Our Second Shift series features people working more than one job and finding creative ways to make money. This week, meet a photographer who quit her full-time job at a music label to start a suicide awareness project. Want to be featured? Email Emily.Laurence@metro.us.
Name: Dese'Rae Stage
Residency: East Bushwick, Brooklyn
Lives with: Her partner
Number of jobs: 3
Your primary focus is your suicide awareness project, Live Through This. What is it and how much time do you devote to it?
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Live Through Thisis a series of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors. It's a mix of photography and oral history. I meet with an attempted survivor, have him or her tell me his or her story, and then I make a portrait. A lot of times this is the first time that person is telling this story. I also write articles about suicide awareness and do speaking engagements. I spend about 60 hours a week on it.
Do you generate a source of income through it?
If I get donations or sell merchandise, it all goes back to the project in a separate bank account. The only money I keep for myself is from the speaking engagements.
Since this takes up most of your time but you aren't keeping most of the money, how do you pay your bills?
I work part-time as an administrative assistant at a university, which pays really well. I also rent a second room out in my apartment on Airbnb, which pays the bills through the summer and spring months. I also work as a photographer. I mostly shoot weddings, but I shoot headshots and events, too - whatever comes my way.
Is it hard for you to budget since everything is kind of in spurts?
Absolutely. I have quite a bit of credit card debt I racked up when I was younger and I took out $5000 worth of credit card debt for Live Through This that I'm working on paying off. Once I do that, I'll be able to completely cover my expenses with the money from my part-time job, but now it's kind of rocky.
What is your dream career scenario?
I really want to continue to work as a suicide awareness advocate because the voice of people who have attempted suicide has been almost completely absent, and I can bring art to that, too. Ideally, I want to continue to shoot weddings and other events, too.
Do you feel like you need a balance between shooting something dark with something light, like weddings?
No, the project isn't dark. It sounds dark and we talk about dark things, but the conversations I have with people are surprisingly full of humor. I don't think it's a balance. I shoot weddings because I'm a sappy romantic and I like them.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence