I have been avoiding sitting down behind this keyboard to type these words for quite some time. There have been excuses ranging from, doing washing, dishes, cleaning the house and garden, to just one more episode of Black Mirror and a slew of other time wasting shows, but it’s time to button down. What a weird term; buttoning down. Am I getting undressed? Is that what it means?

Anyway, moving on. Zack asked me to write/type some words for the DEDPXL community and as exciting as that is, it’s also terrifying. I feel like I have this big responsibility to write meaningful shit and to show meaningful work. I have neither of that at the moment. I have been back in South Africa for two months – nearly three by the time you out there read this – and I have nothing to show for it. At first I was like a bat out of hell, ready to get to work and do shit, however everyone else’s year was winding down, with the holidays descending upon us.

I was pissed off, irritable, restless and ready to work and looking back on it, I should have used that to sort out more things and go shooting street or anything, but that being said I caught up with friends, family and strangers. We shared stories, meals and beers and it was good, but as soon as I got home I was angry again. So then I decided to go visit friends in Cape Town and family in Port Elizabeth and I relaxed a little. I got bored and boredom is good. We need that sometimes. I am back from the mini vacation and the unease is still there, but I am a little more prepared to deal with it. The scariest thing is knowing there is no fallback. I am now a working self-employed person. I am now a photographer and I have to prove it! To myself mostly, but also to people out there so that I can get hired.

Right before I left the U.S. Zack asked me what the plan was?

Where to from here? 

I am working on some things. Currently a good friend of mine and I are trying to create a studio space in Pretoria and that is damn exciting. Also, last month I culled the herd a little so that I can make a print portfolio that I can show to agencies and art buyers/art directors in hopes to get some cool paying gigs. As of writing this I am down to 16 images and I would like to have 20. So for the next two months I have four photos that I need to create. I know that sounds like a long time to create four pictures, but they are fairly big ideas and will require a crew. A stylist, make-up artist and an assistant or two. Lucky for me I have some very great friends that have offered to help me out and I am very thankful to them.

So keep your eyes peeled for some BTS things on my site and new posts on the progress and process.

Lastly, a thank you to Zack and Meg for welcoming me into their lives and family. Also thanks to everyone that followed my time with Zack and read “Only in America”. That was only the beginning. Happy 2015. 

– Bernard

To: Bernard
From: Zack
Re: Crap. Me too.

I’m in the same damn boat right now. All these plans. Not much to show. Let’s get off our asses this year and get shit done.


PS – AWESOME photo! 🙂

How about the rest of you? What are you dragging your feet on? What do you need to get off your ass and get to work? What helps you stay focused?

Bernard Brand

Bernard is a freelance portrait photographer, based in Pretoria, South Africa. Currently stumbling ass backwards into a full time photography career.

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  1. Woody ONeal

    When I get what I call “stuck”, I fall back on those who inspire me.

    Back to basics I suppose.

    Given that the entire Southeastern USA is enduring grey, 39 degree-Seattle-Washington-type weather, I’ll take a clue from Bernard’s image and find a way to put some color into an otherwise drab scene. Color me jealous 🙂

    A beer wouldnt hurt either.

    • Bernard

      Oh Woody,

      It seems we are both envious of each others weather. I love winter. I dunno what 39 degrees feels like – get on the damn metric system already ;P – but I’d love to do some depressing snowy photos of loners on empty snow covered roads, or something like that.

      The beer was actually expired. Damn craft beer 🙂

      • Tom Legrady

        1 or 2 degrees C … perfect winter weather, snow but comfy.

  2. Craig

    A new camera helps. Now I need to do something with it…no pressure : )

    • Bernard

      So jealous Craig. I was this close —-><—- to packing that Hasselblad in my bag before I left Atlanta.

      Congrats again man, now go make something damn it! 😛

    • Mike

      Take a bunch of cat pics and selfies, then HDR the crap out of them just to piss everyone off =)

  3. adam bucci

    deadlines. freelance graphic design is all about deadlines and being as creative as possible within the time allowed, be it for creating a bus wrap, designing and building a website, or art directing a magazine.

    deadlines keep me focused.

    things that i’ve been dragging my feet on?

    another issue of the napa valley wine press. its a journal of art, photography and words. since its inception in 1986 only three issues have been produced.

    sitting down and watching the tutorials i was given as a gift. memberships to sites like these are like gym memberships – you visit several times in the first week and then for some reason, the only exercise you get is turning your head to look at the gym as you drive past it.

    my website – started in 1996, still under construction

  4. Rob Timko

    Bernard – I have a lot of pent up energy and enthusiasm and excitement…but I’m not sure where to focus it yet this year.

    I have a project kicking around in my head (actually a bit of inspiration from Zack) that involves both portraits AND a video…but it seems like an awful lot to commit to, even though I know it will be awesome, meaningful, and impactful.

    • Bernard

      Rob, I think I am somewhere in the same headspace. I have all theses ideas and things. They are getting realized though, coz I need to go make these photos for my portfolio, so NO MORE sitting around for me.

      It’s damn exciting, but scary coz right now the ideas feel a little bigger than me and what I think I know, but until I try and make them I don’t know if I can make them, you know?

      The year is young, so go finish your book – send me a copy ;P – and then wrap your head around your new project. I look forward to it.

  5. Sid Ceaser

    Right there with ya. Winter. Man. Winter. You think it’s shitty in ATL or South Africa – here in New England it’s sub-zero temps and snowfall. It sucks every ounce of inspiration, creation and momentum out of my fat body and it just lies there on the floor. It’s gross.

    Every. Damn. Winter. Ugh.

    Books don’t help. Websites don’t help. Looking at other photographers don’t help. That just adds jealously to being cold and depressed. A lovely combination 🙂

    Hang in there. Baby steps.


  6. Jakob Tritt

    Hey Bernard,

    just wanted to thank you for another great article, I read all your Dedpxl als well as Only in America stuff and enjoyed it big time!

    I wish you the best for your business and hope you can get those 4 shots for a kick ass portfolio!

    PS: i like the image above, is it shot withj a Fuji?
    Did Zac convert you? 😀
    In my case he did, my new X-T1 came in just for christmas 😉

    Cheers, Jake

    • Bernard

      Hey Jakob,

      First; thank you very much for following my ramblings here and on my own site. It is very much appreciated. And thank you for the well wishes.

      Second; it was indeed.
      Fuji X100T

      I think more than Zack converting me was the camera itself. Zack definitely got me interested in it, but the camera did the rest of the talking.

      Enjoy the new camera.

  7. John Wangelin

    Winter is just sucking the life right out of me at the moment. Trying to rebrand my business and get some things on my website cleaned up and ready for spring. Pretty much everything is pissing me off at the moment and I can’t get my wheels spinning but that hopefully will change soon.

    It’s that time of year where it seems socially acceptable to be lazy and I seem to be cashing in.

    • Bernard

      That’s also on my list of things to do John.

      Some rebranding, new website, new work. I guess I have it a little easier with summer here even though to me that is a huge energy suck. The heat man. It’s too much! But enough about winter and summer and seasons.

      We all have “seasons” we go through and mine hit me hard when I got back from the States and now it seems to be everyone else’s turn. Good to know we’re all in this together and trying to pull one another out of it – or perhaps encouraging the slump?

  8. Outis

    This is going to sound like the dumbest advice ever– the book I’m about to recommend was written for academic psychologists and you are not an academic psychologist– but I reread the book “How to Write a Lot” by Paul Silvia. It’s like $10 on Amazon. The author outlines productive work habits, and then demolishes your excuses for your unproductive work habits. It makes me set a regular work schedule, and then, once I have a block of work time, I have to fill it with work somehow. I get more creative ideas the more work I’ve been doing already. I’m an academic, and you’re a photographer, but maybe there’s enough overlap with the Creative Idea -> Make It Happen -> Make It Presentable cycle that it would be helpful for you, too.

    • Bernard

      That sounds like a good read Outis.

      I am usually pretty good once I get going. It’s just getting to the going part that’s not always the easiest 😛

      I’ll see if I can perhaps find it and form some good habits.


  9. Jin

    Wow. OK. First off, really great photo (awesome lighting and idea!), and kudos for being so honest. Second, I could write so much on this but it’s not my blog so I’ll get straight to the point.

    1. Pick 2 product goals (results) you want done 3 months from now i.e. “create 4 photos for my portfolio”
    2. Determine 3 process goals (daily tasks) that will achieve your product goal i.e. “setup casting call for models”, “perform rehearsal shot with assistants” etc.
    3. At the end of EACH DAY, WRITE DOWN what process goals you did that day
    4. Check-in with yourself each month to review your progress. If you have gaps on your calendar, you know you need to work harder. If you don’t have gaps but are not getting the results you want, ask yourself what needs to change (your process goals? resources? time?)

    Stop making excuses and go forward. Keep moving forward. Baby steps count too, as long as you are moving forward. Everyday just take one more step towards your goal. No one else can walk this path for you. That’s why it’s your life, and that’s what makes it so great.

    • Bernard

      Thank you Jin

      It was supposed to convey the “slump” I found myself in. Not too sure if it did that, but it seems to be getting a fairly good reaction.

      Good advice I think. Not always easy to stick to these daily goals, coz moods change and there are just those days you want/need to sit on your ass and mope. Just need to be wary to not get stuck in that, but very good advice indeed.

      I have been quite active the last two weeks in getting things organized, setting up the meetings, organizing models, MUA etc. It feels good at the end of the day knowing I did shit.

  10. jason

    I’m stuck trying to pay the bills with non-photography related gigs. Add in 22mo old twins and I barely have time to wipe, much less shoot. But I am keeping at it and will keep things in perspective.

  11. Jenn

    I need to get off my ass and shoot for myself. That’s all. So many ideas rattling around in my brain and I have yet to shoot a one of them. Time to get off my duff and get to work.

  12. Anders

    I left a well-paying gig in the oil industry, left scandinavia, moved to South America to live in my wife’s native country bolivia. My idea here was to ride around on my motorcycle, write and take photos of my new country. For a book-ish kind of thing maybe. You know. Mid life crisis shit. On my first trip, my friend crashed and died by my feet. On my second, I almost bought it myself. So the bike is up for sale. I fear it. My photo is getting worse and worse, a while ago I thought I might have what it takes to go pro, but not anymore. I did famiky and wedding stuff for a while, but that just sucks. So I have dropped those plans too, and now I am hitting the streets, taking photos for my self, without considering if it is possible to sell it or not. The bank account is shrinking, wife is pregnant with out second kid, but my ohotography is better again. Cause I have no fear.

    So my goal for 2015 is no fear. Fuck it. I will get out there, in people’s faces, and do it. I have a story that needs telling.


    • Bernard

      Whoa, Anders

      So sorry to hear about that. It sounds like you are pulling yourself out from the ashes and that’s awesome man. Just keep at it man. You have a family to feed, so go out and do this work not just for yourself, but for them too.

      Let your final words – “Fuck it. I will get out there, in people’s faces, and do it. I have a story that needs telling” – ring true. I love the determination in those words.

      Go do it.

      • Anders

        Here’s the thing that is getting to me: I live in Bolivia, which is run by Evo Morales. He is a cocaine baron, and the country is heading for a proper crash in the next 5 or so years. Long story. However, western media are portraying him as a hero, and the UN is giving him an award for “his work against hunger” or some such thing. I could, with words and pictures, tell another story. But it is too dangerous. People get kidnapped, there is no freedom of press, and I have a family to think about. So as I am snapping photos of people’s kids and weddings, my soul slowly dies.


        • Bernard

          That’s heavy man.. I honestly don’t know what to say.

  13. Uwe

    Beeing in cold, wet and dark Germany is a little depressive right now. I planned to rework my portfolio and doing some rebranding but could not get on it, no energy.
    As Outis mentioned it helps me a lot to setup a daily fixed schedule, 2h taking photos, 1h photoshop, 1h portfolio rework, 1h learning french (the hardest part :). Out of a sudden new ideas came up, even I made a lot of new contacts-great.

    As my brother in law and my sister lived in Pretoria a couple of years I was there very often and I am a little jelous, you are at such a great place.
    Enjoy a couple of Windhoek Lager and the sunset.
    You will make it.

  14. Richard Wintle

    Add me to the list of “those having the life sucked out of them by winter”. I know it shouldn’t be this way. Low-contrast, moody light… snow… ice… there’s stuff to shoot but I am too lazy and cold-averse. Sigh.

    The sun is peeking out and looking nice up until about 4:00 PM and then it’s fading. I get to watch it out the window at work. Argh.

    So I futz around indoors and end up taking the same kind of boring-ass “studio” photos I always do. Double argh.

    Sorry, this comment didn’t help at all did it? Glad to hear you’ve got some big concepts in mind… I like your characterization of them as feeling a little bit bigger than you. Everything seems a bit bigger than me at the moment… just got to get going, somehow. Good luck with filling out your book, hoping for a blog post about how some of these concepts pan out for you.

    • Bernard

      Oh there will definitely be posts about them. If not here, then on my site 🙂

  15. Bill

    That’s great photo, Bernard, the kind that grows more rewarding each time you regard it.

    It’s normal to need to regroup after a big period of transition. Hang in there, you’ll get your mojo back.

    I met you at one of Zack’s workshops and appreciated your help. Hope you have a bike over there, too. Riding it regularly will help work out things in your mind.

    • Bernard

      Thanks Bill,

      Okay, I am going to put my neck out here, so please don’t hate me 🙂 Bill, as in the guy with the crazy cool curly hair and the talenter facial muscles? You are most welcome for the help. That’s what I was there for.

      I do have a bike, but will be looking at getting a helmet for my noggin before traversing our even more treacherous roads.

      • Bernard

        Damn it! * talented

  16. adam bucci

    have you considered walking around Khayelitsha and documenting what you see there. could be an interesting book or web project.

    • Bernard

      Unfortunately that is in Cape Town and I am a little more inland.

      I also feel like the township thing has been done to death here. It is something that I have considered though, but I don’t feel that I am a good enough documentary photographer. I always feel a little guilty, you know?

  17. Jim Robertson

    I’ve had a similar experience to Bernard’s after completing Zack’s workshop early last December. Somehow the Christmas/New Year holidays have a way of grinding production almost to a halt. I was all fired up with two new 1600 Alien Bees, inspired an’ ready to cut loose after the workshop but then there were no new assignments, the winter issue was already in the bag, holiday plans, travel, etc. But now it’s 2015 and AWAY WE GO!!!! NO PRISONERS AND NO EXCUSES!!!! YIPPEE-KI-YAY MOTHER*******!!! Okay, I’m ready now.

    Best to you, Bernard!

  18. Ellen Ingram

    Bernard, thanks for your dispatch and for sharing your experiences. I really resonate with your situation and with the internal struggle you’re experiencing to advance both your career and your passion. I believe you’ve encountered the cyclical nature of creativity – ranging from the über highs to the mega lows and all the nuances in between. What I hope you can acknowledge, and trust, is your strong, inner motivation to move forward, as it already appears that you’re on the road to doing this. I also hope you’ll keep posting your experiences on both your own and the DEDPXL websites. You have a wonderful story to tell and I’d really enjoy knowing how the rest of your journey continues.

    Zack, in regard to your questions, they are, as always, very thought provoking.
    1) What are you dragging your feet on?
    – A notebook filled with photo ideas.
    – Learning techniques to move my ideas from out of my notebook into reality.
    (Or, perhaps I’m over complicating the process and need to get out of my
    own way.)
    2) What do you need to get off your ass and get to work?
    – Continual immersion and interaction in the many aspects of photography.
    – Learning to trust my intuition and instincts, and to believe in myself (not
    3) What helps me stay focused?
    Just one thought – I don’t want to die wondering “what if.”

    Thanks to you both,

    • Bernard

      Thank you Ellen,

      The kind words are much appreciated and I just want to take a moment for everyone that has read this post and checked out my site and followed my happenings.

      There will be a post up on my regular ol’ blog tomorrow at some point, so please do check that out if you have a second and there will hopefully many things to report on in the coming weeks and months 🙂

    • Zack

      Ooooo. Number three. Well done. Thanks for your thoughts!


  19. Bandrews

    Got me a gut full of Jane Bown flavoured inspiration. Just waiting for that little X100T to drop through the door in the morning….. Then it’s off to Australia. Boom.

  20. Steve Thorpe

    First, a confession. I haven’t been a professional photographer since before Bernard was born. After 12 years or so of making a living behind the camera, I wandered off and became a writer, editor and web developer. But I’ve wandered back to photography in recent years and enjoy the re-acquaintance immensely.

    To Bernard: You were on the right track hanging around with Zack. Always hang around with and annoy photographers who are better than you. When I worked on a major daily paper in Detroit with 31 photographers I identified their strengths and “went to school.” This guy is a great portraitist? How does he do it? Great sports shooter? Pick his brain. Breaking news? How does he get great shots without getting killed? (There was a drug war going on in the city at the time) Lighting guru? Shadow him (forgive the dreadful pun). Although talented photographers will find your presence annoying at times, they’re usually flattered and helpful. Find the top photographers nearby and stalk them.

    Secondly, leverage your Y chromosome. Your competitive instincts are your friend. In my 20s and early 30s, not only was I shooting “against” the photographers on my own staff, but there was another major daily right down the street. We all showed our successes and failures to more than a million subscribers every day. Get lean, get mean and WIN! Be the best when you can. Also, before anybody kicks my ass about the Y chromosome thing … it’s a metaphor and some of the most competitive shooters I knew were women. I married one of them. More than 35 years later, she’s STILL a better photographer than I’ll ever be.

    Finally, I’ll share a secret from my “old days” that I used to rely on when I didn’t know what to shoot. Find a craftsman and “embed” yourself with him or her for a few days (buying lunch helps). I’m looking at a vividly painted psychedelic metal zebra on my mantle that I dearly love. It was made in Africa. A guy in a village asked himself what the area had plenty of and his answer was scrap metal. So now he (and apparently other villagers) crank out really wonderful metal animal sculptures. Spending time with a craftsman can not only provide you with some striking images, but a dose of inspiration as you watch them work.

    My secret weapon for finding people like that was what we used to call in the states “the yellow pages.” It was a business directory that laid around mostly unnoticed in every home and workplace. Not sure if there’s a modern equivalent.

    Good luck!

    • Bernard

      Thanks Steve,

      I am definitely trying to hang around with people who push me. Not only photographers, but designers and fine-artists and architects and friends whom are doing some incredible things on their own. It’s nice to grow with them and push each other.

      My “competitiveness” is definitely coming through a little more. I have always been – and to some extent I still am – a little too shy and reserved, but I have a fire burning in me at the moment and a million ideas. Not just for my own photography, but I am trying to slowly build a community of close knit artists and creative/business people, who can help each other out and create work for one another. It’s all pretty damn exciting and I hope to have an update on that by February and perhaps even something to show for it.

      Thanks for the words and thanks for reading

  21. adam bucci

    why not do this. whenever i’m stuck, i go for a walk around my neighbourhood with a camera. often its my x100s, but when i take my xe1 i only take one lens and never the same lens twice in a row.
    seeing the same neighbourhood over and over may seem boring, but its never the same route an theres things to see like new cars, toys left outside, people walking around, and something you see may just spark an idea that you’ll want to expand upon and create.