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Photography is dead to me

Sorry for the clickbaity title. I couldn't resist.


The past few months have been such a whirlwind! Big moves in my personal and creative life. I have been making huge, adult decisions left and right. It's exhausting and exciting at the same time. Some of that has to do with marriage-related planning (engagement party, wedding planning, etc.) and #vanlife preparation.


The other choices that have been big for me personally have also rocked the boat for me as a creator. One is that I've decided to put off grad school. I have been telling myself for the past two years that I will be going to grad school next fall, so this was a bittersweet decision, a mixture of disappointment and relief. A huge source of imposter syndrome for me as a designer is that I didn't pursue an undergraduate degree in design, though it barely bothers me now. Part of that was because my school didn't have a degree for design, just studio art, and also because I was committed to art history. I have absolutely no regrets about the path I chose, but I have been looking forward to practicing design in the environment of freedom and growth that I love about school. However, the more I research and speak to programs, the more I realize how financially and creatively unnecessary an MFA degree in design is, as much as my nerdy self would absolutely love it. So instead, I've chosen the path of self-education, artist residencies, and maybe a certificate. If I ever got a job that wants to support my continuing education or find a program I feel is worth the financial commitment, I will happily change my mind, but until then...


The second choice is that I will no longer practice photography in a freelance capacity or pursue it professionally as an artist. No more photography for money, basically. No more trying to be published/get in shows. Anyone who knows me well knows that this is a huge change! I did not make it lightly. Being a photographer has been a core aspect of my identity as an artist and person since high school, at least. I started shooting on film when I was 12 or 13, and photography has been one of the most positive and consistent aspects of my life since. I will always be a photographer. But in the past five years, I have struggled so much to enjoy it creatively the way I used to. Freelancing and only having time to shoot for paid gigs has drained me of all my curiosity and excitement for it. What was once a joy is now a task more than not.


So I have decided to re-learn how to see with my camera, to become an amateur once more. I've pulled photography out of my portfolio, and taken the opportunity to shift my website even further towards design and branding services. I feel amazing about this decision, even though parts of it are a little sad. I will keep making images, but now only for me, pure creative outlet. I will still share them, as an exercise in voice and vulnerability that I feel is important in my life. I may even still post about a random photoshoot here on the blog occasionally. I've created a separate home for my photography at sarahjnotley.pics though, an online photo journal and archive of sorts.


In both of these choices, I wondered more if I was giving up or just letting go for now. The truth is, it doesn't really matter. This is the path forward I've chosen.