Baggage |Terri Gillis Photography 2013

This is what summer looks like at my house.  It’s my baggage.   This pile is always there…. Every.  Single. Day.  Right  in the middle of my living room.   I could and should put them “away”, even if only for a few hours, but I don’t.

I shift the items from one bag to the next depending on where I’m going. I pack and unpack.  I can’t seem to put any one of the bags away especially during the summer, from day to day I will either need one or I’ll want something that’s in another. Just looking at them stresses me out. They represent where I’ve been and (based on the fact that they’re all out) the uncertainty of where I’m going next.. They vary in age, shape, size and I use each for different purposes.  I need them all.

No one seems to notice the bags or their contents except me.  Other than my friend who assists me at weddings will have to fetch something out of one for me, I don’t think anyone has ever really taken a look inside of them. The bags contain bits and pieces of this 13 year journey.  If you dug through the pockets you’ll discover cords that I haven’t used in many years, expired batteries and perhaps (probably) a roll of film (or two)..  You’ll find photos,  birth announcments, wedding programs, probably some bubbles, lipgloss, pain reliever and of course the essentials cameras and lenses and all the other things I used day to day.   The majority of things in the bags are necessary but there are a few of those things I just can’t seem to unpack.  I feel like if something ever happened to me it would be sort of like a treasure hunt to anyone who might be interested in them!  Afterall I’ve taken one or another just about everywhere and there  is so much to be discovered. And yet it might be more likely that the bags and their contents could just be quickly discarded, rendered useless and unimportant to anyone besides me.

The bags can be demanding and heavy.  They don’t drag themselves along, they require me to carry them or pull them.  I’m thankful for all that they hold and when we walk out the door every day; they are packed and organized, but when we come back the gear has shifted, some bags have more than they should and physically I’m exhausted, picking them up at the end of the day borders on oppression…..sometimes resentment. I wish I didn’t have to always be the one carrying these bags.

I occassionally will sit and look through the pockets to see what I’ve tucked away.  Each little item brings back a memory and a realization that I’ve had a lot of really good days with these bags.  I rarely remove an item from the bag for fear that I’ll lose the memory that goes along with it….The items are few (this is not Hoarding) but each is significant.  I’m grateful to have had a hobby that turned into a way to make some money on the side which then evolved into a flourishing full blown business. A lot of sacrifices have had to be made along the road, most of them are worth it, some I’m just not so sure about.

I’ve talked to a couple other photographers asking them the question “Are you lonely in your job?” and they all respond with a resounding but somewhat defeated “Yes.”  From a distance being a photographer seems exciting – working with (mostly) smiling and happy families, posing babies and brides, beautiful events, beautiful people and the thrill of cashing a check at the end of it. But zoom in a little  and there is a lonlieness in owning your own business, being the sole employee of a company.   I’m the receptionist, the accountant, the owner and the photographer.  There’s no morning office bantor, no co-worker to chat with, you are a one man show.  I think people take that for granted. I often envy  people who say that they’re doing this or that with co-workers – it’s like you have this team of people who you know are on your side, not wanting anything from you except for you to pull your share of the weight in order for the entire team to be successful.   People who you can relate to, bounce ideas off of and are committed to your success…something I deeply desire but don’t have.

Knowing other photographers (there are A LOT of them out there) and being able to have someone  to relate to does make it easier, but there are some things you just don’s share with them  or anyone.  It’s business and it needs to be dealt with and you are alone are responsible for it’s success or demise.  I come and I go, I work, and return calls and email.  I shoot, have meetings, deliver items, and spend face to face time with  all sorts of really wonderful people.  But most of the people I’m with, the celebrations I attend, babies I hold are done with a camera hanging off of my shoulder.  There is this feeling that life is passing me by.  Sometimes I feel more invested in my clients lives and all their special moments than my own.

Someone recently said to me – “You’re so lucky to be able to pick and choose your own hours – the flexible schedule must be a dream!”   And I just shrug it off…. the reality is that I’ve missed a lot of parties or celebrations for my own family and friends  because I’m working at someone elses celebration.  The older I get the harder this is to swallow.  You see I work the desk job part of this all day and evenings and weekends are for shooting.  Sounds amazing, huh?.   This doesn’t allow for much of a social life but occasssionally I get invited to an event in hopes that I’ll bring a camera and take “just a few” photos.  Usually if my camera is included or suggested on an  invite I’ll probably decline the invitation all together. What’s better than an invitation to work?  I take more photos of my kids/life with my iPhone than anything else. Truth.

I write every blog post for my family hoping that they’ll one day visit this corner of my life.  That they will see the beauty in the work, in the words(even if there are imperfections), in life, in love and in choices.  I know that they see, step over and around the bags, the bags are part of their everyday life as well. They are aware that they’re there.  They don’t recognize the value of the bags;  the amazing places they’ve been, the incredible moments they’ve been a part of.  They will hear me tell bits and peices of stories of this or that but never really understanding and sometimes not even interested.

I realize that this is a very candid post.  A part of me actually believes that no one will ever even read it and yet I take the risk to put it out there. The bags very much represent ME!!  I’m  not always in the right spot at the right time, I’m  sometimes disorganized, and tucked away inside are things that need to be dealt with or just let go of.  Like the bags I carry my share of the load  (more often that not, overloaded) and I do what I’m supposed to do (maintain the house, the kids schedule, banking, bills, laundry, shopping, keep yourself looking good….oh an run a business). The bags are dark on purpose to hide any dirt or imperfections,  no one has to even know what they’ve been in and on or through. They’re cushioned and provide protection for what’s inside of them.  They’re often closed, so that no one can even see what’s inside if they wanted to, opened only for a very select few.  But the bags are highly valueable  and should be appreciated!!! My hope is that at some point my family  would desire to peer inside and could learn that the bags were about so much more than the paycheck they often held at the end of the day.

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