Many of us encounter a time in our life where we feel a change needs to be made. That can mean anything from quitting your job, to leaving a relationship or becoming vegan. We reach a threshold, a saturation point at which we no longer can continue on the path we were on.
It has happened to me a few times, most clearly with my career(s). I started working in the corporate world during college. I knew that I wasn’t thrilled with my job, but thought that’s just how things go. I really didn’t know what I wanted out of life, or what I was supposed to do, but I somehow knew deep down that I wanted to do something that would affect people in a positive way, to make a difference in the world, however small. I wanted to do something that meant something.
I kept asking myself, “Is this it? Is this what life is supposed to be like?” I just knew that I was put on this planet to do more, and to live a more joyful life.
After a while (years!), I realized that I needed the time and the space to go deep inside to find out what it was that made me feel happy. I needed to find what my soul wanted and what would make it soar.
In the fall of 2009, I left the corporate world and took a giant leap of faith to become a full-time photographer by launching my photography business.
Everyone thought I was crazy. It was the midst of the financial crisis, and I wanted to become an artist. As crazy as it seemed, I knew with every cell in my body that it was what I was supposed to do – my heart, my soul, my whole body was finally speaking loud and clear. I got a full body YES!
I try to live my life by feeling things through and having no regrets. I don’t want to be 90 years old and reflect back on my life and say “I should have” or “Why didn’t I?” I knew that in the very worst case, if no one resonated with my work, if my photos didn’t sell, if I couldn’t survive living in New York City, then I could always go back to corporate.
I started showing in exhibitions and my photos started to sell. I noticed that the images people resonated with the most were the ones taken from my heart and not from my head. That is, I would “feel” what I needed or wanted to photograph, rather than technically think of how to capture it.
My sister and father told me I should teach, but how could I teach since I’m self-taught and when my “real” experience was in the corporate world? I didn’t have a degree in photography, nor an MFA. Fear set in. Big time. I ignored their loving words. I turned a deaf ear. That is, until one day when my sister was visiting from Los Angeles. She was a photographer as well and had been gently guiding me and showing me the ropes.
One morning, she called me into the dining room and told me to take a seat. There was a pad of paper, a pen, and a shot of whiskey on the table in front of me. I looked quizzically at her, and all she said was “drink up.” Now this is my baby sister – she’s the one who should listen to me! But I obliged. I had no choice – she was standing over me with the same look my northern German mother used to do when I was up to mischief.
After the burning in my esophagus subsided, she told me to write down a list of all the things that I feared and the things that excited me about teaching. As you can guess, the list of fears was paltry in comparison to the list of excitement. I finally recognized that I had a gift and I wanted to share my experiences of how I approach photography using this amazing GPS system we have inside us.
I had been following my intuition all along but didn’t recognize it as such. How could I know that since we are taught to trust our head and not our heart? I needed a shot of whiskey, a pad, and a pen to make me realize what my path was. The Art of Intuitive Photography class had been born.
I launched my first Intuitive Photography class in September 2010. Now I have associate teachers helping me teach (all former students of mine), we have taught our Intuitive Photography classes (and a wide assortment of other photo classes) to thousands of students around the globe, we’ve held workshops in the U.S. and Europe, and we have presented the concept of Intuitive Photography in high schools, colleges, and photo clubs across the U.S.
Something I have learned and come to accept is that whatever I do, it’s OK. If I mess something up, if it’s not perfect, it’s OK. If we put too much pressure on ourselves, we get blocked and stressed. If we let go and have fun with the process, magic starts to happen.
When I teach the Intuitive Photography class, I tell my students they can do nothing wrong. They can’t fail. It simply doesn’t matter. What does matter is how your intuition communicates with you, how your body reacts when you see something, how your feelings communicate with you. I also tell them that no thinking is allowed. Or, if you do think, think like a child. Let’s try to tap into the little child within us who explores the world with curiosity and wonder. How liberating and freeing it is to turn our thinking mind off and just have fun!