It was on Instagram that I first chanced upon Michelle Job’s incredible images. Michelle is a mother of two who chose to pursue her passion of photography as fate took her to lands very different from Trichy where she was born and raised. Michelle not only admirably dealt with the challenges of being an expat mom, but she also converted her love for photography into her career, branching out into actual paid assignments.
It is with great pleasure that I present Star Mom, Michelle Job.
Thank you Michelle, for taking the time to speak with the Times of Amma community.
From an electrical engineer, to a stay-at home to finding your passion in photography. Could you tell us more about this journey?
I grew up in Trichy, Tamil Nadu. My childhood was spent in a little Township. My parents never bought a TV as they considered it an unnecessary distraction, so I had no clue about the world outside and the possibilities out there. No one told me that I could follow my passion or dreams. To be honest, I did not even know what it was to be passionate about something. All my peers were aspiring to become doctors and engineers. So I followed the crowd and became one - an Electrical Engineer to be precise.
My heart was never into engineering. I had always visualised information in pictures and those electrical circuits and formulas just didn’t make sense to me. Soon after graduation, I became a magazine editor, as engineering and I were poles apart! Before long, I had to quit my job due to complications in my first pregnancy. I wanted to be a hands-on mom, watch and enjoy my kids’ growing up years. So I never returned to work there after.
Ever since I read the Diary of Anne Frank as a 12 year old, I grew fond of journalling and documenting my life. From high school to my college years, I journaled almost everyday. Post marriage and kids, I did not find the time to journal. So I switched to snapping pictures of my kids and I started to document their milestones, special moments and my motherhood journey on a blog.
Friends and family who saw my pictures encouraged me to give professional photography a thought. So at 34, I did. It has been an adventure since!
How do you balance your career with your parenting?
Being a freelance photographer, gives me the freedom to decide how much work I would like to take upon myself. Also, I want to enjoy what I do and do not take work to a point where it stresses me out!
I work only when my kids are away at school or a couple of hours over the weekend. I spend the rest of my time with my family.
How has being an expat influenced your parenting?
Thanks to the Swedish system of education and Lagom Swedish lifestyle (the Swedish word for ‘moderation’, “Just enough,” “Not too much or too little,”) that has loosened and relaxed me as a parent. Since the schools here give a lot of emphasis to children enjoying a stress- free childhood, saving us parents loads of unwanted stress. I have begun to delight in watching my kids enjoy the little things in life - their freedom to imagine, the ways in which they are encouraged bring their imaginations to life, unhindered play and the long hours they spend outdoors exploring nature irrespective of the weather. In many ways I am reliving my childhood through my kids.
Do you think it is harder being an expat mother than an expat dad?
I believe it all depends on the perspective and the individual’s personality. Unlike US, UK or Australia, Sweden is a non-English country. Although 90% of the population speaks English, EVERYTHING from transport to products in shops to every form or information is in Swedish. When we first arrived, I felt like an alien and I must admit during the first few weeks I felt extremely lonely and depressed, despite being someone who enjoys travel.
However, soon I decided to consider this move as an adventure. I explored the city on my own, went out of my comfort zone, made new friends and I started to embrace this new life!
Now I would testify that being an expat mom is more fun than being an expat dad ;)
What were the challenges you faced in setting yourself up as a photographer?
When we arrived in Stockholm, I was an amateur photographer. I lacked expertise. I had zero contacts. I knew it was a very crucial phase in my journey as a photographer. There are a few things I systematically did (and I still do!)
- I began using social media for networking.
- I identified successful photographers in Stockholm, followed their work, met with them, got inspired by their life and journey.
- I spent hours learning photography. Thanks to world of resources available on YouTube and apps like Creative Live and Lynda.
Who was your biggest support while following your passion?
My mom and my husband. They both are also my greatest critiques. I grew up watching my mom capture great moments on her film (analog) camera. She not only documented my growing up years in very candid photographs, she taught me how to see the beauty in the little things.
My husband believed in my dreams right from day one, even when I had nothing to prove. Apart from investing financially, he constantly encourages me. The greatest form in which he shows his support is by being a hands-on parent when I am away at work.
What has been the highest point/happiest moment in your journey as a photographer?
Meeting new people and getting to go to beautiful places does make me happy. However over time, photography has taught me to appreciate life, relationships and the seemingly insignificant moments that cannot be seen, but felt. Now in that I find my happiness!
Would you say that being a mom is advantageous or disadvantageous as far as starting a business is concerned?
I feel it is circumstantial. In my case, since my husband is the sole bread winner of the family, there is no pressure on me to produce monetary results. Hence, that gives me great freedom and peace of mind to be creative.
When a mother follows her passion and establishes her dream, the greatest advantage she has is being a powerful role model for her kids to dream big and follow their dreams.
Most mothers are expert multitaskers. As a professional photographer and expat mother of two when is the most you have had to multi-task?
I multitask the most when I post-process images. However, I try my best to wrap up my work before the kids get back from school!
What is the one piece of advice that you wish you had received while chasing your dream?
I really wish someone had asked me what I was passionate about twenty years ago. I wish I had known I could follow my passion and be successful. Unfortunately, I never knew that I could be passionate about something. Our Indian system of education and the society I was surrounded with instilled in me and countless others the lie that success can be found only in handful of stereotype courses and careers!
I discovered the truth pretty late in life. From that moment on, I didn’t let anything stop me!
What has your favourite piece of client feedback been so far?
One of my clients wrote to me, “We never felt beautiful until we saw ourselves in your pictures. Thank you for helping us see ourselves in a whole new light!”
Thank you, Michelle for sharing your journey towards actualizing your dreams with the Times of Amma.
We wish you and your family much joy and success.
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