We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Caroline Herring a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Caroline, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today We’d love to hear the backstory behind a risk you’ve taken – whether big or small, walk us through what it was like and how it ultimately turned out.
It sounds impressive saying it now, and truthfully it was considering just 3 years prior I’d graduated from college with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography. Somehow I’d wiggled my way to the side of marketing that couldn’t be any less creative.
In all honesty, I was crushing the job. I spent months mastering a brand new software from top to bottom, and my artistic background gave me the aesthetics to make data somewhat exciting.
I was the only person at the company who could do the job. My calendar overflowed with meetings, and I was constantly taking on new projects and assisting team members. People depended on me, and my role was integral to the well-oiled machine.
Days of importance began to feel longer, more tedious, and exhausting. I became increasingly frustrated, ridden with self loathing, and eventually my discomfort manifested physically and mentally.
After months of gaslighting myself, I finally realized the problem: my current “success” didn’t align with my version of success. My true values, goals, and purpose were not available for me to achieve in my role.
Fears of failure and financial instability had convinced me I would never “make it” as an artist, causing me to feel stuck in my situation. I thought I’d failed before I even started.
After months of reluctance, I woke up one day and decided to put in my two weeks.
It wasn’t simple or easy. I’d worked hard in my role and loved my coworkers but suddenly, life became too short to be miserable about the things I COULD change.
Quitting a full-time job to pursue photography is the single scariest thing I’ve ever done…but I’ve never regretted it.
It started with a lot of I-don’t-knows and figuring-it-outs. Periods of underpaying myself, working side gigs, and having to explain to folks “why in the world I would quit my day job.”
It’s been a full year since and I still face new challenges daily—all while trying to grow my business, stay true to the work, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Running a small business is no joke, but I’ve discovered almost everyone is in a state of figuring-it-out (which is comforting in a weird way).
Just like any path, there are highs and lows, but the key for me is to remind myself of where I started.
If my worst day now is better than my best day before making the jump, then there’s no doubt I’m headed in the right direction.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Caroline and I’m a photographer and artist. Professionally, I specialize in fashion, product, and creative portraiture. My fine art features intricately curated still lives and travel film photography.
I have profound passions for set design, florals, color, and texture—often incorporated into my work at large.
Primarily located in Charleston, SC, you can find me selling prints and polaroid portraits at various pop-ups and flea markets in the area.
A little more about my background: since I can remember, I always had a creative device in hand or some kind of project in the works. A Hartsville, SC native, I grew up knowing I wanted to pursue something creative, and was lucky enough to live in a household that encouraged me to explore those interests—my parents equipping me with my first “real” camera at 12 years old.
Years later in 2018, I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography from Clemson University where I studied an array of mediums: film photography, installation sculpture, and mixed media collage remaining most influential. Soon after, I moved to Charleston and began working in digital marketing and analytics research for 3 years as a means to land on my feet and save up.
During that time, I continued experimenting with photography, heavily contemplating where my work could live and who it could serve.
Finally in August 2021, I turned what had always been a dream into my full-time job.
I often explain that I don’t just “take” photos, but I design them, as my process revolves around highly creative concepts, planning, execution, and post-processing.
For brands and individuals, photography can act as a method of storytelling. My goal is to not only tell these stories, but to transform them into moments as visually striking as they are memorable and inspiring.
Collaboration is the key to epic outcomes, and I’ve been truly blown away by the businesses and individuals I’ve been able to work alongside in such a short amount of time: musicians, sustainable fashion brands, vintage merchandise vendors, small businesses, female entrepreneurs, activists, etc.
I’ve also had the opportunity to get involved in Charleston’s creative community by displaying work in local art galleries and exhibitions—an outlet I felt I lost when I left Clemson and wasn’t sure where my work could grow.
I knew early on I wanted to create work that inspires me, allows creative freedom, and gives others a voice and impact. I never thought I would already be doing that in such a short amount of time, let alone quit my day job and make it through the first year.
I still have so much to learn as a small business owner and creative, but I’m beyond thrilled to see how this journey evolves and who else I’ll meet along the way.
How can we best help foster a strong, supportive environment for artists and creatives?
Pay artists what they’re worth. I cannot stress this enough!
Creative projects involve hard work, time, and expenses. Beyond that, most artists are small business owners who pay taxes and live lives of their own!
You wouldn’t expect a professional in any other industry to carry out a large scale project for a small scale budget, so consider this when commissioning or purchasing from an artist.
The scope of work will reflect the price you pay.
Artists are valuable and vital to community and culture, so take pride in supporting a small business and your local art scene.
Is there something you think non-creatives will struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can provide some insight – you never know who might benefit from the enlightenment.
One person’s success does not equate to your version of success.
For me, it’s how often someone walks away from a session feeling a deeper sense of self and confidence. How often my creative freedom is fully trusted, encouraged, or embraced. How often someone says “this is even better than what I could’ve imagined!” If I sell one piece that brightens someone’s living space, that’s enough for me.
Sure, having lots of money sounds pretty cool but the truth is, every person’s rate of success is based on a different metric.
- Website: carolineherringphoto.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/carolineherringphoto
- Linkedin: linkedin.com/carolineherring
Caroline Herring Photo