I’ve been called a writer. I’ve been called a podcaster. Depending on the year or the season of my life, I’ve been called a public speaker, a photographer, a presenter, a mastermind leader and a course creator. I think my advantage has been that I am actually none of them.
I am a storyteller.
When Elizabeth and I were in school together at Ohio University, we were in the crew of photojournalists at VISCOM- the school of visual communications. One afternoon along the college green, we gathered in between classes to waste a little time together. It was an exciting time to be in collaboration with so many talented and ambitious photographers who were honing their craft towards a career in photojournalism. Little did we know how this vibrant, thrilling industry would be decimated, pillaged and taken over by greedy corporate giants who turned the industry into a profit grabbing, click bait creating world that preyed on it’s audiences fears to turn them against one another. But that’s for another day.
But in the spring of 1999, the future appeared bright. Photographers were constantly looking for new stories and images to capture. Some took it even further. They carried their cameras everywhere. Elizabeth and I were committed to our craft but at times felt out of place. We would be at Tony’s grabbing a few late night drinks and the die-hards were taking pictures of our fishbowl glasses. Can we give it a rest, people? Can we not go out for drinks and make it all about photography?
It was then when I started to wonder if I’m actually a photographer. I didn’t live and breathe it like so many of my classmates did. I would much rather sit at that faded, wooden table facing the street engaged in a lively conversation that involved laughter, thinking and marvelous storytelling. I got wrapped up in hearing about their lives. It was also at that table that I told a story about an encounter that I had with the mafia when I was a teenager when a friend told me that I should be telling that story on stage.
But I’m a photographer, right? It was a little confusing because I have never enjoyed having a label put onto me. Elizabeth and I left school to become award winning photojournalists at The Evansville Courier & Press. Our time in Evansville couldn’t have been more prosperous career wise, if you don’t include money. Tossing aside our faulty income, we took every award and achievement possible. Our staff was that good.
But that industry was being decimated and we had a desperate need to feed our new child. So we started a side gig as wedding photographers, which was considered sacrilegious to most of the photojournalism community. But their opinions weren’t buying diapers. When we started our business, we needed to come up with a name. We decided to put our names together, but Vincent Elizabeth didn’t sound nearly as good as Elizabeth Vincent. We named it Elizabeth Vincent Photography but when we went to build the website, it didn’t look right. We’re not photographers, we said. We are storytellers.
So we changed the website to reflect that.
It’s just a word but I think it was consequential. For the first time, we weren’t confined to a title that everyone else used and expected. Being storytellers seems to expand our reach in creativity. We even had clients tell us to be just that- storytellers. It may sound silly on the outside but it gave us freedom to get to know their family more, take different chances in the way that we shot, create more intimate, artistic images that a “photographer” wouldn’t think to do. It wasn’t about collecting a pre conceived set of images. It was telling a full story. I think that is the main reason why we were able to shoot to the top of our industry in two different cities.
It did something else, outside of the photography world. It allowed us to transcend industries.
After being one industry (journalism) for a decade, and then another (weddings and events) for nearly another decade, storytelling is what has allowed us to break out into a multitude of industries and options that we never could have even conceived if we had kept ourselves into a box.
What exactly can a storyteller do? Well, if you learn the art of storytelling, you have no limits. I can list off an array of options that you have but I got to experience it first hand. Storytelling is a transferable skill. If you become a storyteller as opposed to (fill in career title here), you develop a diverse skill set that allows you to, as Bruce Lee said, “Be like water”.
“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you put water into a cup, it becomes a cup. When you pour water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water into the teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash,” Lee said. “Become water my friend.
Being a storyteller allows you to be water. If you are a writer, you are limited. But a storyteller who writes can use those skills to create a podcast. They can record the podcast themselves or they can write it for someone else. They can write a book, they can write a screenplay or they can write an article for a magazine. A storyteller who writes doesn’t have to rely on one static income stream. A great storyteller can take those skills to the stage and use them to captivate an audience there. Or if they are more of the introvert, they can write and create an online course that not only creates income on its own but can support the other storytelling aspects of their platform.
We are all about creating a niche. If your niche involves storytelling, your options for creativity, vision and income producing options expands greatly. Creating a niche will help you build wealth. Creating multiple streams of income will help you keep it and expand it.