I had a conversation with a friend recently, one that made me come to many realizations - but one particularly sticks out to me. It's something that's been subconscious for years, but it took a 3-hour drunk conversation for me to finally say it aloud to myself.
I photograph because I have to. I photograph because I physically need to do it. I photograph because without my camera at a show I feel like I'm missing a limb. I used to feel naked without my camera, mainly because I had the self-confidence of a teenage boy at his first makeout party. I hid behind the guy, let him speak for himself - either in starting a conversation with someone or giving me an excuse to not to talk to someone because I was "working." And yes I refer to my camera as a "he." His name is Sebastian.
It's not like that anymore. My photography has become part of me, in the same way that songs become part of a musician. I'm not defined by my photos, but rather, I define my photos.
I used to call myself a writer, which I still do, but now after doing this for close to 5 years, I think I can call myself an artist. That's a thing, right? It's weird hearing my own voice say "artist" when referring to myself. Mainly because I've spent so much of my life respecting and admiring other artists' work that I can't fathom putting myself in the same category.
That 3-hour drunken conversation wasn't necessarily the only thing that knocked this into focus, but rather it was the last push. Recently I've had everyone from close college friends to local musicians say to my face, "Your photos are awesome. You're awesome." Nothing feels better than when people you admire give you that same admiration back. Or even better yet, when they give you genuine friendship back.
Like I said before, I've been doing this for almost five years, and I've always felt like I fit into this local music scene somehow, but I've never really felt like I belonged. Granted, the only place I've ever really felt wholeheartedly like I belonged was in student journalism, both in high school and college, but when I found local music, I knew where I wanted to belong.
And it wasn't until so recently when I met the guys from Ravenna Woods that I felt that genuine reciprocated friendship, that I was more than the girl with the camera. I've never felt more welcomed by a group of guys before that I can't thank you all enough for making me feel so good about my work, and about myself.
This fall will mark my 5-year anniversary of photographing live music, and I'm thinking it's about time I put together a show. A gallery. My portfolio is big enough so I've got plenty of stuff to choose from to print. I have spent so much time loving what I do, and I just want to be able to share it all with everyone. I love what I do so deeply that I cannot physically not do it. I do it because I love it and it makes me feel good and not because I'm trying to impress anyone. If anything, I'm trying to impress my younger self.
Like, "Hey 19-year-old Abby, I know life sucks right now with your crazy disease and your stupid college and horrible roommate, but guess what? You're going to spend the next 5 years of your life falling head over heels with the Seattle music scene. And you're going to get that whole love affair on camera."
I guess there should be a moral to this story - that would make sense.
Do what you love because you have to. Whether it's music or writing or science or social work or teaching or photography - do it because you can't do anything else. Love what you love just because you love it, and nothing else.
And that's what I finally realized at 2 a.m. after a couple of beers.