It happened in the middle of my rental home kitchen last year. The moment I became a photographer. I mean, I’d taken photos for the last 5 years, nonstop, every day. I’d taken classes and been on photowalks to learn the ropes. I’d watched every tutorial on youtube under the search “how to shoot in manual mode”. I’d even licensed some photos to Getty Images and was making some pocket change every month. Photography wasn’t just something I did, it became how I saw the world..real truth. Not the fake shit everyone pretends or wishes was real. You can’t hide anything in a photo. The look in the eye, the mess on the floor, the people who are there, the unkempt hair, the place where you stand…it’s all there. A blur of shifting moments, light, connection, pattern, emotion, and truth.

I think that is what hooked me on photography. But taking pictures and calling yourself a photographer are two different things, and I hesitated to make that leap on account of being self conscious about not being classically schooly trained in the fine art of photography. So it remained something that I thought of as a somewhat obsessive hobby. I took pictures not to sell pictures, but to get to the truth of the matter. I took pictures to share with other people what I saw…because usually it was something subtle that they’d missed. I took pictures because if I put my camera away for even 10 minutes, my fingers would get antsy and my mind would get obnoxious with the thought, “There’s your shot. Take the shot! That’s the shot right there! FOR GODSAKES PICK UP YOUR CAMERA AND GET THE SHOT!”

And then, there I was, standing in the middle of the kitchen with my kids throwing eggs at me. It was for a photo idea that I’d been kicking around in my head ever since reading the quote “you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs!” At that point in my life I had an imploded marriage, changing friendships, discarded religion, and traumatized kids; and the imagery of broken eggs wouldn’t leave my mental space. The only way to make it go away was to capture it for real…that’s just how my mind works. In my year of letting go and breaking down, I turned my camera on myself. I was having to find my own truth, and the only real way I knew how to do that was to photograph it.

So I gave my two daughters a dozen eggs each and told them to throw ’em at me and at the kitchen cabinets while I took pictures using my remote setting. My son was in the other room skyping with a friend. “What’s going on over there? It sounds crazy!” his friend asked. My son responded with, “oh, nothing. They’re just throwing eggs around the kitchen.” After a pause, his friend asked, “Why?! That doesn’t make any sense!” And my son said 6 words that changed everything.

“Because my mom is a photographer.”

I’d never ever call myself that. But when he said it, everything clicked into place. I’m not a photographer because I only use film instead of digital (I don’t). Or because I am a technical genius with my DSLR (I’m not). Or because I have clients calling me every day (nope!). Or because I charge a bijillion dollars for an hour of my time (ha! not!).

I am a photographer because the only other option is to be a crazy lady. A crazy lady obsessed with trashing her kitchen.

“Hey kids, throw eggs at the cupboards for me! Why? Because I’m a photographer! It’s what I do!” sounds so much better than “We gonna throw eggs all up in this house! Why? Because the voices in my head told me to!”

“Hey, oldest daughter, I’m going to need your help pouring gravy on me once I get myself into this oven. Why? Because I’m a photographer! It’s what I do!” is much less of an express ticket for her to go right to a therapist than “honey, will you put some extra gravy on my back, I’m stuck in the oven. Why? Cuz I’m a crazy mo fo, fo sho!”

When my youngest daughter walks in and I’ve emptied the contents of the freezer onto the ground so I can fit inside, and then she observes, “Mom, I don’t think freezers are for people…” it’s more comforting to say “Photographers look at things in a different way. It’s what we do!” than it is to say, “I know honey, but mama’s having a little mental breakdown over the state of her frozen emotions that are now thawing out so why don’t you eat some of this nicely chilled out pizza and when mama is done and all dried off and dressed, I’ll join you for lunch!”

My goal is to find a locally owned record store or coffee shop somewhere that will put up a few of the better photos from my series I will call “self portraits: divorce edition!” for a day or two until the locals are sufficiently freaked out and the images are taken down. Just long enough for me to take my kids and say, “See! A gallery show! This is what I was working so hard for! Doesn’t it make perfect sense?!” Then the next time I crawl into a metal bin and they tell me that normal people don’t do stuff like that, I’ll remind them of my gallery show and say “I’m not normal. I’m a photographer!”

It’s sad that in our society you can’t just be spectacularly unique and own that shit, instead you have to justify it by getting a respectable income for it and/or the accolades of lots of other people. Usually I rage against such restrictive societal norms. But, my kids are involved in this, and so I’ll do what it takes to play by the rules if it means they won’t have to come up with a sensible explanation to their friends about why the kitchen is covered in spaghetti sauce other than “because my mom is a photographer.” Therapy bills averted all the way around! At least in the short term!

Since my son claimed the title for me, I’ve found that the experiences followed. When I saw myself as a photographer, other people did too. I have freelanced my way all around a bunch of different countries, being paid to use my camera to capture my vision.

I am photographer! Hear me roar/scream/throw food around/wrap myself in bubble wrap!

Do you have anything in your life that you find cathartic and enjoyable? Do you work at it and make it a part of what you “do”?



Post a comment
  1. April 25, 2012

    Sometimes we have to get pretty far out of the box , to be able to get out of the box, BIG LIKE

  2. April 25, 2012

    I love that

  3. April 25, 2012

    I love them !!!

  4. April 25, 2012

    These photos are awesome. Do NOT license them cheaply. Get a good stock agent.

    • April 25, 2012

      are photographers supposed to know what a stock agent is and how to get one? If so then I have more google searching to do….

      ha. Thank you for the encouragement!

  5. lisamac333 #
    April 25, 2012

    this made me laugh, cry and become inspired…that’s all xx

    • April 25, 2012

      funny, that’s exactly how I feel about you, Lisa! ❤

  6. Becky #
    April 25, 2012

    I am speechless at your amazingness. My mind is blown at how you did these. Now I’m off to marvel at your gorgeous outside self with your sp’s.

    • April 25, 2012

      being crazy has never been so creative. I mean, being a photographer has never felt so creative as when I started on the selfies!

  7. April 25, 2012

    This is great. What a refreshing read for a fellow photographer. I haven’t been as lucky to make it to other countries, but I have made a little bungalow on bigstock (no cash in hand yet…never will be no doubt). I probably considered myself a photographer after my first gig…snore…your story was way cooler. Love the shots!

    • April 25, 2012

      I think it’s human nature to think other stories are way more cool than our own, LOL. I love your avatar pic!

  8. Erika #
    April 25, 2012

    I need to do something like this for my “stuff”. Not sure what, but yeah…for sure.

    • April 25, 2012

      we all have “stuff” to manage, eh?

  9. April 25, 2012

    Pure Brilliance!

    • April 25, 2012

      aw, thanks Shannon! We have so much in common, we must discuss in person someday soon!

  10. zenmommasgarden #
    April 25, 2012

    I happen to own a coffee shop that displays the work of a different artist each month. We would love to have your photographs up in our shop! Contact me!

    • April 25, 2012

      omg, yes! !!! I’ll email you 😉

  11. April 25, 2012

    Looking at your pictures is what lead me to accept your friend request. And I am so glad I did. You are one of the most wonderful people I know. And you ask if there is something I am good at. Feeding people. I am known for my italian food and cheesecakes. I get paid in hugs and kisses.

    • Jessica Sexton #
      April 25, 2012

      Me too, Mary (re: friend request)! Tiffani, you inspire me every fucking day. THANK YOU FOR YOUR AWESOME!

      • April 25, 2012

        you guys are both awesome. It takes a special kind of person to friend someone who has a profile picture with them in a chocolate beard. 😉

    • April 25, 2012

      I will hug and kiss the shit out of you if you feed me good italian food and cheesecakes!

      • April 25, 2012

        Well, your chocolate beard looked tasty. 🙂 And I will take all the hugs and kisses you got. Whenever we see each other again (someday hopefully), I will make you dinner and desert.

  12. zenmommasgarden #
    April 25, 2012


  13. April 25, 2012

    YES! yes. I needed to read this. yes.
    oh and awesome shots!!

  14. kathy #
    April 25, 2012

    I LOVED your broken egg series. You are a photographer, and you own that shit! I love and adore you, and think your brilliant at what you do. And you need to add writer to that description too.
    What I do…your gonna laugh…I found my calling, after dropping out of nursing school…thrift finds. I thought it was silly & stupid, and denied it for so long. But I get an inner thrill doing it, and I find cool stuff that makes me think of people. Years ago, and I kick myself because I meant to show you, I found this little knick knack turtle laying on his shell. It was so cute…it reminded me of how you talked about how Sassy would roll on her back as a baby, and couldn’t roll back. Yes, its that old, and yes I still have it sitting on my window sill. It makes me smile.

    • April 25, 2012

      I miss when our kids were that little! Turtle Dakota was my favorite age, LOL. I want to come back and go thrifting with you!!!!

      • kathy #
        April 25, 2012

        I’m visiting you in June I don’t care what else I do this summer, but it is my personal mission to get to you this summer!

  15. michelle #
    April 25, 2012

    first of all, you are awesome!!!! second the photos are art, you are an artist and a photographer!!!

    I know of a business in Reno, Nevada that showcases art for short periods of time…..have a gallery show in their conference room!!! and then I bet they will want to buy stuff!!!

    wish I was so talented!!! or heard the voices that suggest such great ideaas!!!

    • April 25, 2012

      thanks for the heads up, I’ll check into it! And, I think everyone has voices…but it’s rare to still hear them when you’re an adult.

  16. maggie #
    April 25, 2012

    we own a record store. let me know when you want to do a show.

    • April 25, 2012

      I’ll email you. Both so I can go record shopping at your store AND talk about doing a show. Because I’m pretty sure it would be the best show ever…DJ’d by sweet sweet vinyl tunes!

  17. April 25, 2012

    I feel like shouting from rooftops how much I adore you.

    • April 25, 2012

      you don’t even need to shout from the rooftops, this was plenty to make me feel all giggly and goosebumpy. 😉 Thank you ❤

  18. April 25, 2012

    Tiffani, You Rock!

  19. April 25, 2012

    very creative and wonderful photos with a great sense of humor!!! what about those model fees? 😉 loved this post brought a big smile to my face!

  20. April 25, 2012

    Oh, this is such a great post! 🙂

  21. April 25, 2012

    just so you know, I call you a force of nature, an inspiration, an artist, and, yes, a photographer

  22. Laura Yurs #
    April 25, 2012

    I love you a million times over….and then some! Your words hit home again and again. And the photos OMG!!! Absolutely incredible Tiffani!

  23. April 25, 2012

    love it! and great images 🙂

  24. keeper #
    April 26, 2012

    great series of pictures. I love the photo with the diana and the picture of the lost and found. thanks for sharing

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