I credit Mrs. Schulle, my elementary school Challenge teacher, with teaching me this word, "niche." Since 3rd grade I've had an appreciation for "finding my place," all because of her creativity and the fact that our school district failed to give us a classroom. She emptied out an 8'x10' (...maaaaybe) cubbyhole in the Carl Schurz Elementary School library for our classroom and never once complained about lack of resources. In fact, she turned it into a lesson for us. I remember her definition of niche - which, by the way, I pronounce nich, not nesh - as "a place for everything and everything in its place." She encouraged us to find our place.
This word popped back onto my radar last week, when I took my boys to the Witte Museum in San Antonio. In their Texas ecology exhibit, they had a sign that had her definition and an explanation that said (paraphrased), "Each species has a job and a location. A species' job, and where it does its job, is called its niche. Each species has a unique niche. This minimizes competition... allowing a variety of creatures to live in harmony."
This explanation really struck me! Applying this in my life, I could infer it to mean that if/once I find my niche, I could not only find my own happiness, but bring others around me, harmony?! As a born people pleaser, this made my day.
I looked to Merriam-Webster later to see if they had any insight for me. There are several distinct definitions and uses of the word "niche":
1. a : a recess in a wall especially for a statue
b : something (as a sheltered or private space) that resembles a recess in a wall
2. a : a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted <finally found her niche>
b : a habitat supplying the factors necessary for the existence of an organism or species
c : the ecological role of an organism in a community especially in regard to food consumption
d : a specialized market
So, from that I see that a niche can be a specific place, an activity, an environment, a responsibility and even an economic or business matter. There is so much involved in this five letter word!
The past two months, I have been blessed with several opportunities to grow in my photography. (one of the big reasons I haven't been posting here much) A few things have fallen in my lap, but other things, I am pursuing. I pursue those things that I believe are right for me. Speaking in regards to photography, this means what my subject(s) will be. At a conference I attended this summer, some seasoned photogs gave the following advice/caution: "When you're first starting out, you will be enticed to take any and every job. This will not help you. This will spread you too thin and dilute your brand. You want people to seek you out because of the work you do."
I love taking pictures of children and families. I started out in my hobby years ago taking senior pictures for my cousins. I wasn't sure that I was good enough to be competitive in New Braunfels (and that will remain to be seen), but maybe it's not about being competitive. And a few recent photo shoots have bolstered my confidence there... I enjoy taking pictures of couples and maybe some bridals, but I think there are people out there who are made for event and wedding photography. I don't think that person is me. I mean, I can and I have, but it doesn't bring me joy the way capturing children's smiles and babies' peaceful expressions and families' display of love does.
I recently talked with my friend and fellow photographer, Mikie Farias, about this. In my opinion, he is SO gifted in sports, event and wedding photography. He recently did some really great work at Gruene Hall and I told him, "That's your niche, Mikie!" That and sports. He's very good with everything he works with, but man, that work of his shines. And he's getting noticed for it.
So, finding my niche means realizing what I'm good at and not good at, where I'm able to work and how I'm able to be sustainable and marketable. Piece of cake.
I think I'm making some progress. Being competitive in the photography business is hard. There are a lot of great photographers out there! But I'd rather look at it like this: I'm here to do the work that makes my heart glad and that preserves memories for families. I'm not in competition with my fellow photographers... I'm just finding my niche.