When I grow up I want to be a …

I remember when I was in my very first year of school, our teacher Ms Tomson, sister to the world famous surfer Shaun, asked everyone in the class to say what we wanted to be when we were big and grown up.

The usual answers from 6-year-olds sprang forth; ballerina, cowboy, policeman, soldier, fireman, teacher, doctor, etc. For me this was a staggeringly difficult question to answer because there were so many different things I wanted to do. How could I choose only one thing? Did we really have to pick only one thing in order to become qualified grown-ups? I wanted to be an astronaut among other things, but even doing that forever seemed to be a very limiting way of looking down the road of life ahead of you.

Some 43 years after that first year of school have passed and you know what? I still haven’t made up my mind what I want to do with my life when I’m a grown up. So far I have done a fair number of different things, trying to find one that fits with me properly. Since leaving high school I’ve been an electronic engineering student, conscripted soldier – and within that 2 year period alone I did about 4 or 5 different jobs at the army unit I was posted to, including being a driver, mechanic assistant, store man and even a postman – I was a bank clerk, computer programmer, information systems analyst, marketing manager, paving salesman (yeah, that was a bit of a downgrade but the money was alright), construction contractor, webmaster and a part time photographic safari host.

Somewhere in-between those post school years there was also the title of professional photographer. In fact it’s what I have done for the longest period of time in my life, some 9 years, beginning in 2008.

It’s kind of glamorous to go around telling people that you’re a photographer. Well, at least it used to be until I discovered that being paid to make photographs commercially actually involves some pretty hard work. For me the joy of professional photography died the exact day I took on my first serious professional assignment photographing thousands of law and auditing text books for a client. I had a simple brief to follow, but in my naiveté, what seemed like a lot of money for a simple quick turn-around job actually turned out to be a 6 week nightmare. Taking the photos was only 2 days of work, but the ensuing processing was nothing short of near lobotomising torture. I also had to deep etch every shot, something I had thought was as simple as making the background white with a paint brush, but alas involved creating clipping paths, layers and other things I had never done in Photoshop before. But the worst part of that first big job was that the client asked me to save each of the three different file sizes they needed with the ISBN of the each book. This wouldn’t have been a problem except I had to work off printed stock sheets they gave me, matching the title with an ISBN as I finished each mind numbing bit of deep etching. Have you ever seen how long an ISBN is?

For me true agony is mindless repetition. Imagine for a moment having to do the same thing over and over all day long and then repeating that every working day for the rest of your life. I think of factory workers who’s lives are an endless conveyor belt of whatever product it is they are assembling or creating. I think of pharmacists who study for 8 years to become qualified, only to stand behind a counter and issue pills prescribed by GP’s who also do the same thing every day; look into the dark and smelly body cavities of sick people and listen to things that go bump in their chests. Every single working day. How much variety can there be from one bout of flu to the next? Imagine being a dentist and having to carve out and fill up rotten enamel in people’s mouths every day. No wonder they charge so much for the privilege. And what about the guy who tends gardens for a living? He cuts the same bushes and the same lawns, day after day, week after week. His work is never done because it just keeps growing back. Think about those who cook the same meals in chain restaurants all the time. What about accountants? They get paid (a lot) to look at spreadsheets and make decisions on what to do with other people’s money. Every. Single. Working. Day.

Is this what career life is cut out to be?

And so I have come to what I believe is the end of my career as a professional photographer. I can’t imagine doing this for another year, let alone the rest of what remains of my life. 9 years in one field is a record for me. By a long way. Yes, there have been some wonderful assignments and I still enjoy certain aspects of this job, so I will probably carry on doing those parts of it, but for the most part it’s time for me to move on.

To what, you might ask?

Well, while I didn’t exactly set the academic world alight during my time as an electronics engineering student, I did go to night school when I was a banker and after only 4 years of studying part time I got a diploma in marketing management. Put that together with my technical skills in the field of digital developments and we have what you will now find on my main website; a smorgasbord of digital marketing services. Things I know how to do, but will be farming out to younger, spritelier creative minds in return for either commissions or a share of the profits. Think of me as a small creative agency that helps business people get marketing results in the real world.

That should keep me busy for a while. Anybody need a website?


About the Author:

Dallas Dahms is an ordinary guy who likes to write about little things that can have a big influence on others. Born in Durban, South Africa in 1968, he still lives there with his wife Nikki. His main interests are in the areas of photography and music.