"I've got the spirit, but lose the feeling"
- Ian Curtis, Disorder by Joy Division.
We all want to do what makes us happy. It's fundamental. We strive relentlessly to better our lives. Unfortunately, for most of us in Britain, we are forced to work jobs we either hate, or jobs that simply don't statisfy us.
We live in a society which values work - where we have the opportunity to earn a comfortable living. However, for most, they are not doing their dream job.
We are taught that no matter what, we need to earn money to make a living, and that usually starts out with any job that will have you until you build up experience to get a better job.
Sub-consciously, we set a target for ourselves. Is that £18,000 a year? Is it £45,000 a year? Or is it £500,000 a year? It really depends on what you consider as good pay. Usually when we hit that target we feel a sense of achievement, right? But what is it you're doing for that money? Really think about it. More often than not, we are not doing what we imagined we would be doing as grown ups when we were at school. I never imagined I would be a finance administrator, but here I am. I have worked hard, and yeah, the pay is great, but as life speeds away as I pray for the weekend, I have to think, what about ambition? The push for more?
A Little Bit of Fear
The life we build ourselves is based on income. We know how much we can spend and maintaining the life we have built. This can come toppling down if you lose your employment. If you have built a life on a joint income of £60,000 with a spouse, and one of you loses their job, then what? We really do live on the edge...
This is why we are told to work in these jobs. You get your first one and them your career is often led by that first experience. Even if we dislike them, we are too scared to take that leap into doing what we truly want to do.
For my entire life I have wanted to do something art related. Studying at Edinburgh College of Art, I felt like anything was possible. I was trained in painting, sculpture and photography (although at the time I was only taking photos to draw from).
But then life happened and I ended up in retail, bar work, and eventually the public sector. Yeah, I worked so hard for it all, but is it really what I want from my one life?
Because of the above thoughts, and the fact I utterly hate my job, something began to change within me. One night I couldn't sleep in a hotel in Glasgow. I stayed awake staring out of the window with a bottle of whiskey just thinking about where I was in life, and decided something must be done. No more was I going to be a slave to my wage, and instead I had more to give, and more to show.
I scribbled down some ideas about photography, what I had learned in the past, and themes. But it had been so long since I had taken photography seriously... am I any good? Where do I start?
Luckily we live in an age where you can publicly showcase your ability at the click of a button, and so I chose Instagram. I got a lot of attention and followers quite rapidly, although my confidence wasn't quite there at times.
I soon learned that Instagram is more like a game, and people like work in order to be liked back, and so I sought to explore further. I had to go bigger. I craved the art world again, and so needed to communicate with it, and that was the only way to truly express myself. But how?
This was still such a terrifying idea, and I hid the business plan from everyone, including my wife, due to fear of failing.
By January 2017 I had a pretty solid idea of what the project would look like, and I knew I wanted it to be a collaboration of artists and styles, but really didn't know where to begin.
I began meeting people on Instagram and going on photo walks to gauge ability and style, make friends, and source contributors. I met the Architect, who offered to help me set up my idea.
Making it Happen
Although I knew what I wanted, I had to play my cards close to my chest. After all, most new ventures fail, right? So it needed to start as a solo project.
And it needed a name now.
I knew it would end up as a collaboration - somewhere people had a space to showcase their work. I was listening to Joy Division one night, the song Disorder. There's a lyric, "On the Tenth Floor down the back stairs, into no man's land".
Tenth Floor Photography was born.
The top half of the logo is what I used to sign my artwork with, and I have it tattooed in 3 places! It's over a decade old. I just adapted it, with some help from friends, to create the final Tenth Floor Photography Symbol.
After that, the ideas and concepts came pretty quickly, and I decided on imagining the Tenth Floor as a place - much to the dismay of my wife who thought referring to it as 'the Tenth Floor' was far too gimmicky. However, I proceeded anyway, and assigned all members a code, or 'room number' on the Tenth Floor.
Problem was, I still had the fear of my full time employment, and whether the Tenth Floor could really be something.
In early summer 2017, my full time job just became unbearable. Each day was, and still is, a struggle. I completely changed the business plan, this time letting others view it. I projected that we should start making money in 2018.
I distanced myself from Instagram and Facebook, with only the occasional post, and instead began face to face marketing through business cards, hoping people would respond.
And they did.
It all happened so quickly it made my head spin. All of a sudden people wanted to buy prints before I even had the chance to find a decent printer to help me out. I now use the reprographics department at Edinburgh College of Art. Stick with what you know and all that! Following on from that, I was invited to give talks, have mentored photography students, have gained members and staff alike, and have a lot of upcoming events, to the point I can leave my job and go part time. The projected income from October is more than someone earns in a full time job on minimum wage.
It's like stepping outside of everything you were ever taught. 3,4,5 years ago I never imagined I would be doing this. I never thought, 'Hey David, in 2016 you are gonna be writing a business plan and creating a profitable business'.
You realise your full potential when you take a risk. Everyone has the spirit, but loses the feeling. Unfortunately for me, it was the sheer hatred of my full time employment that created the energy to found and manage a business. But why shouldn't everyone have the chance to showcase talent? To step back and say, I've got more to say to the world than Tesco, or Starbucks, or any other corporate chain that treats you like a robot.
Ambition is the key. Fight for what you want, fight for what you have to say, fight for what makes you happy.
Tenth Floor Photography is still a baby, but it's growing, and I have such a drive and passion for it through ambition, and even if it never becomes my full time job, it will always be there, and I can say to people that I worked endlessly for unimaginable hours to try and make it a success and show the world what me and my team are all capable of.
Forget the beep beep of the Tesco checkout, the arrogant boss in the office on your back all the time, the physical labour, or the dire pay and misery and just try. Try to better yourself. Take that risk and push it. You will be exhausted, you might doubt yourself, sometimes it costs money, but strive to do what you want to do. Everyone has a special talent. Find it and show it off the world.
TFP. David Gulliver - Director