We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Heather M. Smith a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Heather M. , thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Can you open up about a risk you’ve taken – what it was like taking that risk, why you took the risk and how it turned out?
I feel like my life is a series of risks; I’ve done things a lot of folks would never do and it’s a response that always confounds me. But, I’ve finally come to realize and accept that I think differently than average folks. Not good or bad, just different. They call it “neurodivergent” now. Having been diagnosed with both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder and PTSD has been the big dose of reality-check I needed to accept I have to work with it instead of against it. That has lead to a lot of self-reflection and self-actualization and accepting that I am not “weird” and I need to follow what feeds me and stop trying to live within the expectations of a lifestyle that doesn’t allow me to be my best me. That thinking and self-awareness led me to embrace my already nomadic lifestyle of being a working and traveling photographer; and all of this combined with a “now or never” life choice because my roommate at the time canceled our lease behind my back and left me with no place to live and having to find a new place to live, during a pandemic, with less than 45 days to do so. So I bought a camper…a “tiny house” if you will. All the circumstances leading up to the decision may or may not have lead to me selling or donating nearly all of my belongings and embracing living minimally and living in a home that could be as nomadic as I needed. I bought that camper and now I live in it full-time while still running my growing photography business and getting to really dive deep into the other side of the life that I find fulfilling and gratifying, if nothing but difficult, it’s about the happiest I’ve ever been and I get to be me and do what I need to do to have a “life worth living”. So, did I take a risk? Is this a “sound” decision? Is reducing your life to that of which you can tow behind your car risky? Honestly, it was a natural progression for me and doesn’t feel “risky”…it feels liberating. But, I can see how the way I see things isn’t perceived the same as others and, even though there’s a lot of us “nomaders” now, most folks still wouldn’t choose this life or take such “risks”. I just can’t help but satiate my intense curiosity about life and everything and I can’t be contained in a 9-5 world with 9-5 limitations. I am on my own time and living the life best suited to me and it’s the most “right” thing I’ve done for myself, besides being a photographer.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
I’ve been a photographer for the better part of 30 years, but I only started pursuing it professionally about 15 years ago. My initial love for photography stems from an early childhood accident that I believe, along with other traumas, lead to my poor memory problems and difficulty retaining and retrieving memories. Because of this lifelong struggle with my memory, I started to get more and more into photography as a means to remember…everything. So I started photographing everything. All the things. I have boxes and boxes of negatives, undeveloped rolls of film and prints from years of shooting film before going digital. What started as a means to document and retrieve my memories became a lifelong pursuit of trying to help others retain their memories by photographing them. It’s maybe cliche to say, but memories are not only fleeting, they’re often skewed due to various influences. Photography, to me, holds those moments and how they feel, and work as triggers to recall the greater scene at hand. Like the way an aroma can trigger memories of baking with mom in the kitchen on Sunday mornings, photographic moments have the same time-traveling capabilities of catapulting you right back into a space, a moment of time, that otherwise would may have been forgotten and lost to time or a distant dream of a memory. Photography, to me, is time-travel and can take you forward and back. That’s why I chose the name of Fortuitous because moments are fleeting but film is forever.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being creative in your experience?
The most rewarding part of being an artist or creative is being free to be myself. As corny as it sounds, the moniker of “artist” does alter how you’re perceived, but importantly is that expectations of Self also change and allows for or gives permission to pursue what I love instead being driven to pursue the pressures of perfection in “9-5” lifestyle that works against everything that makes me what I am: living outside of the lines.
Is there something you think non-creatives will struggle to understand about your journey as a creative?
I think non-creatives struggle to understand that we are as dedicated to our pursuits as anyone in the traditional office and corporation roles. We just operate on the other side of the coin, and for good reason: the world needs opposing perspectives and abstract thinkers and neurodiverse insights to help shape the intangible aspects of existence, which allow ideas and progress to flourish. Creatives have the same drive as corporations, we just seek to create beyond cash. Money isn’t our motivation, but is still a necessary component of being an artist nowadays: it’s all about the hustle and the heart. We wear many hats in pursuit of our art. We can rarely simply delegate a task to another department to manage. We are tech support, customer service, sales, marketing, and the list goes on; all while also struggling to eek out an existence in a culture that tends to undervalue what we create even though people still like to consume art…the irony of being an artist. Everyone wants to see or use what we create, but rarely recognizes our monetary value. Ultimately, corporations and creatives all seek progress in our passions just with with different end results and objectives that are still equally as impactful.
- Website: www.FortuitousPhotography.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fortuitousphoto
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fortuitousphotography/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/FortuitousPhoto
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/HeatherMSmith/featured
- Yelp: FortuitousPhoto
- Other: TikTok https://www.tiktok.com/@fortuitousphoto