Former Brock University student Chris Lawrence has made no secret of how content he’s been with life lately. Having finished his English Language and Literature degree at Brock, he’ll be graduating this Fall. He’s spent most of his time in the intervening months working in what he’s described as a ‘dream job’, as well as taking a vacation to California with a loved one and doing freelance photography whenever he can find the time. He’s fortunate enough to have been in a great position to start chipping away at his student loans, a freedom seldom enjoyed by many students who have just entered the workforce.
But Lawrence has refused to let anything stand in the way of his dreams, even if what’s standing in his way is comfort and security. He’s quitting his full-time job and risking it all for the sake of his photography career.
“I look like a mad man, but I’m not the first person to take such a risk and I certainly won’t be the last,” said Lawrence.
I was fortunate enough to pick his brain about what led him to the decision. What his answers reveal is not only a man who has overcome adversity to get a business off the ground, but one who continually chooses to tackle that adversity because he knows it will lead to better things in the long run.
This is true even in the beginnings of his love of photography, which developed as a way to cope with the stress of University. Between moments of extreme stress and a general feeling of having ‘no control over anything’, photography first bloomed from a bonding experience taking photos with friends, expanding to become a form of self expression.
“I even recall asking a stranger on campus to take a photo of her because I admired her style”, recalled Lawrence.
While it didn’t take long for a passing interest to blossom into a hobby and a passion, it took quite a bit longer than that for his skills to match his passion. Finding people to take photos of in those early days is something he cites as perhaps his biggest struggle; even when people would be interested, they’d cancel or be impossible to get a hold on the scheduled day. Lawrence recalled the malaise that comes when plans fall through, but chooses to focus on the relief and joy that comes with getting a shoot off of the ground.
“It was through their trust that I was able to build up the confidence that I have today,” said Lawrence. “I kept pushing and I remember that suddenly, it was like a switch flipped and people were contacting me for photos.”
The initial hurdle of getting himself off the ground has passed; while each day brings new challenges, his work has been paying off for him.
Ultimately, Lawrence’s drive has led him to make the decisions he has. Lawrence has come quite far in the months he’s been working, but listening to him talk about his decision to leave makes it clear that he’s come as far as he can without dedicating all of his time to photography.
“I could be secure and have less time to take photos… or I could simply jump in full-force and chase after my dreams,” said Lawrence. “If things fail, I still have time to address my mistakes and move forwards as I’m older.”
At the moment, Lawrence’s portfolio contains a great deal of portrait work, and he finds great creative strength in the huge level of detail and variety this style provides.
“Each person on this Earth and their features are unique and I love being able to capture that on camera, both digital and film,” said Lawrence.
As his photography expands, he hopes to be able to explore drone and fashion photography, as his resources, skills and interests expand. Through it all, Lawrence has never lost sight of the privilege that he has in being able to take this leap in the first place. To anyone in a similar position to him, wondering whether or not to take that leap and dedicate themselves fully to the thing that they love, he offers these five pieces of advice:
“One: Stay true to yourself and money will eventually follow.
Two: You are on your own from the moment you resign, not on your last day. Start thinking like a business owner and ensuring you are making money and have opportunities lined up.
Three: Understand social media. Seriously. Think about how content is consumed… and how you can tap into that to not only but an engaging audience but also make a profit from that audience when the time comes.
Four: Learn to be self-sufficient! Develop additional skills: I can also be a video editor and I’m currently learning how to code. All three skills are something I can offer to clients and in turn, take home a larger paycheque.
Five: Take time to network. Meet people in absolutely every aspect of your life. Talk to your Uber drivers, talk to the person beside you on the bus. Do it.”