Didn’t I just get back here? Yes, and I’m about to leave again*, but for now it’s wonderful to be back with my husband and cat and friends and other people who don’t call me “Christy,” as well as a readily available supply of melons, Russian lessons, and people who speak more English beyond asking me, “Your photos, they are normal?”
I hope I’ve made it clear that my three weeks in Dubai were not a vacation. I had daily photo shoots (sometimes three in one day), including going to a fragrant fish market at 7am, the Gold Souk during the hottest part of the day, several windy trips to the desert, and multiple late-night indoor shoots with models. On top of that add lectures, stacks of books to read, movies to watch, and reports to write on all of it. Maybe I did go to the pool once. Maybe I did consume my body weight in hummus. Maybe one week was spent in a very comfortable hotel. Maybe I did see Harry Potter 7.2. And maybe all of this occurred at no cost to me.
But it was not a vacation. It was a jam-packed internship. So what did I learn from it?
I feel a bit guilty for saying it, but one of the biggest things I learned is that I’m a pretty advanced photographer already. Maybe this realization mostly spun from the fact that of the three interns, I was the only one who already knew who Ansel Adams was, who already understood how to change my white balance, and who was the only one deemed worthy by our host to briefly play with his Hasselblad. It is rewarding to realize that the obscene amount of time I’ve spent researching photography on my own and taking tens of thousands of photos has led me here.
I did learn a lot as well. While teaching photography last semester, I mostly skipped anything related to models, fashion photography, or studio lighting. At the time I emphasized that it was technically a photojournalism course and focused on how to construct a meaningful photo essay over how to properly illuminate a model’s face. But, really, I had absolutely no experience with models or artificial light. Now I’m much more confident that I can give my future students a more well-rounded photography class and I’m even thinking about calling up Adelina and Aikol to volunteer for a class-wide photo shoot during the semester.
Plus, there was the opportunity to just sit around and reflect a whole lot about where my life is going (boring, stay with me though) and whether a career in photography will intersect it or continue running frustratingly parallel with it. A recent boost of optimism came from a birthday gift from two absolutely wonderful friends who decided two of my favorite photographs deserved to be printed very large. Gigantic. It definitely boosts my confidence to see all the details up close, in print, in my hands (actually, in my arms, they’re really big) and know that they’re good prints.
But, would others think so? Would anybody think enough of my photographs to buy one? To commission me for something? To help me earn more than $90 a month doing something photography-related? Those are the big questions. If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, you’ve probably picked up on my cynicism by now. That’s the cynicism that is making it tough for me to see a career in photography as anything other than a full-time hobby, while my husband works nights and weekends trying to get contracts for the company. The company we came here to start in the first place. That career, not one in photography, is the reason we came here.
And in that sense, the Dubai internship made me realize I’m not there yet. The coming months with be busy as I try to balance the company and my attempts to make some sort of living off my photography, develop a style, organize a business side to it, and whatever else it takes.
*Oh, did I mention I’m leaving Kyrgyzstan again? This is turning into a very non-Bishkek summer. In mid-August, Farrell and I are heading West on a three-week vacation spanning Turkey, Philadelphia, and various parts of Colorado, the highlight of which will be visiting his family for the first time in over a year, and consuming vast quantities of green chili (a newly discovered love of mine).
But I plan on taking advantage of the precious, fine weather of this city while I’m still here. That involves a lot of casual sunset strolls, dinner and drinks in outdoor cafes, perhaps a trip to a Karakol horse festival. Stay tuned.