TAKEAWAY: Self-employed creatives can find satisfaction balancing their art of passion and their craft of commercial production.
It’s safe to say Brian Fitzgerald had a job many people would love to have. A media photographer, Brian worked for newspapers in Arizona, Washington State, and Maine, covering all sorts of interesting stories and photographing interesting people. He even worked as an embedded photo and print journalist in Iraq during the early years of the war. And yes, there’s that other benefit — a steady source of income.
But a few years ago he decided to scratch a creative itch. As he put it to me when I interviewed him in his stunning loft studio near the water in Portland, Maine, “I decided I wanted to create.” For him, that meant leaving journalism and opening that studio where I filmed him. (See a four-minute video interview with him below.)
Brian was one of the creatives I interviewed during my cross-country trip across the United States this summer. I’ll admit, I’ve been thinking about his leap into self-employment a fair amount lately, because in January I’ll be doing the same thing. (Yes, voluntarily, I’m a nut to give up a salaried job in this economy, I know!)
As Brian explained to me, he brings his creativity and passion for photography to every job he does. If it’s an architecture shoot, he fusses over lighting for hours (light work is a specialty of his). If it’s photographing a product for a client, he works hard to elevate the result above that of someone like me snapping away with a fancy digital camera.
But his self-employment also frees him up for more personal projects. For example, he has set a goal of photographing members of every U.S. native tribe. He says they’re over 500, and he’s at about thirty. (The screen shot you see on the video below is not in fact Brian but one of his Native American photos.) Brian may never complete that project, but it’s important to him, and it provides him with a creative spark that fuels his money-earning photography. (I pointed out to him that he should really consider a coffee-table book at some point.)
Supporting oneself through your creativity, and recognizing that doing so requires following not just your muse but the wishes of your clients, is a path I aim to follow with my own freelance writing career. Thank you, Brian, for showing me a path.