I am a mom and I am a photographer. Since I am not a business owner, I am a considered a “hobbyist”. However, I am not “just a hobbyist”.
I am an artist.
Even more than an artist?
I am a storyteller.
Seven months before my first girl was born, I was writing about her. I wrote letters to her in her own journal. Skipping by my old personal journal to now jot down notes about her life instead. I remember putting my thoughts and feelings into HER journal because everything that was her was also everything that was me. From the very day I found out I was expecting a little one I started writing messages to her and stories about her life. Once my second girl came along, two and a half years later, I had already been writing in HER journal as well.
By that point, I had a book for each girl and every night I would lie on my bed to write all of the silly things each one did. Or the sweet words that were spoken. Even little notes that the big girl scribbled down…I would fold them up neatly and place them inside of her story. Finally, the third baby was born and, you guessed it, I was writing for her, too. I had three stories going. Three lives of little ones being recorded each night. Three sets of teeny drawings tucked inside. Three books and several pens and pencils later, their stories were just beginning.
About the time the second story began, I realized that what I so desperately needed for my girls were photographs. I could write about their journeys; their daily tea parties, first time they found a worm, and trips to the library, but it was up to me to create that image in their imaginations through the journals. That’s when I decided that I needed images and not just imaginations. THEY needed the images. They were so little and would forget so much of our fun-filled days. Therefore, it was my responsibility to remember these days FOR them and what better way than through photographs?
I started to wonder; How much would I give to have shots of my girls just being…my girls? In twenty or thirty years from now? How much would I pay to give them those memories? Ones that they could read about in their journals, but also images that they could hold right there in their hands? That is when the second part of their stories began and I started photographing them everyday.
For a while, the images were not-so-great.
Honestly, though? At that point, I didn’t mind. However, after I found the Clickin Moms forum and I started to realize where I could improve, my stories to them also improved.
Once I started sharing some of my images and parts of my girls’ stories online through blogging, I started to get those little ol’ questions called, “Why don’t you do this for money?” and “Why don’t you open a business?” After much convincing from others, I did. And? I hated it. I wasn’t having a wonderful time. I didn’t like shooting for other people. Why? Because it wasn’t OUR STORY. It was THEIR STORY. After about a year and a half I gave it up. Turning clients and friends away was a bit difficult, but I decided that seeing the world through my children’s lives was much more important to me. I wanted to be in their element and remember them in their daily lives rather than slipping into someone else’s story. I wanted to photograph my babies, remember our times and focus on their stories.
Since I was no longer in business, I was bumped back down the “hobbyist” title. However, (now I want you to really listen to this part) that does not mean I was no longer a “professional”. Read that again if you need to. That simply means that I was not a business owner. See? There’s a difference. A hobbyist CAN BE a professional. Taking money from clients doesn’t qualify you as a “professional photographer”. It does, however, qualify you as a “business owner”. Being labeled a hobbyist isn’t offensive to me. Just as being called a MWAC doesn’t bother me, because honestly, we all know that’s what I am.
But, you see? I am so much more than “just a hobbyist”. Most importantly, to me and also to my girls…
I am a documentarian.
I am a journalist.
I am an artist.
I am most definitely a storyteller.
And I encourage you to be those things, too.
Melissa Gibson, Georgia
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Melissa is a proud MWAC who gears up with a Nikon D700, prime lenses, and edits her “fun, childlike, and whimsical” photography solely in Photoshop Elements. Melissa’s goal both now and when she first began her photography journey in 2005 is to, in her own words, “remember my girls’ lives for them. They are so young yet growing so quickly. I know they won’t remember it all so I feel it’s my job to document it for them.”