Your purpose is to create a body of work


Today’s IQ quote comes from a new friend Pamela Slim, author of “Escape from Cubicle Nation“, whom I met at Misfit Conf in Fargo a few weeks back. It wasn’t until well after I met Pam, and returned home from Fargo that I realised, in the words of Anchorman Ron Burgundy… She’s kind of a big deal.

(I had a mild celebrity freak-out in the privacy of my own kitchen when I realised this.)

“Your purpose is to create a body of work you can be proud of.” – Pamela Slim

Pam opened Misfit Conf, and delivered a truly life-changing talk about finding our root – the things that anchor us and give us meaning, choosing what we want to create, and owning our own definition of success.

It was a presentation that moved me to tears, because of how important owning my own definition of success had become for me in the past two years of re-shaping my life and my business.

I have been living by this mantra “Create a body of work, create a body of work” ever since returning to Sydney.

It hit me tonight, as I put the finishing touches on a presentation I’ll be delivering to a local photographic club in Sydney, just what a body of work I’ve already created in 9 short years as a photographer.

I actually had a little teary moment of pride and satisfaction.

As a photographer, I’ve received dozens of awards, including a State runner-up and National runner-up award for Wedding and Documentary photography, respectively.

I’ve published a beautiful book about Senior Citizens, and their memories of sustainability and the environment, which is filled with my images.

I’ve photographed over 150 weddings, and given those couples lasting memories of their wedding day. I’ve captured the love and emotion and chaos for over a thousand families, and my artworks are hanging in their living rooms and hallways around Australia and the world.

And that’s just my paid work.

Since 2006, my wife and I have strongly supported Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation as their official pro-bono photographer and partner. I shoot all of their flagship fundraising events, as well as their main fundraising campaign images each year. I’ve completed one major documentary project titled “A Day In The Life“, and have almost completed another project, documenting the entire construction of a new wing at the hospital.

The Emergency Department of the hospital (pictured in today’s IQ) contains a permanent exhibition of around 50 or so images from my “A Day In The Life” project. The image of the young girl in the background of today’s IQ image is one of the canvas art pieces in that installation. To give some extra context, Sydney Children’s Hospital is the only Emergency Department in the whole State of New South Wales to feature artwork at all – and that artwork is exclusively my photographs.

The entire entry foyer and ground floor corridor is filled with my work as large wall-murals. Many annual reports have featured nothing but my photographs, and just about every marketing fundraising collateral piece for the past four or five years has featured my images. In fact, the largest yearly fundraising event – the Gold Telethon – frequently uses some of my images in a State-wide television broadcast that this year raised over $4 million dollars!

On top of this, my wife and I have published two other fundraising books, to raise money for the hospital. Each book is filled with my family portrait photography, including patient stories and photographs of the hospital teams and wards. These “Our Family” books together raised almost $30,000, which was donated directly to the hospital to support its amazing work.

These achievements are at once humbling, and a source of immense pride and satisfaction.

My body of work for Sydney Children’s Hospital is already a visual history, and a valuable asset that helps the fundraising team emotively communicate their cause and raise much-needed funds. The body of work I’ve created for my paying clients is a constant source of joy and love in their homes, and helps them remember the important moments in their lives, with their most important people.

So, now I’ve spent the past 800 words bragging about my achievements,  what’s the take-away from all this?

A couple of things.

Firstly, remember to stop and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.

Recently I’ve been so focussed on the question of “What’s next?” that I had forgotten to stop, and acknowledge the amazing body of work I’ve amassed already.

How often do you keep charging headlong into the future without pausing to acknowledge your achievements?

Secondly, forget about finding your “purpose”. Concentrate on creating a body of work you can be proud of. That is your purpose.

I’ve realised that when I’ve been asking “What’s my purpose? What’s my purpose?”, the answer has been staring me in the face the whole time. Create work that matters, and leave a legacy you can be proud of as a result.

I now know I’ve been doing that, and will continue to do that throughout my life.

What body of work are you creating? What work are you doing that makes a difference in the world?

I’d love for you to leave a comment and let me know.

With all my love,
Israel. xo


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