I made this self portrait oh...maybe 18 years ago. The sweet Polaroid I'm "shooting" was actually broken - so it got a second life as a prop. When I made this picture, I was 22-ish, head over heels in love with photography (still am), and doggedly determined to make it the center of my life.
My parents are supportive of what I do now, but when I was young they encouraged me to focus on "something serious" instead of photography. I'd tell my mother about my photo projects and teaching and she'd say, "Hm...I don't know, Laura. How are you going to make a living doing that?" I had lovely friends and family, but no one ever thought my passion was terribly worthwhile or realistic. They said it would be better to think of photography as a hobby - that it would be smart to get a "real job." (I'm making a mental note here to never say this to a passionate young person).
Despite all that, and despite the fact that there's not a clear career path for artists, I kept at it. Looking back, I think there's one thing that made it work out for me. Idealistically, naively, and completely ridiculously - whenever I wished for something (more photo community, an exhibit, a fun new class), I'd just go out and create it. For whatever reason, I never felt I had to wait for permission or find someone older or more experienced to lean on - I just cobbled together what I could and naively put it into the world.
And, I'm not talking fabulous, amazing stuff here - I'm talking scrappy, unsophisticated, raw stuff. I'm talking exhibitions in weird warehouses and apartment building hallways (hey, invite your friends, serve cheap wine and it's a gallery opening!). I'd come up with wacky class ideas and then just dive in and teach them (I guess I still do that). I put up fliers at grocery stores with my phone number on tear-off tabs - advertising a critique group I decided to form. All it took was some construction paper, markers, and scissors. And people called. And we started a group. It was innocent, organic, and free. I never waited around for someone to hand me the keys - I just...started.
Since there's not "one right way" to do things in the arts, anyone can do this at any time. It's actually much more possible in the arts than in other fields (you know...because you can't decide to give brain surgery or jet piloting a whirl on a whim). I'm deeply passionate about this working method: want something? Make it. Start now. And this: "A year from now, you'll wish you'd started today." Yes, yes, yes.