Life / Work / Photography Balance

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Leo Carrillo Beach

I am in a continuous struggle to balance my career, family, and photography.

In the blissful time of my youth, the time before-career, my beloved Canon AE-1 went with me everywhere. I photographed everything. I photographed myself, my life, my friends. I carried my camera not due to some photographer’s principle to “carry a camera everywhere”, and certainly not because it was easy or always in my pocket like our smart-phone cameras today, but for the sheer fun of taking pictures. My photography was naive, but my images were authentic to my world as a young observer, seeing things for the first time, and delighting in capturing and exposing my world view to others.

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Leo Carrillo Beach

As I began to grow my (non-photographic) career, my attitudes and behaviors changed. With the external rewards for “adult thinking” and “emotional intelligence” over-shadowing the inner-reward of “childish play”, I became more serious. The role of photography changed in my life from playfully capturing everything around me, to documenting special occasions and sometimes going out “to-do” photography.

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Santa Monica Beach

Many years later, my career having reached an apex of sorts, I began a serious study of documentary-style photography. In additional to gaining a deeper understanding of what made a “good” photo, I wanted to learn more about the daily life of photographers. I wanted a window into their daily practice and their relationship with the camera and taking images. What I learned is that they never stop photographing. Not because it is their job, but because they can’t stop. They never stop “playing” with the visual representation of the world around them.

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Santa Monica Strand – Hot Dog on a Stick

For those of us with careers outside of photography – meaty, intellectual, challenging, satisfying careers – it is easy to loose focus on photography as play. It is easy to loose an attachment to photography in-between special trips or time allocated “to-do” photography.

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Santa Monica Pier Arcade

After I finished Jay Masel’s NY workshop, a few very specific messages were burned into my memory. Jay starts the week with the hard-hitting message: “You might become a better photographer if you did more photography”. But by the end of the week, he softens, just a little, and on Thursday afternoon he says to us: “You only have a couple hours between now and when we meet back. Go out and prove to yourself that you can get good images even in just a short period of time.”

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Leo Carrillo Beach

This summer I am working to return myself to the concept of “photography as play”. For you psychologists out there, the fact that I essentially just wrote that I am “working” to “play” is not lost on me. I am conflicted. As a compromise, I am “working” at a project to “playfully” explore something around me that I can chip away at in small increments.

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Santa Monica Pier

I wanted to find a subject that was unique to southern California that I could share with my husband. My choice was to take-on the beaches of Los Angeles and Ventura county. For days when I have more time, I might venture south to the always-entertaining Venice Beach or the egalitarian Santa Monica beach and pier. Because they have easy access, these beaches reveal a big crowded melting-pot of locals and tourists. Further north, and closer to my house, are the Malibu and Ventura County beaches such as El Matador, Leo Carrillo, and Point Mugu. Here, you find a more upscale local crowd. They are smaller, less crowded, and require a bit of local knowledge to navigate.

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Santa Monica Beach

This past month, I’ve managed several visits to these beaches, mostly accompanied by my husband and sometimes also his caregiver. It is challenging to work while in the company of others. Most non-photographers have little patience for the “slow-walk, stop, oh look over there” behavior of a street photographer, but that is the challenge.

Happy summer to all.


A Street Photography Manifesto Cover JPGLife Happens in COLOR –
A Street Photography Manifesto is available from my Blurb bookstore.

Buy it here

I believe in the use of photography to tell candid stories that document the human condition in order to bring people together with understanding and acceptance.

These are the principles that guide my photography:

  • Create compelling stories: Say something, ask questions.
  • Life happens in COLOR: Color carries emotional content.
  • Create visual poems: Composition matters.
  • Composition is additive: Use a lot of adjectives.
  • Connect the dots: Capture the scene as the subject.
  • Create short stories: Tell a story through time.
  • Travel: Spread a worldview of understanding and acceptance.
  • Take chances: An image is more than the sum of its pixels.
  • Follow the National Press Photographer Association’s Code of Ethics.

In this book I explain my manifesto, provide examples, and include a chapter on street photography technique.

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One thought on “Life / Work / Photography Balance

  1. -N- July 29, 2018 / 11:51 am

    Nancy – given the heat we have been having, you couldn’t have chosen a better place to be! On the thought of playing, I remember how years ago, when I was a junior in college, a friend said, “Let’s go play!” I thought it was a childish thing to say but loved it for some reason – and since then, I “go play” a lot. Not lately, but it’s definitely a reminder. So, go play, and have a blast!

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