How I turned my passion in to my career
Everyone had that care-free, go-where-the-wind-takes-you kind of friend growing up. That was me as a youth, I was that friend. I loved the Spice Girls, I would have been Geri in a heartbeat.
It meant that I never put myself under unnecessary pressure to do or become anything in a hurry. It allowed me to make mistakes and not feel a sense of failure. I could never understand those kids at school who would throw themselves into their studies and be so consumed by the outcome. So what if you don’t get an A*? You can always go in another direction if it doesn't work out!
However, when I left university (I voluntarily left after 2 years), it dawned on me that a sense of direction would come in rather handy right about now.
Felling lost, I applied for a Cabin Crew job with EasyJet and before I knew it I was living in Bristol. That's when I fell into retail for the next 10 years. Definitely not what I had planned, but then again I didn't have a plan did I?
I worked my way through retail management roles with various high street brands and one day, during my lunch break, I bit the bullet and joined Instagram to see what all the fuss was about.
My mind was blown! All of these seemingly normal people living their everyday lives and documenting it with pictures online. It was the aesthetic that struck me instantly – perfectly-curated feeds, complimentary tones and an apparent niche... I wanted to do that.
I created an account and that’s where my interest in photography really started.
IT TOOK BLOODY AGES! Nobody told me how long it would take or how hard it would be to attract an engaged audience. I'm also the kind of person who wants everything yesterday, so having to play the long game frustrated me massively. However, I soon learnt that I had to be patient and carefully started creating content and working out what my niche was.
I used content creation and photography as a release from the everyday, working – an increasingly stale retail career that wasn’t fulfilling me creatively.
Oh, did I mention my dad was a photographer and would make me and my bro pose in outfits like this?
Anyway, back to the story!
By 2017/2018 my little Instagram page was doing well and it was clear that my niche was leaning more towards photography. On the flip side, in the real world, my mental health was struggling and I had no idea. Traveling to work I was often struggling to breathe, not ideal. It didn't occur to me that I was having panic attacks until I visited the doctor months later. She diagnosed me with anxiety and depression and I was signed off work.
I felt like a fraud. I didn't fell unwell. Granted, I hadn't felt like myself for a long, long time but I certainly wasn't ill...was I?
It was a very tough time in my life, one that seems like a bit of a blur to talk about now but what I didn't know was that it would be the start of a journey that needed to happen.
My doctor advised me to practice mindfulness, do jigsaws, go for walks, or take up drawing...but instead I picked up my camera!
I took photos of everything, I became obsessed. I was taking photos every day and soon I was getting compliments and people would say "you should do something with your photography". But I guess I wasn't ready to think of photography as a business at that time.
Months went by and I knew I would never go back into full time work within the retail sector again - even the thought of it filled me with fear. I handed in my notice and went to college that September to complete a certificate in professional marketing. While studying I was so fortunate to start working with the amazing girls at Warrior Women Collective, who took me under their wing and started me on the road to career enlightenment!
Being an Events Assistant, I interview incredible women from all around the county. I also manage the WW social media accounts on event nights, which really allows me to flex my creative muscles!
It's one of the best decisions I have ever made. I meet new and inspiring ladies every month, from campaigners to sustainable fashion designers to Wales' first future generations commissioner! The opportunity to build relationships and get to know the faces behind small, local businesses is invaluable.
By this point it's 2019/2020 and I’m still taking photographs for fun and for social media. I went on to study for a second year for my Diploma in Professional Marketing with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I gained a Merit in 2 out of the 3 modules and then BAM! Coronavirus struck.
I just couldn't study long distance via Zoom for my final module and I was really panicked. Every time I sat down to write something I worked myself up so much that I got absolutely nowhere and usually turned to my camera for solace.
Starting my own business was something that I had thought about doing for a while but the timing had never seemed right (if there ever can be a right time), plus I lacked the confidence.
I made the decision to defer my final module until next year and used the time I had been given during lockdown to put down roots for Ailsa Clare Product Photography. I was finally making it happen and it felt great!
It was scary and of course I had no idea what would happen once I launched, but it was also an amazing feeling to be doing what I really wanted to do. Saying, "fuck it, at least I gave it a go" is better than saying , "Oh, I wish I had tried".
So here I am, this is Ailsa Clare Product Photography. It was born out of passion, a few tears, a little bit of trepidation and a lot love. I think I can safely say that photography saved me.