From Corporate Law to Photography

Earlier this year, I spoke with some outstanding women who made career switches from law to tech-startup, photography and nutrition for a piece I was researching for SHEROES. This is a heartfelt and inspiring interview along the same lines, reproduced here in full. Enjoy!

What made you decide to switch? 

I am a freelance photographer specializing in Fine Art photography & Portraits. I made a switch to full-time photography in October 2014, after engaging with the law for 13 years [1]. It was the realization that photography made me feel alive – healed me at a very difficult time in my life, inspired me to wake up in the mornings and helped me be true to who I was, which pushed me to make the switch.

I had been going through a legal separation in the last year before I made the change – an emotionally turbulent phase which also made me realize that I couldn’t keep denying to myself who I was. I was unhappy in my job, completely stressed out, demotivated and always on the verge of crying. A friend at the same law firm told me that my symptoms seemed like that of depression. That was a wake up call (I’m still grateful to her).

I knew what I really wanted to do. But something was holding me back. It was the week going into the Independence Day long weekend and I hadn’t really made any plans as such. I was looking at my emails and came across this ‘All Women’s Retreat’ to Andretta organized by the Wanderers. Normally I would have ignored it but it was a healing and meditation retreat and maybe that just struck a chord somewhere. A quick Google search for Andretta led me to Italy first and then Himachal Pradesh – it was a village known for blue pottery. It was a fantastic retreat where the group energies and meditations actually helped me figure out answers which were deep inside. I felt so happy and rejuvenated during those 3 days that I wanted to be like that forever, like how I used to be before.

I came back to Delhi and put in my papers. Everything that had been holding me back – the meditations had helped me break through that. At this time, I was also reading a book – “When everything changes, change everything” by Neale Donald Walsh and this really helped me as well.

Tell me about the process 

In 2007, I took a break from my strenuous corporate law firm job to pursue a one-year diploma in professional photography from Light and Life Academy, Ooty. Call it a coincidence or a miracle – I got to know about this institute through a co-worker’s marriage announcement  (his fiancé had graduated from this college!). Without wasting any more time, I applied along with a portfolio of images (I should add here that I had a keen interest in photography and working for a law firm allowed me the luxury of purchasing a Digital SLR camera). When I got a call for the interview, I knew I would have to tell my parents since this was a personal interview and I would need to travel to Ooty. Initially, it was quite a struggle trying to convince my family – so we agreed on this being a sabbatical for a year, to be followed up with an LL. M. so that the transition back to law would be smooth.

Whilst I returned to the legal field in 2008, I was never convinced that my journey with photography was over. In fact, that was just the beginning. For a while, I tried pursuing photography along with law and held two solo photography exhibitions as well. I even took a 6 month sabbatical in 2012 to explore the life of a freelancer – my employers were very kind and let me take this time off to figure this out. Finally, I made the switch in October 2014.

What was key in helping you make the transition successfully? 

I think the key factor was how motivated and energized I felt when I was pursuing photography. Also, the fact that I wasn’t doing this in ‘default’ mode and it was something that I had taken a conscious decision to do.

Suddenly from not wanting to wake up in the mornings, I find myself waking up at 4:45 am (like this morning) without an alarm and heading to my workspace because I couldn’t be happier elsewhere.

I also feel that the process or the journey of getting here was equally important – years of research, training and the benefit of a professional work culture have helped me weave these values into my lifestyle of a freelance photographer.

Also, the financial independence from my legal career and the habit of working with deadlines has helped me immensely in being professional with my clients and meeting the challenges that come with being a sole entrepreneur. Not to forget, the wonderful support from friends and family – they are there 100% with me on this and I’m so grateful for that.

Anything you’d do differently?

I could have done everything differently – perhaps even followed my dream to become an astronaut. So, I’m good with where I am right now – especially since I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone. I’m just happy Being. Discovering myself. One day at a time. And the best part is, my work helps me do that.

[1] 6 years studying the law (5 years at NLS and 1 year at Cambridge, UK) and 7 years practicing it (2 years with AMSS, Mumbai and 5 years at Luthra, Delhi).

  • Khushi Mishra

Khushi is a freelance photographer based out of New Delhi. She photographs people, their lives, families, precious moments and memories. Find her work here.

Send me your story/expression at sodhiaqseer@gmail.com with a portrait and short bio to have it featured on this site. Namaskara!

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