We had the good fortune of connecting with Mia Yakel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mia, what role has risk played in your life or career?
In my life, I am constantly facing choices around risk taking. Professionally, this looks like “I can only get the shot if I walk out on this log over the water, do I risk it? What if I hurt myself and get stuck out here, or what if I drop my camera? But what if I do get it and it is the greatest photo of all time!?” Or maybe more relatable, “I know I have the artistic talent but no experience of running a business, do I take the risk and set out on my own? What if I fail? What if I thrive?” The balance of risk vs. reward, managing fear, and trusting intuition through decision making are lifelong challenges not unique to the creative field. These are questions humankind has been trying to work out since the beginning of time! So what is it that differs from one person to the next? How do we know what is right for us, and when another solution might be the best course? For me, one easy answer for weighing risk is looking at my current situation and playing a timeline game. What could I live with if I had to do this every day for the rest of my life? What would I do differently? If someone I loved was in my position, what advice would I give them? The short answer I have found is, if I wouldn’t be happy doing it later, then why would I expect to find any happiness doing it now. When the pain, discomfort, or dissatisfaction of a situation outweighs the potential risk factor, people feel much safer moving towards what they truly want. So many times we will find that someone waits until their job becomes unbearable, they have a heated run in with their boss, or even develop a health condition, to finally call it quits and pursue their dream. Our obligations also play a role into this, such as fear of not successfully providing for our family, or paying a mortgage. But there reaches a breaking point that they just can’t keep doing what they are doing every day. We spend such a significant amount of our precious life pursuing our careers, that if we don’t have passion to fuel it, we will eventually burn out. This doesn’t mean that us creatives don’t over extend ourselves as well! Ours is usually from burning the candle at both ends, both pushing ourselves creatively and managing the business end of things. Saying yes to too many clients, or the wrong kinds, and not setting clear boundaries for our time or personal life. It can be so easy to get “greedy” once we find that sweet spot and start actually making money as creatives. But as soon as you overcome one risk, the next opportunity for growth is waiting for you just around the corner! Maybe now it is time to grow your team and trust hiring the right people, or now you want to grow your business in a slightly different direction and are worried about losing clients. It is human nature to continuously want the next best thing. As soon as we create one thing, we are already thinking of ways that we could make it better. Instead of beating yourself up about it, give yourself some love for having drive and the desire to improve. Use it as a tool to fuel your growth. The best way I have found at managing this anxiety of continued risk taking, is to reflect on how much I have gotten out of it so far. Every time I am out doing what I love, or even the days I can take a lazy Tuesday morning walking around in my pajamas, I am thankful for both doing what I enjoy and having the freedom that comes along with managing my own schedule. Life will always throw hurdles at you and present you with challenges. So for me, I would rather be facing those challenges while doing what I love. So, at this point, can you tell I am the photographer that has always gone out on that crazy limb (literally), held my camera bag desperately over my head while wading through high waters, braved perfect darkness among night creatures in freezing temperatures just to photograph the stars in all their glory? YES!! And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Getting a degree in art was as unique of an experience as it sounds. It is easy to grade tests based off of a textbook, but how do you grade something so subjective as art? It was a constant challenge for me in school to take the professional advice of my teachers to follow certain paths that they saw success for me in, balanced with a path that I felt authentic to my passion and purpose. Pursuing a career in photography, I am getting better at managing these two sides. I have my photography that I do professionally, and then my photography that I do out of pure passion. While this takes a lot of time to pursue both, how cool is it that I can integrate my passion into my career? I have also been pleasantly surprised to be offered commercial photography gigs off of my nature and astral photography. The latter is my passion and why I got into photography. I have always been an artist in various forms, but photography became my favorite medium because it is a collaboration between the beauty of creation, and the observer. I see nature photography and astral photography as portraits of creation. They are scenes that exist around us every day, but many people don’t experience because of our modern lifestyles. I have found that these scenes trigger something deep within the psyche of the people who still crave these experiences, and feel that I can also add to their own creative visions through photography.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I am a little biased when it comes to the most “interesting places” to check out! I tend to always be exploring outdoors and if the weather is warm, you can usually catch me on a nature trail. That is one of the things I have always liked about this city, that hiking is pretty integrated within city limits, and it is only a two hour drive until you can find waterfalls and mountains. As far as within the city, I would say Atlanta definitely has one of the best food scenes around. Not only does it have diversity, but it has so many sub cultures that you get authenticity and quality along with your choices. Can’t forget, we have that southern hospitality which translates to the food! Lastly, I would say you would be amiss to visit Atlanta without checking out the music scene. As diverse as the food scene, our music spans across genres and has a lot of personality. Here, you can find wonderful local talent playing live at a club or bar, and big name artists at our larger venues as well. I also find that the tickets tend to be more accessible than they are at many other major cities. And if you are into rap, you will not find anywhere better than here!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There isn’t really one sole person or organization that I can thank for being a part in my story, because each friend, collaboration partner, teacher and family member has helped shaped me and my career in so many ways. My career is the sum of all these individual parts, and it will continue to grow as my circle does!