The Feeling

Remember that feeling you had as a kid? That feeling of being able to do anything? Nothing was outside the bounds of possibility. The world was your oyster, and then you got educated, trained, confined, conformed and molded into what society, and your family, thought you should be.

“When are you going to get serious?” “When are you going to settle down?” “When are you going to get a job?”

This is a strange concept, but it happens to most of us. I can still remember feeling the pressure of these questions, and I can remember watching my friends go through the same thing. Our culture demands it of most and because of this, in my opinion, we have a lot of talented people who will remain nameless, tasteless and unknown because the conformity got the best of them. A house, a car, 401k, suburbia, and the idea of spending thirty to forty of your most productive years doing something you may or may not want to do.

I’m writing about this for two reasons. First, the content of the image included here. I can’t look at this and not laugh. This is a guy named Nick, someone I haven’t seen in years. This image was made in the hills near Mono Lake in Northern California. Nick is doing something that I’m not sure has an official name. I’ll just call it “Hill Running.” The point? To eat complete and total S%$%. The premise, start at the top, start running downhill at top speed until you hit that velocity where there is no ability to stop and then….well….just see what happens. Nick ate complete and total S%$# on this run, and the runs after and people that was the point(He also had a few successful runs.) It was about doing what he wasn’t “supposed” to do. Now you might label this as “stupid,” and maybe it is, but maybe it’s genius. I can only tell you how entertaining it was to watch.

Sometimes when I look around at the creative world I wish we had a bit more hill running in our lives.
The crossroads we find ourselves at is one of success verses failure, and for whatever reason failure is rarely looked upon as a learning experience and natural part of being creative. My personal belief is that this decline in acceptance of failure is tied to technology. I really like technology, but I am also very capable of calling bullshit on most of it. Does it make our lives easier? More efficient? Maybe, maybe not. Ever notice in the spy movies how the commander calls up intel on some fugitive and some lackey hits one key and their real time criminal history pops up on forty-foot-wide screens in real time? When in reality the system would have crashed, the headset the person was wearing would be cutting out, the firmware on the mainframe wouldn’t have been updated and one of the screens would have been littered with dead pixels. In theory I love it all, and I surely love the movies. In reality I wonder if we are better off now or if we are slowly walking into proverbial quicksand. Massive plots of poorly constructed soulless houses being hastily erected, MILES from public transportation, is still labeled as “progress.” If anyone can tell me anything progressive, healthy, forward thinking or sustainable about that I’m all ears.

Several weeks ago I was with a classroom filled with second graders.
This was my second trip to this particular school. I was fortunate because I got to visit art class. I stood in a room filled with paints, glues, papers, inks, brushes, tablets, etc, and all I could think about was gathering a group of my adult friends and putting them in this room. I wanted to turn them loose and say “Don’t worry about what you were supposed to be, just create something.” I wondered what this could do for moral. I wondered how many unknown Picasso’s were in my circles. I wondered how many of my friends had hidden creative skills? And I wondered how we transfer this feeling and belief BACK into our normal lives.

I don’t know about you but the horizon seems a lot closer than it ever has.
I believe less in the traditional theories about life, capitalism and the ever growing sense of needing to have more and more and more. How about have less create more? What if we could share this collective mindset. What if your daily life FELT like hill running? Maybe yours does?

You Can Lead A Photographer to Water…AND You Can Make Them Drink

I’m confused.

If you’ve read this blog you will already know this little fact, but I thought I would state it again, just to cement my position.

I don’t get photographers. I don’t. Well, a few I do, but the rest, not so sure. Including myself sometimes.

The last time I did any research, I came to the conclusion that the photo-industry was supposed to be a creative industry, filled with pioneering individuals who bring to the table style, vision and creative direction. Perhaps times have changed, but I think the basic idea of this is still…somewhat valid.

But, what I don’t get, the confusing part, is how many of us stand around waiting to be told what to do?

I think we should all stop using these phrases, “I can’t.” “I have to.” “I’m stuck doing it this way.” “I have accepted my fate for better or worse.”

Let me give you an analogy. When the plumber comes to your house at 2 am because your friends put fireworks in your toilet, do you tell the plumber you would prefer him to use a wooden plunger as opposed to his metal snake tool? No, because if you did he would either ignore you, leave, say “no” or ask you what your problem was.

Also, when he has finished snaking the M80s of your pristine bowl do you turn around and say, “Well, I think that job was worth about $30.” No. It doesn’t work this way. The plumber says, “Look, your friends are maniacs, and this is going to cost you $300 to fix.” You have choices, call around for another plumber or pay his, or her fee! Plumbers don’t stand around being told what tools to use and how much their work is worth.

But photographers do. Our first dreaded question tends to be, “What is your budget?” I always found this a really odd question because what should we ever expect to hear? “Aahhh, I’ve got eight dollars and a coupon for free ribs.” “Great! I”ll take it.”

I can’t tell you how often I speak with photographers, globally, who are so trampled I can’t stand it. I feel bad for us, in a way, but also realize we need to change the way we do things. Nothing will improve unless we adapt a new plan, starting from today.

“I hate digital but I have to use it.” I’ve said this myself and have heard it HUNDREDS of times from other photographers. Take a look around, there are A LOT of really fantastic photographers NOT using digital and doing just fine. In fact, check out a few of the major magazine profiles, and often times, the featured person is using film. In fact, I’ve seen magazines where EVERY feature was presenting film users, but every add in the magazine was highlighting digital equipment. We have been sold that digital is “just another tool,” but behind the scenes we are told you have to be using it, and in reality it is the ONLY tool. Many of us are faced with clients who think they have to use it, but really don’t have valid reasons for why. “Wait, I thought digital was better?” How many times have you heard that? This is simply an education issue, educating yourself, and your clients, in regards to what tool works best for what job. If you like film, stand up for yourself and make your argument. You might lose a job, but so what, in the end what benefit is it to make yourself miserable when doing what you love?

And as for budget. I think the “what’s your budget” question should be put to rest. Clients, like us, are in business, something that you can’t forget, even when clients are your friends. If the gas station attendant asks me today, “What do you want to pay for those ten gallons?” I would love to say, “Ummmm, nothing?”

Lastly, we need to stop being conformists. Many of us seem to stand around, look what everyone else is doing, then get in line to try and haggle away with everyone else, then wonder why people lowball each other on price. Well, if your work, and my work, and my Uncle Melvin’s work all look EXACTLY the same, why would anyone really want to pay a decent rate for ANY of us? Anyone? Anyone?

I think we all must stop, perhaps Saturday at 11:23 am and asked ourselves, “What is it that I REALLY want to do?”

If you pursue what is in the DNA of your creative heart, and I do as well, we will develop our styles and our signatures, thus creating unique work, which in turn has an inherent VALUE.

Here is the most important part of this. IT AIN’T EASY.

It is far easier to conform and fight for scraps. It takes boldness to go alone, but in the end what benefits is the INDUSTRY, as well as what you leave this Earth with, and what you leave behind. In the end the images are the only thing that matters.

Look at the history of our industry and those you can remember, those that left their mark, were those who stood tall and demanded to be heard.

Maybe I’m wrong, or off base here, but I can’t imagine a client saying to Salgado, “Your black and white work is okay, but we want you to shoot tethered digital.” I have a feeling he has more creative control than that. But I don’t know him, and could be wrong.

A few days ago I was able to attend a June Newton lecture, the wife of legendary photography Helmet Newton, and someone asked, “What freedom did he have while working?” She responded, “The clients told him to do whatever he wanted to do.”
Why? Because HE was the photographer. HE was the creative one. HE was the one who brought vision. The clients realized if they wanted a fantastic Helmet Newton image, the best thing they could do was get out of the way and let Helmet Newton create it.

Think about it.

The idea of this rambling mess is that our personal work SHOULD be our commercial work. How fantastic, and fun, and thrilling is it to work on “your” work?” It is the best. And, get this, clients, friends, family, etc, are equally as thrilled when you create this work. They really are. How fast does your heart race when you are working on something you KNOW is good. How fast does that heart race when you know you are making “real” pictures? It’s the coolest thing in the world!

So, to practice what I preach, I have begun marketing, using the same techniques I’ve used in the past, but now sending links to my personal work, and fewer regarding my “commercial” work. I’m sure this will be PAINFUL, akin to hammering my thumb with a fence post driver, but it NEEDS To be done. If I had to guess, I will be faced with irate people receiving my emails, angrily asking to be removed from my list, additional people thinking I’m out of my mind, and those who are just confused, but I think, in the end, justice will prevail.

I think if I don’t do this I will continually be bound only by the needs of the people viewing my work, instead of the limits of my imagination.

Now, I gotta go bang out a digi headshot on deadline. JUST KIDDING!!!!

Go forth, be strong.