"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
I nervously looked around my second grade class. I wanted to shoot my hand up in the air and confess all of my 7 year old dreams and ambitions but alas, I was the new kid. In fact, I was the new kid who had previously screamed “UNO” when my bingo sheet formed a straight line of checkers just last week. Talk about embarrassing. So instead, I painfully waited, wondering if anyone else had an answer for the teacher.
But who was I kidding, it was a room full of 7 year olds - yet to be tainted by the world of “I can’t” or “that’s too hard” or “I’m not qualified enough” - and before long, little hands were popping up everywhere and professions such as being a “wrestler”, “a princess”, and even “a cat” were blurted out. Some kids, of course, had more practical ambitions such as a “dentist”, “a doctor”, or “a lawyer”. I was most certainly not one of those kids. I wish I could tell you what my exact answer was but to be honest, I think it was some hybrid of a professional figure skater/president of the world/the next big pop star. And I really don't think there is a word that defines that role. Plus it forces me to remember the bitter truth that I never had a chance at superstardom due to being tone deaf. It’s still hurts to think about…
The point, under all of my rambling thoughts, is that I had a lot of big dreams. I still do.
But running a wedding photography business was never one of them. (*gasps*)
Don’t get me wrong, I love photography, I love weddings and I love people. And man oh man, I have loved every couple I have had the honour to document. But when I first started taking portraits of friends at the ripe age of 14, my dream was never to have a photography business. Instead, my dream was to show young, insecure, teenage girls another perspective of themselves - one that was beautiful, and unique, and completely them. My heart overflowed watching my friends make my photos their profile pictures on Facebook (you know, back when Instagram wasn’t even a thing). I lived to make people feel confident, even if I used “Picnik” to edit my photos. *cringe cringe cringe*
When I first started doing paid family sessions at the (once again) ripe age of 16, my dream was still not to have a photography business. Instead, my dream was to raise money to fund a month long missions trip to Africa. I was desperate to see the world around me and see if I had a purpose beyond my small town, high school life.
In fact, when I finally went full-time this past summer at the age of 21 (after 4 summers of shooting part-time), surprisingly, my biggest dream was not to have a photography business. Clearly, it was a goal but it came alongside a completely different vision - I hoped working from home and running my own business would give me flexibility to pour into local teen girls’ lives and to learn the skills needed to start a non-profit or whatever ministry that would come out of this passion.
However, for all of my entrepreneurial friends, you know that running a business requires more blood, sweat, tears and time - so much freaking time - than working for someone else. And before I knew it, my 22nd birthday snuck up on me and I was reminded of a powerful memory (that I’m going to share in a poetic story because that’s how I do me, mkay):
My 17 year old body was leaning against the doorway of my parents’ bedroom. The light from the hallway seeped from behind me, washing dimly over their bed. I could barely make out their sleepy eyes but the bright red numbers on my dad’s alarm clock told me it was late.
They didn’t mind that I was bothering them though. I had just finished my first weekend of shooting weddings - ever. I was on a high and couldn’t stop chattering away about the experience (typical Hannah, am I right?). And my parents were happy to see their daughter, who was two weeks away from flying across the country for school, passionate about her goals.
“You know”, I remember saying, with a whimsical and dreamy tone hanging on my words, “if I work really hard - I mean, really hard - one day, I could become one of Ottawa’s best”.
I believed it so whole heartedly. I was willing to work hard. I was willing to give my all, and I was willing to roll up my sleeves and make it happen. But then, in the quiet dimness of my parents’ bedroom, I felt God speak gently but all too clearly. “Do you want to make your name famous or do you want to make my name famous?”.
And not even a moment passed before that weighty truth nuzzled itself into my heart - so deep that I knew it would be with me forever.
For those of you who aren’t religious, the entire situation might sound crazy. But I just had this deep knowing inside of me that I was made for more than working a 9-5 and maybe having some free time on the weekend. I was and still am desperate to use my life, my passions and my gifts to make a difference - to influence, to inspire and to challenge others.
This deep knowing that has been gnawing at me for months has finally forced me to take action. I feel forced to recognize that if I want that dream that has always been rooted in the depths of who I am, I have to make room for it to grow. And this is the hardest decision I have ever had to make because at the moment, I am at my peek - I have had more inquiries than ever (that I’ve regretfully been having to turn down), my social media has been on a high, and I have the opportunity to make…well good money. I could surely make something of myself with a little hard work and some perseverance but I don’t want to make something of myself. I want to use everything I have to shape a generation of young girls who need it more than I need a healthy paycheque.
And so to throw out all of the poetic jargon + just be straight up, after this upcoming summer, I am closing up shop. I will not be taking on weddings for 2019. I am doing what terrifies me and what might seem crazy to the majority, in order to be faithful to the One and the dream that matters most.
And so to my friends and followers, don’t fret - I still have lots of photography goodness to share with you as I still have a full 2018 season ahead. It will just be mixed with new ideas, more personal pieces, and the same old, super embarrassing Instagram stories.
To my 2018 brides and grooms, I want to say I am just as excited to shoot your beautiful wedding day as I was before I made the decision to change focus. You are still my priority and I still love what I do.
And to my past brides and grooms, I want to say thank you for the sweetest opportunity to shadow you (more like third wheel with you) on the most important day of your life.
I am by no means putting my camera down forever. I am solely choosing to cut back + change focus so I have that time, that energy and that passion to pursue my most prominent dreams.
Amen. The end. Wow, Hannah talks a lot. See you later. Bye.