We were sitting in the plane 39,000 feet above Indianapolis when I finally felt the cold start to seep in from the window beside me. The sun had just barely disappeared beyond the horizon, and I found myself longing for Las Vegas and WPPI. Not just the sunny skies and the 70 degree weather from earlier in the day, but I longed for the community we had re-discovered over the past five days in Nevada.
This was our second time attending Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), and it was wholly different from our first year. It was the same in that we attended classes, were inspired by the print competition, and discovered amazing new products at the trade-show. But this year there was a huge shift in the connections we made. Not just a few amazing people like last year, but many people.
I can’t put a number to how many times we laughed, or even how many times we cried with hundreds of other people.
The thing that so many people don’t realize about photographers is that the majority of the time, we work alone. From our desks, all behind a screen, alone. And actually, a lot of us are pretty introverted and being in competition with each other makes it very hard to make friends. You don’t want to be seen by your peers as vulnerable, or worse, weak. But, so many times this week we listened to everyone from experts to newbies talk about how much they suck. How our work sucks, how we’re not creative enough, we don’t edit fast enough, how we’re going to fail.
If there was a theme for WPPI this year it was fear. How fear is holding each and everyone one of us back. We heard it a lot which is lucky because I didn’t realize until maybe the 5th or 6th speaker how afraid I was. Because for the past two months I have been an irritable, impatient, mess and I really didn’t understand why.
Ever since re-branding our business I have been afraid. Terrified, anxious, up to my neck in fear. I was worried we wouldn’t be accepted, that no one would really see us as legitimate. That we would lose everything we’ve spent hundreds of hours building over the past five years. I know now that all the time I’ve spent being afraid the past two months was a waste of my time and energy. On the last day of classes I was determined to not be afraid again, or at least, not to allow fear to stop me again.
39,000 feet in the air I allowed myself to be scared one more time. Scared to lose the lessons I had learned and the friends we had made, and I was more resolved not to lose them. Sometimes fear is a good thing, but the most important lesson I learned this trip is how to recognize it in myself. I’m not that terrified girl so frozen by fear that I’m incapable of moving forward. Not this year, not today, and not in this moment. This moment and all the ones that come after are about momentum, and I can’t wait.