Discovering Myself as a Photographer and Finding the NAME

Last week we ended with the professor who helped lead me to an opportunity of a lifetime but I  did not delve into that information choosing to save it for this week. 


In a burst of randomness and desire to travel and study abroad I applied for a program called Semester at Sea. One of my high school national honors societies was giving away a scholarship to a student accepted on the program so I was in a frame of why not, I’d get to go abroad and if selected for the scholarship I would have help paying for it. 


Things I didn’t know was that is was better to plan for a semester abroad with this organization in advance in order to save money, research, and in general prepare. I will have you know I did absolutely none of those things because it never occurred to me in that way that young twenty somethings assume everything will turn out fine, that’s what I thought. So I blindly applied for the program with the I will be accepted or not mantra in my head and no thoughts on affording it without the scholarship, planning, or saving for the travel involved. 


Not my brightest moment of course but in the end I was accepted, I did not get selected for the scholarship, but I had time to apply for scholarships through SAS so I did. I found out I could use my financial aid and semester grants for the program and scurried to figure out how to do it as a student of another university because my school had no idea. In the midst of that there came a range of student positions to apply for paid work while abroad. The catch you could only apply for one position and the competition would be fierce.


I opted to attempt to get on as a photographers assistant and that is where the professor became invaluable to me. He wrote me a letter of recommendation that he sent personally to SAS and has never uttered a word to me about what he wrote in it. To this day I wonder what words, what prose he adorned that document because I was one of the students selected to be the photographers assistant. While I had to create a video of images to show my work as a portfolio in my heart I know it was his letter that made a difference and helped secure me that position which helped make that semester possible for me. 


By that point I was a hobbyist photographer posting my work under the name TB Photography, photographing equines, families, and rodeos. I was using an Olympus DSLR and photoshop to edit in the begins of a very photojournalistic style. I thought my work was good but after being in a room a professionals at my start I didn’t believe my work alone would secure that position for me. 


But I went abroad thanks in large part to the support of family and I stepped foot in four continents and a plethora of different cultures. My camera was a part of me and yet for the majority of the semester I spend aiding the photographer it was dutiful keywording, emailing, arranging things or set up and tear down. I was given perhaps one actual photographic assignment for the semester blog toward the very end of the semester and tragic events would lead to a change on the publication of those images. 


I never begrudged the lack of actual picture taking on that semester because I did plenty, I photographed everything and somehow at no real doing of my own the vast majority made it into the end of semester student video. I curated shots of the semester taken by everyone no just me and put them in a massive folder and was as surprised as everyone else when that video played.  That semester I meant a lot of talented people, befriended people from all parts of the world and was encouraged by professionals in the field with books published and successful careers. 

It was a huge semester for me, it changed me, and made me love photography that much more. While on that semester I watched classmates not only juggle classes but working hard to make connections and ultimately launch a business right before my eyes. They became an inspiration to further dream about my wants with photography and an name came to mind sitting in my cultural anthropology class in the harbor of Capetown, South Africa as we awaited the sea to calm to enable a smooth transition from harbor to sea. 


That name of course was Exposure One Studios, I had been doodling my TB Photography logo while thinking about where I was headed and my classmate was doodling logo ideas for the company they were actively creating when I was like one day I will have a business and viva la creation. 


It would take another four years before I acted on those thoughts from that day in Capetown, while the idea lived in the back of my mind I was perhaps scared and unsure how to make a leap into the unknown. I maintained my student status, I took university work, research, and eventually graduated to two part time jobs plus working at the university under a grant to finish research I had started as a student. 


I had no idea how to make a business happen in truth, how to become a full time photographer, or financial independence so I kept on with what I knew. I applied for hundreds of jobs looking for full time work as was expected of me and I continued to photograph. However when the grant ran out, the  research article published, one job disappeared due to bankruptcy of the company and my first full time job was a bad fit, I sat down and started really considering making the dream of Exposure One Studios a reality.


Come back next week to learn more about Exposure One Studios start…