I think it’s quite fitting that this blog is written today, given the outcome of the American Presidential Race. I’m currently sitting in Starbucks (as I do at least once a week) editing, writing and generally going about my normal business day.
I see the same people here as I do every week, the window cleaner turns up around 9.05 every Wednesday morning, the same people doing the same as I am sat in the same seats every week. We rarely exchange words but a acknowledging glance and a sort of half-smile is enough to say “yes we are here again..”
It dawned on me, during a workshop I was teaching on Sunday, that this life was accidental, it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t prepped, I didn’t study photography at University, I didn’t dream about being a photographer as a kid.
I have this life I have now by total fluke.
Well, I’ll take that back a little, I am a photographer by a chance opportunity and turn of events. What I do and the way I work is down to me making my own luck.
During my early teens I watched and admired my big brother Sean. 4 years my senior, he was confident with the ladies, had a great group of friends, had a good sense of style (despite his Curtain hair cut) and most of all to me at the time was an outstanding basketball player. He broke the records at the Senior School we attended on scoring and was the first student ever to “Dunk”. Hence the nickname he got Duncan.
Sean was always a better basketball player than me, I always knew it. He was stronger, a better shooter, a better dribbler and had far more self-control on the court than I did.
By the time I was 16, I had played 22 times for England Youth Basketball team. Sean hadn’t. That wasn’t right to me. Here I was, a lesser player and yet I had more perceived success on the court. Why?.
Opportunity. When I attended my first ever Basketball training session at a Leisure Centre in South Shields I was 12 years old. I was 6’2″ at the time. I was absolutely awful, I couldn’t dribble or shoot or do anything except catch the ball higher than anyone else.
I trained on a Wednesday night for a few months, and one month a guy called Alan happened to be there as his daughter trained there too. The following day at school my PE teacher pulled me into the office.
“We’ve just had a call about you playing basketball, they want you to go for trials with England North Team.”
And it went from there, I had the massive opportunity to go to Lilleshall National Sports Centre two years in a row to have trials for England Basketball team. The first year I was a year too young and placed on the Development Squad, in the second year I was picked to be on the team. I still wasn’t a great player, still nowhere near as good as my big brother. The only difference is that Alan seen me play one evening and thought I had enough potential to succeed. If he had not been there that night, I would never had those 4 awesome years with England Basketball Team.
I look back at the start of my photography career, and it came about in a very similar way of chance. I got into photography when my son (who has just turned 9) was born. My Dad bought me my first DSLR, and showed me the ropes. The following year my Brother In Law was getting married and didn’t have a photographer.
“Do you fancy shooting my wedding Chris, your Dad could help too?”
“Sure, how hard can it be” —– It is very hard!!!
So there I was alongside my Dad, and my Brother, shooting my Brother in Laws wedding day. It was great fun. We enjoyed it and it was my first taste of wedding photography.
We sat on the evening after I had devoured the Buffet and a young couple came up to us and asked if we were free on August 28th the following year. Despite the fact they hadn’t seen any of our images from the day, or didn’t really know much about us. We jumped on the opportunity and Xtraordinary Photography was born. 80% of our business was born from the friends and family of that couple over the following 2 years. We we’re receiving the best kind of marketing possible, word of mouth.
If I hadn’t of had a son and got into photography, or been asked to shoot David and Caroline’s Wedding, or met that couple on that night. I would not have a photography business. I would be sitting in a Managers Office in B&Q working 80 hours a week and not knowing this alternative life could have existed.
So my path from there was set, and although I worked my photography business alongside a full-time job for a number of years, I finally made the jump a couple of years back to go full time.
That was opportunity. Now its about making your own luck. And don’t get me wrong I still get some amazing opportunities now but they are driving by hard work and putting myself in the right place at the right time.
Creating your own luck or Working to a plan, as I like to call it, is the difference between surviving and thriving. Now, I don’t mean financially, hopefully that will follow. But more so from a development of both skills and business. Because I have put myself in the right place I am now working on some of the biggest commercial projects I’ve ever been part of. That is through Networking effectively.
Because I’ve been a little bit cheeky and assertive I’ve been working alongside Pixapro for over a year now which has massively driven the Training side of my business giving me more credibility across the UK as a whole.
I have a Facebook friend, granted someone I’ve never met, but I am inspired by him daily. He has built a designer watch company from the ground up and driving himself beyond anything you can imagine to make that a success. Hard work is engrained in his body, and a ‘never give up’ attitude is what has made him successful. He has absolutely made his own luck and will reap the rewards of that in his business I’m sure.
I still look back at those basketball days as some of the best times in my life, and Sean would travel with me everywhere to watch and support me at every opportunity, but I’ve always felt as though for him it was a tragedy he never had the same opportunity that I did. But, by the same token, playing alongside my Brother for the college team was quite simply awesome!
Sean has carved himself an extremely successful teaching career now, and as he slowly edges towards the ripe old age of 40, I couldn’t be prouder of his drive, his hard work and him creating his own luck to get there.