There is this thing about true skilful photographers that I could never overestimate: the weighty forces each and every one of their creations carries. They’re made of unspoken words and glee, yet since I met photographer and mother of one, Sujata Setia, during a workshop shoot led by the brilliant Elena Shumilova, (on a rather grey day but with enough sunny spells to get stunning shots a la Tess of the D’Urbervilles in the emerald fields of Surrey), I’ve changed my mind. A good photographer is one that hides a great deal of labour and continuous learning behind an effortless photography style, one that pushes daily through his/her limitations; this is Sujata.
If you haven’t read her article story on the Daily Mail on how her motherhood journey started with a postnatal depression blue stage and how she overcame it through photography, here’s my latest chat with Sujata after a photography workshop where my toddler and I were modelling for her eleven apprentice fellow photographers.
Motherhood is a game changer. Was this the main reason behind pursuing a career you’ve creatively developed on your own?
It was! Motherhood was the main reason behind photography happening to me. I may have become a mother in everyone’s eyes, on the day my daughter was born but it took me very long to accept that reality. For long I fought the fact that life has been altered forever. This internal battle led to depression and I reached out to my own mother to help me deal with the responsibilities of parenting. She came to London to help me but fell terminally ill here. I kept ignoring signs of her rapidly deteriorating health because I was too selfish to let her go. When she could just not take it anymore, she broke down one night and begged me to let her return to India. On her return, she was hospitalized and has not been able to recover enough to live a normal healthy life.
This was nearly two years ago. The guilt of causing my mother an everlasting pain to suffice my own selfish gains forced me into deeper depression. But she said to me that “I won’t forgive you because you did not do anything wrong. But if you waste your life on this depression, you will have wronged both – me and your daughter.” That was a wake up call. I set up my photography page in July 2014, did my first professional assignment in November 2014 (covered a party) and since then I have never looked back.
Motherhood has healed me by lending photography to me
How does a regular day of yours look like?
Each day is different. My daughter is 3-years-old now. On days when she is not at the nursery we are out and about living-up her childhood. And on days that I am working, I am either out in the woods shooting or sunk into my bed with my laptop and coffee, doing edits.
The balance between being your own ‘boss’ and a good mum must have a lot to do with a healthy time management and a bit of discipline.
Could you briefly share your own key tips on improving the efficiency of a busy mum’s daily schedule?
Balance is difficult. Sometimes I am still struggling with it. As your own boss you may physically have stopped working but inside your head, work is going on 24×7. So on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays I do not entertain any work calls or enquiries. These three days are purely dedicated to being with my daughter, dog and husband.
But striking a balance is mostly about knowing when you need to be neck deep in it and when you are able to step out. At the onset, when one is establishing their business, one must accept that it would be almost impossible to strike a balance as your business will need you like a newborn baby would.
It’s good to set a personal timeline for your own guidance. I had told my self that I will give it a full year.
In that first year I hardly slept. I would shoot almost everyday once my husband returned from work and then after putting my kid to bed I would edit till early hours in the morning, then catch sleep for an hour or two and set out to do house work and being a mother once again… only to switch roles in the evening again.
But now… I have consciously started to cut down on work because I have set the stage in a way that I am financially able to work less hours and make equal or more money.
Today so many of us may experience periods of low confidence when motherhood kicks in, especially when a career change is also involved.
What would you advise mothers to do in order to overcome this and pursue their dreams like you have successfully done?
I believe that motherhood gives you a moment of utter weakness only to make you much more stronger than what you had ever imagined yourself to be. Your victory is in realizing that this moment of weakness… this dip in self confidence is here to lend you an opportunity.
Look for patterns in your life and see what makes you happy in times when you are feeling low. See if that “cause for happiness” can turn into something permanent. Some women find their peace in writing their pains/triumphs/experiences down. I have seen so many mothers becoming successful bloggers as a result. Others may find their redemption in talking to a friend. Maybe you could start a “find a friend in times of need” group on Facebook and organize meet ups through it… you never know what this will turn into.
As a mother, you must learn to open up to possibilities. “You never know” should be the mantra… for only motherhood can teach you that there are some possibilities that you will really never know of… unless you try!
What would you advise the new ‘mumpreneurs’ to keep in mind in the early days of growing a business?
Give it your all and don’t feel guilty about it. There is no other way of building your business. Once you have set it up… you can get back to balancing life versus living.
Which are the 3 ‘I got this from my mama’ lessons you’d like your daughter to learn from you and proudly use later in their adult lives?
Wear your pink with as much pride as you wear your blue. You don’t owe your color preference to the world. Find a life partner who shares your taste for music so that long drives aren’t a pain to get by. If you ever decide to become a photographer, make sure you shoot from your heart.
Your favourite quote
Don’t fight your competition. Nurture them. For there is enough space in this universe.
Finally, what has motherhood been teaching you and your favourite motherhoody perks are…
Motherhood has taught me the ability to value my time and my emotions. I don’t waste these two on anyone and everyone now. My favorite motherhood perk is to get to take a decent shower once a year atleast, without being called out for help or being walked in on by a dog and daughter. Sigh!
Sujata is by all means a dynamic character, her workshops are fun, the stories she creates are original, you don’t even realise when her wisdom is taking over your knowledge. Here’s a list with her upcoming events and workshops or stalk her Insta for more colours and daily inspo.