As you may have read from my past blogs, my entrepreneurship has been all things photography the past 10 years: an in-home documentary photography business, co-founding an online photography school, teaching photography, private mentoring and then there was this little thing called street photography that I delved into about 6 years ago.
The Hustler working the streets, above and below
I recently was asked to write the cover story for the photography enthusiast magazine, FujiLove, and thought of what I could share with the readers that would resonate and maybe help someone feel like ‘man, I can relate.’ I wanted to share the backbone idea of what I wrote about in hopes someone here at the Daily Feels needs a little nudge to just do YOU and not care so much about the oftentimes suffocating social media circles/friends/acquaintances/family opinion.
Over the past 10 years, I had built up a pretty good following on social media for my in-home documentary children’s work over the years. But I couldn’t ignore the street creative voice anymore, so I pivoted HARD into the transition from in-home stop street.
So, I started from scratch and for anyone that has ever built up a social media following, you know that is NOT fun. I had no followers, no ‘friends’ in the street genre, and no recognition. The total opposite from my other photography genre/ business. I truly felt like a beginner again and it was humbling, to say the least.
Mentally I had to go back to the beginning, scary but refreshing all at once. I was once again at square one in my photography journey. I was learning what I loved about street (light/shadows/juxtapositions/surreal moments) and found a lot of it translated over from my in-home work.
Once I started publicly sharing on social media I had a few industry folks offline tell me ‘Jenn I love your street work, but what about your audience you worked for years to build?’ I said ‘Well, they can come with me or get off at this stop. I’m cool either way, but there is no way in heck I’m letting what people expect of me dictate what I create. No. way.’ I was in corporate America for well over a decade and when I made the decision to try and make photography my next career path, the difference was it was a creative career with limits only I could put on myself. A career where I steered the ship. I had only one person to answer to: me. My question for the doubters of my shift from children to street was how could someone who is also a creative expect a creative to carry on making images in a genre they feel they have done all they could with? When we start to feel tapped on our creativity, it’s time to expand.
The way I see it, it all goes back to one basic thing: if you are not feeling challenged anymore, and finding yourself just going through the motions of life WHATEVER those motions are: relationships, jobs, hobbies that have gone stale, etc. then for goodness sake, take a leap into something that does challenge you. So what you if you start from ground zero? So what if you have a learning curve? So what if no one truly understands what you are doing, it’s your life. Live it the way you want.
I think what I wrote in the article is a great way to sum up choices in life to follow your heart, your soul, that inner voice that for whatever reason let’s outside voices become louder: LIVE life. Life is just a shell when we stay in the same lane, doing the same speed, in the same car, with the same station tuned in year after year. If you aren’t feeling uncomfortable sometimes and pushing yourself you aren’t going to be able to grow.
Listen to your heart.
Jennifer Tonetti Spellman is a street and documentary photographer in NY where she resides with her husband and two girls. She is a contributor to the female street photography collective, Women in Street and co-founder and teacher at Illuminate Classes, an online photography school. When not shooting random people on the street or teaching people how to shoot said random people on the street, she is practicing yoga or listening to the Foo Fighters or 1970’s rock while juggling all that comes with being an entrepreneur/mom/wife.