2013 was a year of great lows and great leaps of transitions into joy –
Battling sickness since June 2012, which at the time, gave me no indication it would still be lurking almost 18 months later I came into the start of the year nauseous, exhausted and with constant sore throats and aching ears.
After many test, visits to doctors, naturopaths, specialists and procedures—ultrasounds, endoscopies, and including an iron infusion (iron drip-fed over a period of about 9hrs) we were all still scratching our heads to explain it, my doctor sat back in her chair stunned when I told her I worked the equivalent of two full-time jobs and drove from the Dandenong Mountains to Rosebud every day for “work”.
When my doctors suggested I give away my “job” I just about scoffed, “yeah right. And how exactly will I pay my bills, how will I live…how will I buy lenses!”
In May, almost 12 months later and chronically fatigued, having endured further symptoms, and another five months of non-stop all day dry reaching and nausea—and no, I wasn’t pregnant—I gave serious thought to working part-time and putting whatever energy I had left into running my photography business.
These were not easy decisions. I am self-reliant. I have been parenting myself since I was 16 and put myself through school and paid rent from then on. I don’t lean. I don’t put my hand out.
I grew up in the suburbs, on the poverty line, a child to unhappy immigrant parents whose dreams were ripped and twisted by some false fancy picture of what life would be like in this country—but wasn’t. Misery had its icky fingers deep in my chest and by the throat—but I looked over its shoulder all the time captivated by the glimmers of light that burn at the edge of every shadow.
When I was a child I spent countless hours trawling through black and white photos that sat in a neat pile in my mother’s bedside table. Every time was like the first time. There were so many stories untold in those many immortalized faces, and I imagined all sorts of storyline threads for their connection – I marvelled constantly at the science of photography and held up the negatives and proofs to the window that overlooked the front yard and pondered the big questions–how on earth film became fibre.
Storytelling and images have forever been my calling, and with many twists and turns throughout the years has always been my saving grace.
At the end of May 2013, I accepted a part-time role in a studio and kissed my PR job and my workplace of 13 years goodbye. Two weeks later, mid-June, I threw the studio in too.
At the start of a new winter and still quite unwell I faced a few terrifying nights of angst—fear I had never known before—even as a child who slipped out the back door at 16 and turned my back on the first people I ever met, I still had not come close to feeling fear like this. No this was quite new.
For four whole days and nights I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep. I sobbed and felt myself freefalling—tumbling in a whirlpool of regrets, grasping at the slippery edge of all things lost, hearing irrational thoughts tell me I would die destitute, an old bag lady, twisted and miserable, cold and unknown…
Those were four long and horrible days…. But after four days I was tired. I had exhausted all the energy I had for regrets and the loop-tape of ‘if onlys’. I surrendered. And in freefalling and finding acceptance that I was about to hit the ground, I just put my arms out and I turned in the direction of the pace.
Life has its ways of reaching, opening, offering, revealing in concealing its hand—blessings. And richness isn’t always monetary.
From free-falling fast, I began to fly.
Still weary, nauseous and wired all at once, I conceded it was winter and convinced by friends and loved ones that I had made the very best decision and that the ground was already at my feet, I applied for a role as a stills photographer for a new short film being produced. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted in.
‘Still waters run deep’ and all that intuitive stuff, whatever you want to call it…but I can only explain my ‘knowing’ as being deeply in alignment with my creative heart. I knew that this was going to be a big project, a professional outfit with talented young creatives. I joined the crew of Queen of the Bees written, directed and produced by brother and sister team, ABC producers of No Way San Jose, Anna and Joseph Russell and spent the second half of 2013 shooting pre-production stills with them. It led to working with fabulous stylists, makeup artists, actors, cinematographers, photographers and art directors. It led to a whole new family of friends and collaborations.
During all this, I received an email from the head of the wig and makeup department at the Melbourne Theatre Company saying she had seen some of my work and would love to collaborate on some photo projects. Thrilled by the scope of creative possibilities I accepted and we met a day later and shot the day after — see One Room, Many Women & One Girl, One Room portfolios.
Again the connection was click-instant and Jurga and I have now done many shoots together and work as a creative team. (I even got her a stint on the Queen of the Bees film, which meant we had also worked together on that and could share the joyous experience of the premiere.)
Recently I received emails from some of the crew from the film wanting to collaborate on visual projects in 2014—business ventures and editorials. Knowing their work ethic, their talent and impeccable hearts I have accepted, excited by the visual art we’ll create, and excited by the team growing around me.
My friend Justin who is also a photographer, and worked on the set of the Queen of the Bees, passed my name onto another film crew shooting a feature here in Melbourne and I happily filled in the day he was unable to do. From that, a whole new creative venture has begun.
And this is how it goes—creatives looking out for creatives. And the universal hand opens invisible doors leading into the new and growing you in your vocational craft—what you are called here to do.
For many years to survive the roles I played in offices, feeling that struggle of loving the regular income and the safety of that, but knowing I pimped myself for the money and paying for it by getting caught up in all the politics that goes with being out of alignment with who you really are, I kept a cheeky little postcard at my desk simply titled ‘the rat race’ … that little postcard, still with me, is a light-hearted reminder that selling my soul is the equivalent of giving misery a lifeline.
In the last week of November, I woke up one morning feeling physically renewed, like the iron infusion had finally seeped deep into my veins and transfused my blood, rejuvenating me. For the first time in nearly two summers I had the energy to run.
I took myself down to the boxing gym, which for the most part of the year, I had to miss or modify exercises in order to make it through a session, and started an hour earlier. It’s New Year’s Eve and I haven’t looked back. I’m back and I’m well and 2014 is looking rich with creative joy and living a life that means something entirely splendid.
Photography is not just about pictures. It is not just about reporting. Images transport, they delight and move us—and they deeply connect us to others, to life. And for me, as the maker, there’s an intimacy that occurs—people’s vulnerabilities and personal stories are trusted to me in the capturing and rendering—even on the conceptual projects. And it’s an honour to enter into that…and really humbling how much joy is experienced in the sharing of an image—
Wishing you the world in (2014) now, 2018!