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
- PHOTOS: Blues dump Bruins to win Stanley Cup after agonizing 52-year wait40 Pictures
- PHOTOS: This Pakistani waiter looks just like Peter Dinklage8 Pictures
Your primary focus is your suicide awareness project, Live Through This. What is it and how much time do you devote to it?
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