Why I fell Out of Love with Photography (And What I Did To Get My Passion Back)


 Image above: I chose one of my favourite images from my time at LCF to start off this article. Elisa is my muse and model to this day, but the bad grades I received for images that I personally loved really damaged my desire to experiment artistically with my photography. This is one of the many ways that higher education can stifle, rather than encourage, the creative impulse.

I lived for taking photographs. Every holiday we did or day out we had as a family, I would take my big, clumsy, heavy camera and lug it around, amusing myself by taking pictures of anything and everything all day. In Belgium, my camera was my number one source of fun for the weekend, I often did photoshoots with my friends (sometimes I was commissioned and paid for them, sometimes if I was feeling ‘creative’ and ‘kooky’ I would do it for free but maintain creative control) and spend hours editing the resulting images in the evenings.

When I came to University, having thrown away any hope of an academic degree by choosing to pursue an artistic education, I was still enthused about the medium of photography, and hoping to forge a career in fashion as a freelance photographer. 

By December 2012 of the same year I had arrived at Uni, I realised that being a freelance photographer (whether in the fashion industry or not) was my idea of a nightmare, and not something I wanted to pursue. I spent the rest of my degree dreading photoshoots, frequently not bringing my camera to events, and getting less enamoured with the hobby I once was so impassioned about every day.

This made no sense to me. I came to University to study what I loved, one of the only people who was brave enough to not choose the ‘sensible option’ of an academic degree: so how did three months and the remaining 2 and a half years manage to drain me of any desire to be a photographer? 

There are a few factors that I can see, with hindsight, that did this to me. I want to share them with you in case you are considering taking a passion that you have to the next level – as anything artistic is notoriously ‘up and down’ and it’s really difficult to keep your commitment to it unflinching. I hope I can help people decide if they are able to go ahead with their passion and take it professional – or help them rediscover it if they feel they are stuck in a rut.

Image above: styling by Andy Rodman, Clothing by Vingi Wong. After a while I stopped caring what grades I was getting, and created highly experimental and bold images that I personally liked, so I had something in my portfolio that I could feel proud of, even though my grades didn't reflect it.

Why I fell Out of Love with Photography

  •        I didn’t like where I lived, and Getting Around Was Hard

During my three years in London, I lived first in North Acton and then in Seven Sisters in Tottenham. London, despite being known as a creative hub, was totally detrimental to my creativity. Why? Firstly, I hated it. 

Everywhere was polluted, nothing was within easy walking distance, there were too many people, it was too expensive, the houses were small, crappy and overpriced, and nobody ever stopped to help a stranger with their bags in the Tube. 

Being unhappy where you live does nothing for your creative side – I know the saying that ‘all great art comes from suffering’ but perhaps this is a widely believed misnomer… My art came from fun and happiness and relaxation, and to me it was therapeutic and enjoyment creating to be able to throw together photoshoots in a forest that was only 20 minutes away by tram in Brussels. 

In London, everything was such a mission – from taking the tube, to long walks, to trying to navigate such a huge, sprawling city, that I found myself wondering what the point was. Once, after having trekked to Highgate in the pouring rain and freezing cold at 7 in the morning with a hangover, I really asked myself ‘is it worth it?’ and looking at how miserable and unusable my images from that shoot were – I would say it wasn’t.

Image: Model is Chloe. Styled by me. Everytime I tried to plan shoots, they turned out nothing like I wanted. That's why I always preferred to do my shoots first, and THEN justify what I did and 'researched' my influences, which is the wrong way around of doing things. I found it really difficult and offputting trying to explain my reasoning behind every single creative choice I made.

  •         I was being graded on my images

I studied for a degree in Fashion Photography, which meant that by my third year, all my photoshoots were being graded and went towards my final mark. I got a 2:2, by the way, which is terrible. But I don’t care – because my tutors were wholly uninterested in any photographic style apart from their own. 

I love my images to look homemade and innocent, but this was seen as sloppy and unprofessional. When you are being assessed for your work by people that you do not like or respect as educators, it’s really difficult. They did not like my aesthetic style and my grades were consistently low to average throughout my degree. This took a lot of joy out of photography because I couldn’t get any positive validation for my imagery. I started to question whether my aesthetic was valuable or unique, and this caused a huge crisis of confidence in my ability to create images.

 I decided after my first year that I would create pictures that I liked regardless, because it was more important to me to come out with a portfolio that I personally loved than get a good grade (and that’s more or less what happened in the end)

  • I was uninspired and borderline agoraphobic

Going back to my first point, I was unhappy in London and this was not conducive to my photographic work. I was almost agoraphobic because the hassle and exhaustion of getting across London put me off going out most days, so I stayed in my house instead – and as a result I was uninspired. I wasn’t seeing new things or visiting new places, so everything became stagnant in my mind. I had few ideas and fewer ways of executing them.

Image: I rediscovered my love of photography by moving away from the glossy world of fashion editorials to simply documenting my life in unedited, disposable camera snapshots such as this still life above, which was remnants from a photoshoot. 

What I did to get my passion back
  • I started shooting on film and on disposable cameras

I revived my grandfather’s old Nikon F-601 and started carrying around disposable cameras in my handbag during my last year of University. I’ve stopped more recently for financial reasons (hey kids, film is expensive) but it was a great way to start documenting my life visually. The surprise and delight of not seeing your photographs straight away really prompted an excitement and sense of achievement in me that had lain dormant for years. Film photography is probably the main contributing factor that helped me get back my love of photography for this reason

  • I took a break from organised photoshoots

I decided to stop doing paid commissions in Belgium when I went home, and focus instead on personal projects when I was back. I also decided to stop arranging photoshoots in England after I handed in my final university project at the London College of Fashion.

 I went back to using photography as a way to spontaneously entertain myself, rather than plan things, and it stopped me feeling so stuck with pre-arranged models and settings in mind. Of course, this meant I took less portraits, but the shift in subject matter was a welcome change for me after 3 years of shooting exclusively ‘fashion’ based projects, and allowed me to explore really grimy, raw subject matter again (which London and it’s ugly suburbs were crawling with).

  •  I re-examined what I wanted to do with my life

By the end of my bachelor’s degree, I knew that full-time freelance photography wasn’t for me – but I knew that entrepreneurship and fashion was. Now that I know what I truly want to pursue in my life, photography can stay a hobby that I love and cherish, that I will never have to ‘take to the next level’ or rely on fully. 

Finding my true purpose and calling wasn’t easy – it took my three years and a lot of unhappiness to weed out what didn’t inspire me in work life (I had lots of crises along the lines of ‘I never want to get a job, I’ll just marry a rich man, I’ll never amount to anything, I’ll be a trophy wife…') to find out what makes me happy, fulfilled and stimulated.

Image: Model is Maya. Now that I know I want to focus on starting my own online fashion business, I can use my photographic knowledge as part of an endeavour that requires so much more thought and planning than just doing the odd photoshoot. Using photography to contribute to a 'higher cause' of running a business means I can keep my hobby, keep it useful to me, but also do something with my life that I am far more willing to commit to long-term.

I hope that by reading this, you can consider my three tips for regaining your passion and apply it to your situation. Why did you fall out of love with your hobby? Is it because it became too all-consuming? 

Maybe it’s outside influences that are harming your passion, and you need to adjust your lifestyle so that you can enjoy yourself again. Please let me know of your experiences in the comments section below, as I would love to hear from you!

You can follow me on Facebook here, and check out more of my photography here.

I also run an FREE online HQ photography resource for bloggers, which you can find here.

As always, thanks for reading and leave any comments you have below!

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