Pain and Courage | The Glorious Life Of A Creative Spirit

A penguin climbs a snow covered hillside on Cuverville Island, Antarctica.

Over the years my work as a photography teacher has brought me into contact with a lot of interesting and highly motivated people.

It's always great when, in such a tough industry, those who undertake formal studies as a means to find employment are able to transit from the world of a well-tendered student to that of an independent working photographer.

Some, because of their own personality, talent and tenacity are able to make that transition without even completing formal studies.

Others are good students but, not being able to find one of very few full-time positions in the industry and without the capabilities or desire to run their own business, flounder.

For those folks jobs on the fringe of the industry (e.g. camera stores, distributors) or, alternatively, in an aligned industry are often the best solution.

During my time as a photography teacher I've worked with literally thousands of people. Usually the relationship is mutually beneficial: they learn and I revel in that journey.

Sometimes the student/teacher experience is so powerful, so very much in the moment, that time seems to stand still as critical understanding is experienced.

I've experienced this both as a student and as a teacher.

Photography As A Student

I'II never forget my own favorite teachers over the years and the sacrifices they made to help me along my own, very independent path.

Bob Shaw

A standout in my high school years. Bob was positive, enthusiastic and treated his students with respect.

I have no doubt he genuinely cared and made all the difference in my Accounting class, a class without his help I probably would not have passed.

Meryl Johnson

A kind and encouraging tutor in my first year of formal, tertiary level photography education.

Dr. Les Walkling

A phenomenal support and inspiration. Whatever I wanted to do he allowed, encouraged and helped make possible.

I studied under Les for 7 years culminating in a Masters of Arts  (Photography) at RMIT, Melbourne.

You just don't forget that kind of support and it must, as a consequence, inform your own relationships with those you teach.

King penguin's feet on the icy slopes of Cuverville Island, Antarctica.

As a Teacher

During my time as a teacher I've experienced many out of time moments when the blessed trinity of information, delivery and connection seem to gel within an entire group of people.

Such moments are highly palpable, even blissful.

Hardship and Hope

Every now and again a favorite student has to prematurely leave a course of study. This can be a great sadness for student, peers and teacher alike.

I remember a message I received from such a student, let's call her Sally, whom I'd taught for several years at a photographic college at which I'd previously worked.

Due to a significant illness she had to leave her studies and return to her parents home to recuperate.

The nature of the illness dictated a slow, careful recovery in a peaceful, nurturing environment.

I remember at the time thinking that Sally had made a decision that was both correct and courageous. After all one's happiness and health are paramount.

And formal studies are but one way by which we can live a creative life.

I very much believe in the following notion:

To heal the world you first need to heal yourself.

In other words you can't live a productive life and bring joy to others until you build a happy and healthy life for yourself.

Our modern world can be such a hard, difficult place and many do all they can just to survive. They spend the best years of their life swimming against the tide or, at best, treading water.

It's a thrill sliding down the hill overlooking Paradise Harbour in Antarctica.

Life is What You Make of It

We're all presented with choices along life's path. But I've learned to understand that we often miss the point of those choices.

Why take on a so-called promotion when the job promises elevated levels of stress, significantly longer working hours, a loss of personal freedom and leisure.

Often the so-called financial rewards simply aren't there. We need an escape plan and I now believe that such choices present us with just that.

Why spend your life running to keep up with a train that does little more than take you in circles?

Maybe the right choice is the one outside of the box?

Consider leaving the track and taking a nice, slow relaxed walk on the grass. And why not stop for an ice cream and a snooze along the way?

You may not make as much money but, with a more enlightened view of money and the cost chasing money has on your life, you might not miss the extra cash.

Better health and fitness, more fulfilling relationships and an ability to see and experience more of the beauty and joy that surrounds you is within reach.

The really smart people, the wise ones, are able to do just that.

It takes courage, but only in the spaces between the madness of our modern world can you find time to really know yourself, breathe and begin to understand why you're actually here.

I believe that we all have a purpose in life, but few of us take the necessary action to realize that purpose.

That action may require distancing yourself from the rat race so as to find your own path.

What's Your Scene?

Whether your creativity is expressed through writing, music or photography it’s important to allocate the time, energy and finances required to nurture that talent.

And why not share your journey and the lessons you’ve learned along the way, like I do, with the world.

By healing yourself you can then contribute and make a positive difference to the health of so many other people and, as a consequence, to the world itself.

What About Happiness?

Depending on your generation and your upbringing you may or may not have been told that you are unique, talented and able to do anything you want.

I once referred to a former student as a child of the universe who glows with a luminous quality. And I meant it!

The point is you don't actually acquire or achieve happiness. You experience it.

I doubt that true happiness will come as a result of keeping your boss happy by entering data and moving numbers around in cyberspace.

Happiness surrounds us all, it's our state of mind, the way we perceive what's going on around us that determines our reality and, as a consequence, our ability to experience happiness.

Life is not the cards we are dealt, nor is it the way we play those cards. That's because such a game, by definition, results in winners and losers.

The secret to life is the ability to determine what the cards actually are.

We all have the ability to make an ace from a joker, a flush from a pair. And once we understand that fact the need to play the hand is replaced with the desire to share our cards, openly and generously, with others.  

A heavy snowstorm over Whalers Bay and Port Foster on Deception Island.

And What of Sadness and Loss

Sadness, anxiety and even heartache are temporary if we decide that’s what they’ll be. They’re also a significant part of the human condition.

Without loss how could we understand love, without despair we would undervalue bliss.

No one lives in a bubble, and the outside world does impact your life. But that doesn't mean you have to allow it to do so at the expense of your own happiness.

If you have a horrible boss it seems to me there are three choices available to you:

  1. Stay mad and miserable in a seemingly hopeless situation.

    This is the easiest choice and many folks find a sense of identify and significance in identifying themselves as a victim.

    I know this from personal experience and it’s one of the reasons why people choose to enter or remain in destructive relationships.

  2. Learn to better understand your bosses point of view and motivations.

    You may find you pity them or, better yet, begin to understand why they're behaving like they are.

    As a result the boss/employee power relationship will change and you may find a sense of freedom from the stress you'd previously believed they were responsible for causing.

  3. Get out and get on with life.

    This takes real courage, which is why few of us, including our bosses, actually do it.

The Road Ahead 

When I heard the news of Sally’s illness and move back to her parents home I decided to dedicate the photo at the top of this post to her.

It's from Antarctica. The little penguin was photographed near the top of a hill on Cuverville Island, Antarctica.

I like the photo and the fact that it's emotive power has probably been emphasized when viewed in relation to this article.

Last I heard was that Sally was well on the road to recovery and developing into a very good photographer working in a part of the industry to which she feels an affinity.

It’s always rewarding when someone you know is able to realize their own potential and live a happy, meaningful life.

I'm so pleased that the light I witnessed within Sally, while temporarily dimmed, is burning bright again.

Perhaps our primary purpose in life is to bring happiness into the lives of others. But to be able to do that in a sustained and meaningful way we first need to find happiness in our own lives.

The way ahead is not always easy. But the choices we make, ultimately, are what determine the road we take and the reality we create.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru