Be Yourself

There is another photographer on the web with my same name. I run into her work all the time. People searching for me find her. People searching for her find me. Anytime I decide to sign up for anything under the name Suzanne Williams Photography, the name is usually taken. It is frustrating, but I don't really mind. She has as much right to it as I do. Yet it is the difference between our work that sets us apart. She photographs children - toddlers and babies - and I do not.

She is very good at what she does, but I am not one iota jealous. I have no interest whatsoever in photographing people. In fact, I have turned down job offers to photograph various events. No amount of money will change my mind either. Instead, I am completely comfortable in who I am and in what subject matter I do best.

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Nature photographers are a dime a dozen nowadays, and that's all right with me too because even within nature photography there are different styles. One person might live out west and photograph western landscapes. Another person specializes in birds. I can admire and compliment their work, often I can learn from their work as well, and still be satisfied with my own.

Even in writing, I run up against comparisons. How many times has aperture, ISO, and shutter speed been written about? Or photographing flowers? Or holidays? I think you get my point. Yet my perspective on these things is different from all of those because I am "me."

I take 99% of my photographs in my front yard. Perhaps a dozen times a year, I go somewhere else. But most often, I walk out the door camera in hand. I love staying home. I love being in the garden, chasing around some butterfly as it moves from flower to flower. I love sitting beside our garden pond watching the dragonflies defend themselves, listening to the clash of their wings.

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Last weekend, my husband finally caught our resident water snake. This snake, finding a good food supply, had set up camp for the summer. He then proceeded over the months to consume most of our small mosquito fish. Have you ever tried to catch a snake in a pond? Yes well, you can imagine the task my husband was up against. They are fast creatures, only that much more fluid when swimming. He at last caught it and relocated it to a swampy area down the road.

Relocate a snake? Absolutely! Here again is something I like to do, that I am comfortable with. Snakes, frogs, lizards, all the creepy crawlies of the animal kingdom hold a strange fascination for me. They are part of the infamous "circle of life" and though I did not want to continue to feed it, I gave it a chance to live its life elsewhere, away from people.

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My mother always says, "If it's not illegal or immoral," then it's okay to be different, to be yourself. I fully subscribe to this theology. (Though on occasion, I will include, "or really stupid," but that is another whole can of worms.) It is perfectly all right for you to be yourself. When you have found your photography niche, the style or subject matter that brings you the greatest joy and satisfaction, then go with it. However, always be willing to embrace what other people do without giving ridicule.

Just because I know what I like and am good at, does not mean I am finished learning either. Ask me to photograph children and I'm clueless. I only recently began babysitting a newborn again. It's been 18 years since mine was that small. Ask me to travel to Upper Slabobia (that being the fictional place my mother used to always refer to) and I don't want to go. I'm not fond of travel. Yet ask me about my garden, what to plant where, what attracts the most insects, what the water and light requirements are for particular plants, or what blooms at what time of year, and I have answers.

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Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall

I like who I am. My life is an open book. I have shared the darkest portion of my life with others (because you never know where people are and how you can help them). My photography is a reflection of this life. Each image I take shows part of what I saw. They are my vision of the world around me. 

My work can never be like yours, and your work will never be like mine. This is okay. I am comfortable with that. Feel free to be yourself. I am.