Taking a leap
Well, I never thought I'd be doing this so soon, but as I write this I've made the seemingly manic decision to quit my job, and go full time with the photography.
Bonkers? Probably. Though not as bonkers as you'd think.....
Firstly I'm not impulsive, not in the slightest - I'm pretty methodical by nature and like to explore all avenues thoroughly before making any decisions, certainly when it comes to things like spending money. My fiance will attest to this when labouring over which TV to buy, or what film we're going to watch.................... "just pick one!"...................... is heard often. Although I'm thorough and I like to have all the facts at hand, I'm not frightened of making big decisions, I just need all the information first. And while this career change certainly isn't buying a new TV, my method for making the decision hasn't changed. Given the speed at which this has all happened at (about 7 or 8 weeks), a few friends and colleagues have suggested I've made a knee-jerk decision, when the process of getting to this point actually hasn't been impulsive at all, and here's why.
My (now previous) job was at times an extremely high pressured job, and both mentally and physically taxing. It involved working a shift pattern which alarmingly had 8 different start times ranging from 4.45am to 1045pm (most shift jobs have 2 or 3 start times max) and involved periods of the month where I'd spend long time periods away from my fiancé and young son. I've mentioned previously that my son is autistic, and also non-verbal which presents its own unique challenges, and at times my work definitely added more pressure on an already strained home life, more than it really should have. For long periods each month me and my partner were passing ships and I'd not see my son for a week at a time which was particularly stressful. We'd often joke I may as well be on an Oil Rig in the North Sea for those periods, but then that was the reality. As he grows older this has become a situation that couldn't go on as it was no good for any of us. This had led to me actively exploring other employment opportunities for the last few months although nothing had come to fruition.
So when the opportunity arose to take on the running of the gallery i currently exhibit work in came around, it was music to my ears if I'm honest. The opportunity to pursue something I'd have probably been building towards in the medium to long term was too good to at least explore in more detail. I'm very fortunate to have had the guidance and advice of my best friend and local entrepreneur John Graham, (owner of Merienda cafes in both Cockermouth and Keswick) who has successfully run two businesses in busy tourist towns for the past 10 years. John is a lifelong friend who I grew up with touring the country as my doubles partner, where we were both fortunate enough to represent England at junior level playing badminton. We've been through a lot together and having him to lean on a bit throughout this process has been invaluable. I trust his advice implicitly as he shares my passion for giving a project or personal interest everything you've got. I sent him away to pour over the figures as I had done, and asked him to find every fault (no matter how small) that he could. After some time he came back and told me what I wanted to hear, that the opportunity was to good to turn down. I'm no spring chicken anymore, at 35 this might not come round again.
So fast forward to today, and as I write this I'm preparing to get started on a bit of a re-fit of the shop before hopefully opening on May 5th, a bank holiday weekend so should prove to be something of a baptism of fire. I'll be honest, I've no idea how to run a business (how can I have, I've been stuck in an office for 15 years!), but it's going to be fun finding out, and I'm determined to make it work. It's a wee bit daunting, but exciting at the same time. The chance to do photography for a living is a dream I think we all share so I'm just really looking forward to getting started and seeing what I can do with it.
More than anything else though, I'm looking forward to getting some quality of life back into the time I spend with my family - you can't put a price on that and even though in the short term they'll probably be some bloody long hours, the reward will be all the greater for it. The little things like being able to tuck the wee fella in every night is something I've really missed working shifts.
Lens District Gallery will (hopefully) open on May 5th 2018 and will feature both personal work from myself and also some selected photographers who share my passion for the Lake District. I'd really appreciate it if you're ever in the area to stop by and say hello. The Lake District is something of a hot spot for landscape photography so it would be nice to put faces to names of all the nice people I interact with on social media.
Wish me luck I'll need it!