Stacey and I crossed paths at Past Tense Studio
in 2009. First as my yoga teacher, guiding me into crow pose then as mirasa photographer. She is incredibly talented and a creative inspiration.
Read about how Stacey built her successful photography company, Stacey Vaeth Photography.
Written by Stacey Vaeth
Starting this little photography company in 2008 took about every shred of faith that I had. Faith and hard work. I had been working as a community organizer at an environmental non-profit for five years, a job that was predicted given my undergraduate degree in environmental studies. It was a position that by any measure was the best fit for my interests and experience. But each day I would sit in my office and wait for the day to end. I would dream of going home and baking a loaf of bread, taking my camera out to walk the neighborhood and shoot, painting a picture, sewing a pillow. But inspiration would fade after the long commute home. I would make dinner and crash on the couch. Wake the next day to spin the same tale all over again.
I knew that I needed to work in a creative field, that to feel fulfilled every day I needed to feel and touch and see a physical outcome of my efforts.
After years of building internal fortitude, dreaming of what my professional life could be, and brainstorming endlessly, I conceived of my photography company. And though I come from three generations of professional photographers, I am the first woman in my family to make a living from it. I was terrified. I felt like I was pushing myself off of a cliff without a parachute.
Any endeavor into an unconventional lifestyle, in this case trying to make a living in the arts, appropriately carries with it some fears. But once you get past that initial stage, when you've worked so hard to be in demand, to make a living in this wonderfully crazy way, how do you stay centered, sane, happy, and most of all, inspired?
For me, it's two-fold: putting yourself on the calendar and finding what feeds you.
Putting yourself on the calendar is a trick of my mom's. It's pretty simple but hard to enact until you see the benefits. It literally looks on the calendar like: March 30th
, Stacey's Day Off. When clients want to book March 30th
, I look at my calendar, see my name on it, and say "so sorry, I'm booked that day".
When I first considered this approach, I was working 80 hour weeks. I was in my second year of business, and in that year I had only taken two weekends off. I was so fearful that I'd lose a client if I said that I was unavailable, so I made myself available all of the time. I was burned out. But an amazing thing happened once I carved out space for myself each week.... I became MORE in demand by making myself LESS available. And I became a better photographer because I had time to refill my own creative well by hiking, doing yoga, resting, and baking that loaf of bread.
Once I had some time on my hands, I came to discover that finding what feeds you is paramount to living a full and inspired life. And that often, what feeds you is actually not what makes you money. For me, it's travel. Preferably by car or by boat. I love to travel alone. To camp for weeks at a time. To look at the passing landscape and just breathe it in. For others, solitary travel evokes loneliness or fear. But when I head out on the road, alone but for my thoughts, I feel free. I feel light. When I first started to travel alone, so many people tried to talk me out of it. They shared with me horror stories, true or heard third-hand, to remind me of how fragile life can be. Or how dangerous "others" are. But I knew then and know now that traveling alone into our natural landscapes feeds my creative soul. I need that time alone, the breath of the fresh air, the chill of the evenings, to feel connected to the pulse of this earth. So I have chosen, again and again, to thank those with different opinions for their thoughts, and to then to do it anyway. For each person, finding what feeds you takes going on that solitary adventure whether physically or mentally. Perhaps it's taking classes to learn how to work wood or glass or make cheese. Maybe it's learning how to code or build robots. We each have something inside of us that can teach us more than just what we do for a living. We just need to find it.