed with zero knowledge and having done no research I go to the camera store and ask the guy which one to buy and he says: “They’re all good and they all do pretty much the same things, but one of them is going to instinctively feel better in your hands than the others”. One does, so I buy that one. I take it home, unbox it and, ignoring the manual, immediately start taking pictures. The results are terrible so I read the manual. None of it makes sense and I feel like an idiot for spending $1,500 on a new toy I have no idea how to use.
Fast forward a few weeks and I’ve re-read the manual (still doesn’t make a lot of sense) but at least now I can actually take a picture. The pictures are terrible. This annoys me because, for some reason, I thought this might be something I’d be good at.
Fast forward another few weeks and I feel brave enough to change from Auto mode to Manual. My first try comes out completely black. I try again and get the same result so I take my piece of crap defective camera back to the store. The guy behind the counter has a look at it, tweaks a dial, takes a couple of shots then hands it back and politely suggests I go home with my perfectly fine camera and re-read the manual.
Fast forward another few weeks and I now know what an aperture is and how it ties in with shutter speed and ISO and, because of all this, my pictures are no longer plain black rectangles. But they’re still terrible and this bugs me enough that I buy ‘How to’ books, Google endlessly and watch countless YouTube tutorials. Eventually I have a basic understanding of how my camera functions and I go nuts and shoot anything and everything. I shoot 200 images of my neighbour’s cat.
Fast forward one year and the moment I’ve been dreading is upon me. It’s time to learn Photoshop. Being that I’m illiterate when it comes to computers and technology in general this is my worst nightmare. But since I’ve outgrown the free software I’ve been using, I have to suck it up, spend the money and load the disc.
Fast forward a few weeks and I wish I’d never bought a camera. I understand none of it. Even though I’m an atheist I pray that God, Allah and Buddha will band together and make me smart enough to understand adjustment layers, the difference between canvas size and image size, why I should process in Bridge first and what a smart object is. They don't.
Fast forward another few weeks and I’m at the point where extreme measures are called for. I stop drinking, start eating vegetables and apologise to the dog (for all the yelling).
A few more weeks and the tiniest sliver of understanding can be glimpsed through a haze of pixels.
Months go by and I mostly understand adjustment layers, I have a vague idea of canvas vs image size, I always process in Bridge first and I’ve completely given up on smart objects but I open a beer and a pack of chips anyway.
Fast forward another year and by now I’ve spent many thousands of dollars on camera bodies, lenses, tripods, printers, lights, bags, flashes, software and computers and I start to feel that all this stuff should start earning me some money back. Soon my partner threatens to leave if she ever hears me say “I just need to find a way to make money with the camera” one more time (running a close second is “I just need one more lens”). So I try doing real estate photography, family portraits, shooting for web designers, shooting for anyone who asks, product photography and, when none of these feel like a good fit, and, at my partner's urging and against all my better judgement, I try weddings. This is enough to convince me that I’m on the wrong path entirely and that’s when I have an idea.
Instead of shooting for other people and constantly having to look for new jobs, I’ll shoot what I want, how I want, and see if anyone wants to buy a print. The benefits, I think, are many. I can sell the same image more than once (unlike all the other jobs), I don’t have to rely on other people to give me work, I don’t have to chase people for payment and I have complete artistic freedom.
Fast forward 5 seconds (I have no patience) and I apply for a stall at the Queen Vic Market. I then spend my days and nights shooting all around Melbourne and anywhere else I can get to. I get accepted and open the world’s worst photography market stall because I have no idea what I’m doing. I figure out what I’m doing and the stall gets better. I buy a printer bigger than most couches and go without an actual couch or a TV because there’s no room for them in my tiny new apartment (I said those magic phrases once too often).
Fast forward a few years and I now spend winters away from the market, driving around the country and shooting anything that looks interesting. I do this year after year, driving as many as 40,000 kms a trip. I eat more service station meat pies than is good for anyone. Eventually I tire of living in my car for months at a time and I ask myself, “What’s next?”.
I decide to go global. I plan and book a four month trip overseas, work out roughly how much this will cost and panic. I go anyway. I come back with lots of images, the ability to recite the in-flight safety lecture in my sleep and an empty bank account.
Another year goes by and I ask “What’s next?”. I buy a motorbike that will take me places even four-wheel drives can’t go and ride around half the country, sleeping in a tent by the side of the road, showering infrequently and eating more service station pies. After a few months I come home sore, tired and broke but with a bunch more images.
Another year passes. I decide to move from a casual stall to a permanent shop in the market with four walls and a roller shutter. This way I can make it a proper gallery, move the printer in and showcase my best work. I sign a lease, fork over all my money, borrow more money, spend it all on setting up the gallery and hope for enough sales that I won’t have to eat cat food.
Fast forward to 2024 and I'm in a new gallery in Dimboola. I have an assistant (the lovely Bree), we have a ton of prints of all sizes on the wall and we do all the printing and framing for the gallery on site. We also have a studio upstairs where we do portraits. So far, so good.
And after that?