The Failure Way

Months ago, during my time spent producing photography surrounding women empowerment, rights and social issues following the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, I received an unexpected opportunity. A previous classmate, friend and filmmaker, Olaf Blomerus of BLMRS Media Production Company, contacted me to share an upcoming film project he was preparing for. Along with fellow Canadian filmmaker Chris Dowsett, Olaf was planning to interview and film 6 people on the concept of Failure ~ The meaning of it, its impact, outcomes, and its differing shape for each of us as we pursue our individual paths.

He asked if I would participate as one of the 6 people featured in this video documentary series, and I did not hesitate for a moment. I agreed for his crew to come interview and film me upon my return from Nepal to British Columbia, Canada.

We filmed the project in May. Over the course of 3 days and multiple locations that held personal significance, such as my family cabin, my mother’s home and local park I grew up going for walks and feeding the ducks in, I found myself embracing the vulnerability of the experience. I opened up in front of the lens to share not only my passion for documentary photography, and the way in which I grew to embrace this profession and way of life that is truly my life’s calling, but also to share my experience with failure. Failure is something I know well. I’ve known it in many forms, in varying degrees from the kind that can be shrugged off, to the kind that is paralyzing. 

Over the past 7 years I have traveled from Canada to India, Kenya, Tanzania, Nepal, Sri Lanka and back in pursuit and creation as a photographer, a storyteller, a woman with a fierce inner calling that will continue to evolve and take further shape and clarity with each project I complete.  Amidst all of this, there has been failure. I have failed so big at times, in my own mind, that I have put down the camera and tucked away my passport for months, sometimes over a year at a time. 

Post earthquake displacement camps, Nepal 2015. Produced on assignment for Aura Freedom International. Image featured in 'The Failure Way'.

Truthfully, it was not so long ago that there were moments in Nepal and Sri Lanka that I laid awake in darkened rooms in the middle of the night, far from any familiar faces, the fear of failure consuming me. Thoughts of, “Am I really capable of this? Maybe I should just pack up and go home. I’m not cut out for it…What was I thinking?” I laid in cold sweats, feeling very much alone, my feelings intensified by environments full of language barriers, cultural differences and that which constantly challenged my perception of belonging.
These nights of course would inevitably end, and I would awake to emails and written feedback from others abroad and back in Canada ~ An outpouring of positivity, compliments, praise for my work, sincerities of “I wish I could do what you’re doing!” and those asking me for professional advice.

Portraiture series in post earthquake displacement camps, Nepal 2016. Image featured in 'The Failure Way'.

Experiences like this are surreal. I stare at the compliments on the computer screen and I smile to myself, at the irony that someone was seeing me as an inspiration and champion at the very moment I was lying doubtful and fearful in bed, even after almost a decade of doing this work. The perception from the outside, especially through the lens of social media, is that it can look very much like the person who is walking a path you admire is doing so in total confidence, in a state of constant and unwavering joy and fortitude. I know by now that this is not the case, and imagine even those I myself see as pillars of unwavering strength and success have moments where they too, are lying in bed, feeling alone and fearful of failure.

Post earthquake displacement camps, Nepal 2015. Produced on assignment for Aura Freedom International. Image featured in 'The Failure Way'.

I feel immensely grateful for this knowledge and perspective that has been gained only through my own experience. For ‘The Failure Way’, four hours of audio interview were cut down to ten minutes of final film. The cathartic and liberating nature of sharing the details of my own failures, my own fears, the many stops and starts, and stops and re-starts on the journey of my path as a documentary photographer did not all make it into the final cut. Those details, I know, will be shared more publicly in their own time. The final video is, as are all of the videos that have so far been released in the series, a thing of inspiration, power and beauty. The vision of Olaf and his crew leaves me in awe, and I am ever grateful to have been a part of such a creative collaboration.

Microfinance beneficiaries in Kibera slum, Kenya 2012. Produced for Institute of Development & Welfare Services. Image featured in 'The Failure Way'.

I’ve come to a point of accepting that what I deem as ‘failures’ will continue to come, but my ability and capacity to rise up and greet them as teachers have built over time. At the end of the day, the work I am doing is more than worth every second of doubt, fear and failure combined. I really am living what I know is my purpose ~ To be an advocate for others whose stories of physical, emotional, mental and economic challenges deserve to be heard and shared with the world as a call to awareness and most importantly, action. In the sharing of these stories, there lay lessons for each of us. 

As I move forward on the path of this work, I will continue to repeat as a mantra the words that Olaf so appropriately chose to end my episode of ‘The Failure Way’ with. I hear my own words as a reminder and encouragement from past to present self.

Do not be afraid of this’.

Portraiture series in post earthquake displacement camps, Nepal 2016. Image featured in 'The Failure Way'.

{'The Failure Way' full video link: }