Saturday, May 9, 2009


Reinvention implies a prior career or course of life and a subsequent change.

Most people who meet me today don't know that beginning in 1998, I worked full-time as a computer software developer programming primarily in C++. Over the past ten or so years, I've been employed by five different companies where I've written and tested code for libraries, entertainment, defense, communications, trading firms, and other industries.

About two years ago, I picked up our digital camera and decided I would try to take pictures for my wife's cupcake blog. If you go back far enough in her blog's archives, you can see some of my first attempts mingled with her own much better cupcake photos; I had a lot to learn.

So I did.

I read about photography, composition, and exposure, and applied both my technical skills and artistic vision to this new hobby. I practiced. I practiced more. I took pictures of all manner of things to learn everything I possibly could.

Some good fortune hit me in March, 2008 - I was at the right place at the right time with the right equipment. The Sauce Magazine team won a trivia night at a benefit for Slow Food St. Louis and I took their table's picture. They published a few of my photos from the event, and I met with Sauce and started shooting regularly for the magazine shortly after that.

Photography was still a hobby at this point, though I started to make a little money doing it. I struggled with some questions: Is it still a hobby if you incorporate? Can you call yourself a professional once you're regularly published?

I brought my camera gear to weddings to take pictures - trying as hard as I could to not interfere with the photographers hired to shoot the event. I was flattered when brides would tell me that they liked some of my pictures better than their hired help's work.

There was no reason I couldn't do this on the side, right? Lunch breaks and weekends and any spare time quickly became full with taking and editing photos.

Inquiries began to come in: Could I shoot families? What about children? How about an engagement session, wedding, or a Bar Mitzvah? Could I go to a farm and take pictures of pigs? Yes!

Photography started looking like a nice backup plan, a successful side business, even, and maybe one day in the future I might be able to switch from full-time coding for a living to part-time.

I didn't anticipate the mental toll that resulted from juggling my side business of photography with the day job in computers. I didn't want to say no to photography assignments, but every waking moment was spent either programming, taking and editing photos, being stressed about my situation, or being stressed about being stressed. This wasn't fair to my wife, family, friends, or myself. I wanted to talk to my employer about cutting back my hours to accommodate the photography business, but they had just asked employees to give just a little more of themselves and to remain busy working on billable projects if at all possible. I tried to keep it all together as best I could, but I was unraveling internally.

Citing bad economic conditions (I hadn't been assigned to any long-term customer projects in a while), I was told that I would have two paid weeks left at my job of five years. Just like that, my employment there would end. They were kind enough to offer me the use of their equipment and facilities for a while to look for work elsewhere or to polish and submit my resume to their sister consulting company where I could be placed.

While that might have yielded a great programming job, I felt that it was time for a change. I chose to view what happened as a great opportunity rather than an enormous loss.

On April 6, 2009, with the support of my fantastic wife, I took the plunge and became a full-time photographer.

Shortly after that, a reporter from our local NBC affiliate, KSDK, reached out on Twitter to locate people who had reinvented themselves. I thought I fit the bill, so I tweeted Kasey back. Within a few days, Kasey came and took footage of me for the story she was working on.

Here's Kasey's story about reinvention. You can read the transcript as well as watch the video from that link.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I myself am currently 6 years into a software engineering career. My father got me a DSLR camera as a Christmas gift two years ago. Since then I have been reading books and taking a few introductory classes at my alma mater. I think I have gotten the technical aspects down and am now branching out in creativity. It is nice to know there is someone else out there who has been in my shoes.

  2. Good for you! I think reinvention is a beautiful thing!

  3. Thanks for the beautiful party pictures and loved reading your account of how you turned a passion into a career. I'm surprised that it took you only two years to get THIS good, it's way better than many professional work around! I'm so happy for you Jonathan!

  4. I love your work! And I'm really enjoying your blog! I recently "reinvented" myself too. 10 years ago I had my degree in Psychology and was a bartender (appropriate combination don't you think?) Then I took the dive into photography part time. I know now I never really learned how to use my camera fully or learn much about all the other stuff I should have known. Luckily I managed fine and stayed busy. But I gave it up to have children and recently decided to go back..inventing myself again. I just switched camera brands and am REALLY learning it this time. I'm loving the results!
    Oh by the way, someone recommended you to me on twitter for a second shooter I need in October. I'll "tweet" you.
    Anyhow, LOVE your work, and I will be following your blog.