Those of you that have been following my social media and website closely must be wondering where on earth I have vanished to. The short answer: back to school.
Before I pursued my career in photography I used to be a teacher. The school where I used to teach invited me to come and fill in for one of the teachers who were about to go on maternity leave. This was a tough decision for me. On the one hand, I felt like my business was doing really well and I felt uneasy to focus my energy into a different place. On the other hand, I really felt like I could use the extra bit of cash to buy new equipment and to make my business shine even more in the long run. I decided I would take the school up on their offer and applied to fill in as a substitute teacher for the next few months. I must admit I was quite nervous to be going back. Being a teacher is hard work and I was fully aware of the struggles that I would have to confront in due time. I was, however, not aware of the surprises that would await me once I got there.
On my first day back I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome I received from the staff members. It felt like a celebration and I was embraced by so many familiar faces (which is fantastic because I adore hugs). I also noticed, out of the corner of my eye, there was a handsome new and unfamiliar face in the crowd- but more on that later. I received a similar welcome from the learners- which surprised the daylight out of me since 95% of a high school teacher’s job is to fight with teenagers who refuse to do most of the things one asks of them.
As I predicted, my journey as a substitute teacher was a challenging one and my business suffered because of it. All of my energy went into my teaching and I had little time left for my beautiful baby business that I’ve worked so hard at for the last two years. I felt a bit hopeless, but I did not realise that my photography would be used as a tool to encourage the people around me.
One for my classes had a group of girls that were quiet and soft spoken (which is a rare thing to find in a high school, trust me). They were intelligent, fierce and beautiful but they had no idea how lovely they were. One of these girls mentioned a few things in class that concerned me. She was so down on herself and believed that she was not worthy of friendship or even love. She mentioned previous friendships and how people have hurt her and I could sense she believed it was normal because of “how she looked.” The things she said broke my heart. How could such a young person feel so hopeless? I invited her to a portrait shoot after school. I told her that how she viewed herself was false and she needed to see herself for who she truly was- a beautiful young woman with a world of potential ahead of her.
On the day of the shoot her friends came along for support. Little did they know that they would also be dragged in front of the camera as well! At first they were all a bit nervous, but once they saw the sneak peaks of the photos and how the people around them responded, their confidence slowly started to shine. I was so overwhelmed to see the effects of a photograph and a few encouraging words. It made me fall in love with photography all over again. It’s so much more than a few “pretty pics.” Photography is all about documenting precious and unique memories and to show people how freaking marvellous they truly are.
When I look back at these past few months and the journey I’ve been on, I’m overwhelmed by how much I’ve experienced and learned. Yes, my business took a huge knock. Yes, I’m feeling a bit defeated and overwhelmed with regards to rebuilding my business. BUT I’ve had an incredible few months of self-discovery and things have happened that I never in my wildest dreams would have thought would ever happen to me, and for that I am truly grateful. As Arianna Huffington said, “Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of it.” I’m ready to work my butt off to make my business fly again.
Elsie Dippenaar Photography is back in business and I’m ready to document people’s wondrous stories like never before.
Oh, and the handsome face in the crowd? Well, I guess we kind off sort off fell in love and now he’s my person. Meeting this incredible man has been the absolute highlight of my journey and I’m so excited to see what life has in store for us.
*Special thanks to my gorgeous friend Deadly Knitshade for this lovely photograph.