I'm not going to lie: starting over kinda sucks. As you know, or might know, I very recently left Montana for the more populated Midwest. My feelings on this move oscillate between excitement, dread, and sadness. Excitement because a larger population means more potential customers, and the Madison area has people with actual disposable income, unlike Montana. Dread and sadness because I am missing my friends and the landscape that I found so invigorating back in the Wild West. In order to come to grips with this change, I have decided to focus on one thing, one aspect of my work that I think is marketable and excellent. Or, at least, excellent enough to set me apart from other photographers in the area. That one thing is my pet and family portraiture.
I have printed up postcards, redone my portrait portfolio, and launched a few Facebook advertising campaigns to try to hit my target market. Now is the hardest thing of all: a waiting game. I know that once I book my first shoot, momentum with pick up and I will be on my way, but with idle time comes doubt, and fear that this will never work. Many of us in the arts have imposter syndrome, and I am nothing if not the poster child for it. Attitudes toward people attempting to make a living making art don't help at all. If you doubt this, try telling people that you are a photographer for a day. Responses will vary from people telling you about their own camera, to telling you that they hired someone who gave them a super-great price because they have a real job and don't rely on their photo work for their income. Thanks, but I do, and telling me about how you are participating in undercutting me doesn't help.
But I love this work. It is what I do, and increasingly, is who I am. I no longer look at the world in the same way that I did before building up this career. I see landscapes, people, and most especially light, completely differently. Additionally, I am terrible at most other jobs, so I am in a position where this HAS to work. See, I have been working at entry-level, low-income jobs for the past 12 years, despite my many years at school and "doing everything right." I have been unsuccessful not because of a terrible work ethic, or lack of trying or smarts, but because my heart was never in it. And when my heart isn't in it, I just don't do well. I am also not good at compartmentalizing. Many people work mediocre jobs, and then treat the things they are good at and love as hobbies. I can't do that. Call it a feature or a bug, but this thing, this making photos thing, it's what makes me wake up, and makes me able to push on. Often, when I feel overwhelmed, I take my camera and my dogs (and occasionally my partner, if he is up for it) and I go make pictures somewhere. Sometimes I do landscapes, but often I just have fun and make portraits of my loved ones.
So, I don't know how to enter a new market. I am taking the skills I have picked up through the MAP program, and doing a fair amount of legwork in visiting high-end pet food, grooming, and boarding facilities in the area, and doing a lot of hoping. Ultimately, all I can do is push forward and keep believing that it will happen. One day, I will be sought after, and will publish coffee table books, and will have traveled far and wide to make pictures, both for myself and for clients. Until then, my dogs and I (and Chris) will be at the park.