The subjects I loved doing most at school were year 9 photography and textiles. Those subjects felt effortless and engrossing – I distinctly remember being in flow in the dark room, and calm beading a t-shirt I’d just made. I loved the process and the outcome. But when it came to choosing my year 10 electives, I was steered away from those subjects into more conventional ones that seemed to have more straightforward career paths.
Needless to say, my love of those things never went away. Today I have 12,828 photos on my iPhone and yearning to teach my mini humans how to thread a sewing machine.
When I met this week’s leaper, professional photographer Dianne Snape, I was curious about her career path, which I discovered involved jumping from a very conservative business analyst role with a large corporate, to travelling, to studying photography. But this all stemmed from conflict with her mother about wanting to move to Sydney to study acting at age 17.
As a parent I so understand the feeling of wanting my kids to be ‘successful’ in the world – to become self reliant, resourceful, accomplished and purposeful. But what I have learned is that their success, needs to be defined by them, not by me or my expectations of them. With my eldest starting high school next year, I know this will become more of a challenge, and my role is to help them discover their own path, rather than paving it for them. Encouraging them to trust their judgement, deal with fear of the unknown, listen to their own intuition, stay curious and choose courage are all parenting mantras I will write in my 2016 diary – so that we can all remember to become who we choose to be.
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
Originally I wanted to be a nun, I guess these were the first impressionable women I came across in my formative years at a catholic girls school. By my early high school years I had worked out I definitely didn’t want to be a nun and wanted to be a policewoman instead. In retrospect, it would appear I was certainly impressed by women in powerful roles. When I began to discover my creative self in my senior school years, I wanted to be an actress.
What did/do you study?
After graduating high school and being awarded dux of my college, my mother refused to support me in my aspirations to move to Sydney and study to be an actress at NIDA. In defiance, I refused to go to university and signed up for a job with AMP. At 19 years old, after working there for 2 years, AMP enrolled me in an accelerated development program and sent me to Sydney to work and train as a Business Analyst. Not the stage I had originally envisaged for Sydney, but I was thrilled at this new career opportunity.
I went on to specialise in developing financial software solutions for the superannuation industry completing a Diploma in Superannuation Management through ASFA.
In 1994, at 23, I took 12 months leave without pay to travel the world and returned with a very focused ambition to become a photographer. I studied a BA Photography (Hons) at RMIT from 1996 – 1999.
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?
There have been a series of significant leaps. The very first was, at 19, leaving my family and friends behind in Brisbane for a new career Sydney. I remember the first weekend sitting in my north shore apartment too scared to drive across the harbour bridge.
The second was taking 12 months off to travel the world. All my identity at this time was tied up in my work and career and it was scary to leave this behind and not know what lay ahead. So off I went, leaving my mother in distress that I was throwing away all the security which her generation held so tightly with their ‘jobs for life’ mentality. Mine was the start of a generation that didn’t really worry about this, we hadn’t suffered loss, we didn’t know a war and we certainly hadn’t seen a depression. It was the early days of the concept of consulting and professional job transference. I was lucky that my employer had agreed to 6 months leave without pay. In this, I had the security to return to a job, this gave me comfort. 6 months turned into 12 months when myself and my travelling companion realised that 6 months simply wasn’t enough to see the world. My employer revoked the leave without pay offer and advised that they just couldn’t hold my job for 12 months. The loss of this security no longer troubled me as I was on a journey experiencing so much learning and change. The security that I once held so tightly just didn’t seem so important anymore. Change was happening gradually, and not so much deliberately, but as a by-product of a journey of self-discovery.
The third leap was applying to study RMIT’s BA Photography course.
I had been working quite happily as a business analyst. I lived on Sydney’s north shore and, for my age, had a comfortable, disposable income. However, something inside me was restless, I couldn’t see myself doing this forever. I had always been passionate about photography. My father was an aerial photographer in the Royal Australian Air Force, so photography was always in my consciousness. I had thought about enrolling in a Sydney arts college, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I was going to afford to live and educate myself without the income I was used to.
The ability to consider this leap was born out of the quiet and pause that travel affords us. My 12 months abroad gave me the courage to commit to a career change and explore that part of my creative self that was itching away under the surface. I can recall with complete clarity the moment that I decided I was going to change my life and study photography upon my return to Australia. It was only 3 months into our 12 month journey. I was with my travelling companion, Danni, my closest and dearest friend and we were visiting her birthplace of Holland. Her Aunt Thea, who was generously hosting us, took us to visit the windmills in Kinderdijk. It was sunset and I had just finished photographing the windmills. With joy in my heart and complete belief in my words, I turned to Danni and Thea and said, “When I get back to Australia, I’m going to be a photographer”.
I began preparing immediately, having my sister research university courses and post me their program guides to London. There was no widely available electronic communication in 1994, the best you could do without a postal address was Post Restante, and we used it. As I write this I feel like I’m talking about the dark ages, a world without the internet!
The fourth was leaving behind my lucrative income as a business analyst to become a fulltime photography assistant.
The fifth was transitioning from being a photography assistant to becoming a photographer in my own right and establishing a photography business finally cutting all ties with my previous career.
The sixth was getting my motorbike license, climbing Mt Kilimanjaro and driving a tuk-tuk 4500km’s across India.
The seventh was having my adorable, beautiful son and juggling my business and new family life.
What were you doing before you made your leap?
I have always been happy in whatever I have been doing and the leaps have been about pursuing other aspects of my self or aspirations. I have always looked forward.
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
John Snape – My father was an aerial photographer in the RAAF, he gave me my first Hanimax compact camera when I was nine, taught me to process film and print in the dark room under our house when I was 15 and gave me my first Pentax SLR when I was 22. Through his own engagement and love of photography, he introduced me to the medium and spurred my interest.
Gunther Bohensky – When first I flew to Melbourne to attend RMIT’s open day to find out more about the BA Photography course and the application process, I had the good fortune of meeting one of the programs fine lecturers, Gunther Bohensky. He was there to answer questions and talk to aspiring students about the course. The course was one of the most difficult to get into in Melbourne with around 500 applicants and, at the time, only 30 places. It required an interview and folio for the admission process. I asked Gunther if he thought I had any chance of getting into the course and explained that many people had told me it was highly competitive and unlikely with my folio of travel images that I would be successful. He responded simply and profoundly, ‘If you gave up every time someone told you you couldn’t do something, where would you be?’ This was a fleeting but significant moment for me, and defined how I applied myself from that point forward, it encouraged me to believe in myself. It was most certainly a turning point.
John Gollings – John Gollings is one of Australia’s leading architectural photographers. I asked John to be my mentor in my final year of university and he offered me a job as his assistant when I completed my degree at RMIT. Without his mentoring and support I wouldn’t be a photographer. I still rent a studio space in his building on Chapel St and he is no longer just a mentor but a dear and valued friend.
My assistants – Alexandra Allen, Kim Lawler, Markus Weber, Kate Morris, Kelly Gardner, Jason Chetwynd-Cox, Jack Lovel and Lauren Morgan. All my assistants have given their blood, sweat and tears to help me produce great images. I value and appreciate each and every one of them and the role they have played in my life and my work.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
I had an established and successful career to help fund the transition. I had savings to help finance the move and help support my transition to a new city. I spent 9 months preparing to apply for university. I studied chemistry via correspondence, undertook a part-time photography course and set about producing a portfolio for my interview.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?
The scariest and most difficult leap was transitioning from being a photography assistant to becoming a photographer in my own right and establishing a photography business. This was where the work of the last five years was put to the test. The ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment was living off an assistant’s salary.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
There were most certainly a few moments when I nearly gave up along the way. I guess I just wanted the things I was leaping towards bad enough. I had good people in my life that gave me encouragement and support and I worked very hard for it. I would certainly encourage anyone looking to leap to think carefully about choosing one or more mentors, and choosing the right mentors, not just someone who is available to you. Put in the effort to find the people you aspire to be.
How did you fund your leap?
I worked very hard and I saved money. I worked days and nights and supported my studies through my work as a business analyst. When I worked full time as an assistant, I still worked nights authoring help files for the software company I worked for. When I started shooting, I shot weddings and Austral Land housing estates. I never turned my nose up at anything and saw every job as an opportunity to learn. I still work just as hard on the small projects as I do on the big glitzy ones and I believe that has held me in good stead and kept my business thriving through the GFC.
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
I’m really fortunate to say none. All my leaps have been an incredible part of a very fortunate life.
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
Failure. I don’t know that I do deal with it, I just keep moving forward and trying to be my best.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap?
1 being sad, 10 being rad.
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
Happiness. The rewards of accomplishment and self worth.
I am blessed with the chance to wake up every day and do something I love and am passionate about. Photography has been one of the great loves of my life and it has introduced me to amazing people, experiences and places.
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
Uncertainty, financial instability and possible failure. I think sometimes the old adage ‘onwards and upwards’ is a good one to live by. I have likened the process to a marathon, sometimes it’s just about staying in the race.
What might be your next leap?
Opening a boutique hotel in Tanzania on the gateway to the Serengeti. Stay tuned, that’s the first time I’ve put that in writing!
What are your favourite words to live by?
Live large and give lots.
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
Anna Augustine, an incredibly driven and positive force of nature. A fabulous woman, wonderful mother and sassy business person with an incredible resume in marketing and administration leaping into the world of food styling, while juggling her new family life.
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
Nike puts it best, ‘Just do it’. Be prepared for some sacrifice and hard work and surround yourself with people that want to see you leap. Know your terms and your boundaries and do it your way. Don’t feel that you have to do it the way others did.
Right now I’m:
Reading: I have a 15 month old and a business, there is barely time to sleep
Loving: Family life
With Christmas coming our way this week, it’s a yearly landmark to stop and take stock. To be in the moment and give love. To be surrounded with our people and be generous and gracious with our spirit. I’ll be working to remember that in the chaos of last minute wrapping and salad assemblying!
Sending you calm, grace and big slice of Christmas pudding with extra helpings of brandy custard.
Love Kylie x
The Time is Now.
New eCourse just launched.
Enrolments now open until Thursday 31 December.
Class starts 1 January 2016.
Calling possibilitarians from across the globe! We invite you to join us for an productivity and planning ecourse to program your business GPS for 2016.
We’ve just unlocked the doors to our newest ecourse, The Time. This is a creative and interactive 6 week (or self paced) ecourse for curious and entrepreneurial types, exploring your business goals, getting to what is essential, planning tools, dealing with stress and overwhelm, and becoming the master of your time and energy with a good dose of self care. It’s like a day spa for your business brain!
If you missed the webinar about the course, never fear! You can listen to it here.
The Time workshop was invaluable. You are guided through business and wellbeing topics with exercises along the way to help you articulate for yourself where you’d like to take your business and what you would like to achieve. – Anne
This workshop came at a critical time for me – it enabled me to get the space I needed to focus not just on my business, but also on making the most of my life. Thank you! – Elise Heslop, Director, Plyroom
A truly fresh and innovative day giving me some space to breathe and get clarity on my business and personal goals. I feel motivated and eager to get back to it and be productive. – Fiona Savaris Owner, Acorn Kids
Kylie and Bin are both so lovely. They emphasised simplicity, mindfulness and self awareness, along with tapping into feelings and beliefs, planning for the next few months and prioritising tasks – which was all a great reminder for me. – Nhung Vo Founder, The Sunday
The Time workshop was a magnificent combo of personal development and business planning & development. Who we are is such a critical part of what our business is and how we operate, so this workshop really helped me connect these. – Emma Diffen Peritus Communications