2019 Victorian Professional Family Photographer of the Year - Finalist
Jul 2, 2019 | By: Studio Z Photography
Last night I received the news that I am one of three finalists for the 2019 AIPP Victorian Family Photographer of The Year.
I was blown away by the news. I didn’t think I was anywhere near the calibre of the other entrants. If it wasn’t at the urging of fellow photographer Karen Alsop (she is an absolutely amazing photographer by the way), I would not even have submitted enough entries to qualify.
Because news such as this need to be shared (for the sake of ‘marketing’), I started to write a happy shallow blog filled with ‘yeays’, ‘woohoos’, unicorns and rainbows. But when I put pen to paper (finger to keyboard), I felt a strong urge to share something deeper, darker, and more real: my struggle with ‘The Imposter Phenomenon’.
For many years I lived with a little voice in my head who incessantly whispers:
‘You’re a fraud!’
‘You’re not a real photographer! You didn’t major in photography at uni!’
‘One day, everyone is going to know that you’re bluffing your way through!’
Before I knew these whispers have a name, I lived in fear of being ‘found out’.
I was afraid my clients would find out that I was trained as an Architect, not a photographer.
I was afraid my clients will realise that my ‘Certificate in Applied Photography’ from NMIT is only a short ‘micky-mouse’ course.
I was afraid that if I photographed a discerning client, (s)he will tell me I’m not good enough to charge money for photography because the iso is too high or eyelashes aren’t tack sharp.
I cling to external validations like a lifeline.
I became accredited by AIPP because without it, I can’t call myself a ‘professional photographer’ without feeling like a con-artist.
One day, I heard a talk by Kristen Cook (a well-known Australian photographer). She talked about her experience with the ‘Imposter Phenomenon’, and tears streamed down my face. Wondrous relief washed over me. I’m not a fraud!
‘Many capable people doubt their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud".’
‘People with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have. They call their success luck or good timing, and dismiss it as others’ believing they were better, more intelligent, and more competent than they actually are.’
I took my first step towards owning who I am without apology.
Over the next few years, I learned to tame down those nasty little voices. I recognised that my 12 years of experience as an Architect should be celebrated as it honed my eye for colour and design, and not something to be ashamed of. I no longer feel like a ‘fake’ photographer.
I thought I had fully overcome my ‘Imposter syndrome’.
Three years ago, I entered the prestigious AIPP annual competition for the first time. I was very surprised to win two silver awards.
My Imposter syndrome reared its ugly head:
‘You would never have won if it wasn’t for Lisa’s help with the final refinement and printing! She deserves the awards, not you!’
‘You’re lucky the required print size isn’t large enough for the judges to see all the technical faults.’
‘You’ve bluffed your way through again! They’ll soon find out that all your other work are ordinary!’
Last year I entered again, and won one Silver Distinction and one Gold Award in the Victorian Awards.
The very quiet voices still attributed my success to ‘help’ and ‘luck’.
This year, I was only planning to enter one submission.
When Karen Alsop heard that, she urged me to enter 4 pieces of work, to at least qualify to compete for the ‘Family Professional Photographer of the Year’ title.
My reply was ‘Nah! There’s no way I’m even closed to being in that league!’
‘It wouldn’t hurt. And you’ll never know.’
With some reluctance, I chose another photo, then asked Karen to help me select two more to enter.
I hadn’t even bought a ticket for the awards presentation night because (a) I felt guilty leaving hubby with the kids while I go out to have fun, and (b) there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that I would win anything.
At 9pm last night, a txt came from Karen: ‘Jina you’re finalist!’
[my immediate thought was: ‘gee, there must have not been many entries this year.’ But I had the good sense to kick that thought in the shins straight away.]
Nancy Flammea (an amazing photographer I wholeheartedly admire) won the title of ‘2019 Victorian Professional Family Photographer of the Year’.
Nicole Anderson (who won the title last year) and I, were the finalists.
TOP THREE IN VICTORIA!
This year was the first time I submitted enough pieces of work to qualify for the title. I didn’t bother with it last year, or the year before, because I didn’t dare dream big!
Why didn’t I dare dream big?
In Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk, she attributed the Imposter Phenomenon as a major reason that there are so few women leaders in the world.
‘Data shows women systematically underestimate their own abilities.’
‘Men attribute their success to themselves, and women attribute it to other external factors.’
Why does this matter?
It matters because not believing in my own abilities means not daring to reach for a higher goal.
It means letting opportunities slide.
It matters because so many women hand over opportunities for promotion, pay-rise, or interesting projects to their male colleagues, because they don’t put their hands up to own their success.
It matters because until I heard Kristen Cook's talk, I hadn't heard of the term 'Imposter Phenomenon'. I couldn't free myself from feeling like a 'fraud' until I realised I wasn't alone. Kristen's talk gave me the conviction to tell my negative little voices to 'shove it!'. If this blog can help just ONE person, it would be worth writing.
I'm still working on it.
I should be able to say this without cringing: I am talented. I work bloody hard. I deserve my success!
... but as I typed those words I can still feel my inside cringe. But I'll keep working on it...