- They talk themselves out of things. – Telling themselves that it wouldn’t matter if they learned new skills or shot new images or whatever they didn’t want to make the effort to do.
- They try to “educate” their clients (sometimes a bit too much) instead of collaborating and possibly learning from them. A lot of “older” photographers are like this when they are working with younger art buyers or directors. I think the energy needs to work both ways.
- They give themselves an A for effort for starting something but too many times their starts lead to nowhere if they don’t have an end goal in mind.
- They don’t open themselves up to networking with others by attending industry meetings or events.
- They treat their clients like their enemies where one needs to win instead working toward a positive outcome for both.
- They make the mistake of creating for an audience, instead of creating for them selves. (Thanks to Seth Godin for that thought)
- They take workshops or pay for a service and then don’t utilize them. I’ve been guilty of this too many times.
- They don’t shoot for the pleasure of it.
- They rely too much on commissioned work instead of taking advantage of new opportunities and ways in which to market and sell their own projects.
- They don’t stay true to themselves.
Posts Tagged ‘Passion’
There are a million things I should be doing right now. My husband and I just returned from a 6 day road trip to Chicago to see our daughter, Erin and all the “stuff” of life piled up while we were away. I should be out in the yard picking up dozens of littered branches that had come down in a storm that happened while we were gone – and yet I’m compelled to write.
Writing became a habit a few years ago, when I would wake up early in the mornings with my mind fully active and spinning with ideas. Instead of tossing and turning in bed, I would get up, go to the computer and write – like this morning. I was encouraged by a friend to share some of those writings through blogging, so I did. I know that I break every blogging rule, because I write what happens to be on my mind, instead of being consistent to a theme and I generally don’t provide a lot of links, but somehow readers like these ramblings. Regardless, writing is something that is part of me now.
This past weekend we happened to be in Chicago while the Chicago Blues Festival was going on, so of course we had to devote a day to it. It was a bittersweet experience as so many blues legends had passed away this year and it wasn’t the same without them – Pinetop Perkins, Willy “Big Eyes” Smith and Hubert Sumlin to name a few. But being at this festival brought me back to the first time I attended the Chicago Blues Festival
in 1993 when I was in Chicago shooting a story on the city for the National Geographic Traveler Magazine. My plan was to cover the festival for one day as part of the story – I ended up going all three days and that’s when my passion for the blues began.
I hadn’t even thought of shooting video back then, but 2 years later my partner Tom and I began shooting 35mm motion footage for stock – and that’s when my passion for motion began. Funny, within a two year period, two passions surfaced in my life and collided into the making my first short documentary The Delta Bluesmen, six years later.
As I listened to the music last Saturday in Grant Park, my mind wandered in a million directions, but once again I thought about how the universe works – that is if you don’t fight it. The times in my life when I have just followed my instincts, have been the most gratifying times of all. Most of the time, I was simply listening to a higher voice inside, instead of following the dogma of the day. It hasn’t always worked out and I’ve had my share of rejections, but that all goes into the messy mix of life.
I try to not linger on the negativity that comes with “rejection” and focus on the “rewards”. There may not have been as many as I would have liked – but they would not have happened at all, without the lead up. It all comes with the many years that go into the “overnight successes”. Life’s too short to put road blocks in my own way or talk myself out of doing something with a hundred “great” reasons to rationalize it. And so – I’ll take the bitter with the sweet any day.
I’m sitting in the Continental (United) airport lounge at EWR, waiting to board a flight for Beijing. I’m headed to China for 4 weeks to teach Chinese journalists, video journalism. My mind is spinning with ideas, questions and the usual array of “what ifs” as I take on another adventure.
About two years ago, I started saying “yes” to opportunities that presented themselves to me – or at the very least, I began to consider opportunities, rather than to talk myself out of things, right off the bat. Because, of that mind set, I’ve been going where life seems to take me and it has presented quite a few interesting adventures. It’s not that I’m foolhardy and doing things on a whim – it’s that I have been listening to myself – my inner voice – and it has been my guiding force.
I’m told that the Chinese are hungry for “western” knowledge. But what I have to teach them is something universal, and that is – how to tell a story – using the medium of video. Seems so basic and simple – how to tell a story – and I suppose it is, but like anything else, it’s simple if you understand it. The key to understanding something is to have the desire to learn. Some people say they want to learn – but that’s different than really having the desire to learn.
Some folks feel threatened by this seemingly insatiable desire of the Chinese to learn all things western. I’m also finding that when people feel threatened by something – they try to “stop” whatever it is they are feeling threatened by. It’s one of those stupid human tricks that folks have played since the beginning of mankind. I process this behavior pattern as unproductive and unsustainable. It rarely works as far as eliminating a perceived threat. You simply can’t totally eliminate desire.
Rather than stop others from growth – a better way is to better yourself. I’d rather put my energies into where I want to go in my life – than in trying to squash other people’s hopes and dreams. I’ve also found that what goes around – comes around. When you “give” and “help” others – you ultimately create a better world – or “space” for everyone.
So, as my mind races this morning with my hopes, my expectations and enthusiasm – I try to keep the nagging doubts and fear at bay. I tell myself that it’s natural to have concerns. But I also tell myself that I can either let my concerns consume me and turn into fear or I can welcome the “unknown” and embrace the opportunity at hand. I’ll let my inner voice guide me because it seems to be doing a good job.
I don’t think there has ever been a point in my life when there wasn’t something that I didn’t want to learn about. I’m just a very curious person who has an insatiable desire to learn. I’ve been learning about filmmaking over the last two years and I am addicted to learn more. I am realizing that I have always thought in a cinematic way. As a photographer, I saw my stories as films – a pagination of images – combining to form the story in my mind’s eye. I am so intrigued right now with the craft and structure of screen writing, and want to learn more. I have a story in my head that I want to “get out” and I see the visual elements playing out in my head. Now, I’m starting to “hear” the story and the words and I want to learn how to craft those elements into the beginning of a screenplay.
Last Christmas, I got the Rosetta Stone course for Spanish. When I was traveling with Erin in South America, she became my translator and I was really frustrated that I couldn’t understand the language, so I vowed to learn Spanish. I’ve been trying to squeeze in the time to learn electronically, but it’s so hard for me. Languages have always been difficult for me – even English. Really the only way to learn a language is to immerse your self into it. I try to tune into conversations when I hear Spanish being spoken and make feeble attempts to participate. Slowly, I’m getting better but I doubt I will ever be able to roll my r’s. I have found though that when I “relax” and imagine myself as someone who is fluent in the language, I do much better. The same thing happened when I was in New Zealand last fall and I got on an ATV vehicle for the first time. I just pictured myself as being one with the machine and I did just fine.
Lately, I’ve been teaching myself editing with Adobe Premiere. With Final Cut Pro going to a completely different program, I wanted to expand and learn Premiere. But, what really prompted me to learn is that I will be going to China for a month, to teach Chinese journalists how to “tell stories in motion”. I knew I needed to learn an editing application that was cross-platformed and Adobe Premiere was the obvious choice. Learning Premiere has been easy, especially with Lynda.com. I am such a big fan of Lynda.com. Of course, knowing how to edit helps. Essentially it’s not much different than Final Cut. Things are named differently, but the basics are the same. There are also a lot of things that I love, especially the easier integration with other Adobe products like After Effects, Photoshop and Bridge. Now the Adobe Suite has a screenwriting application, Story. Could that be the nudge needed to follow through on the screenplay that’s beginning to play out in my head?
So, my learning path continues. But I’m also playing my part by passing along what I know. Things have a way of coming full circle.
That was one of the questions posed to me during an interview this past weekend. A young woman had asked to interview me for a college paper she was writing. The call and the questions started out somewhat clinical, most likely another task or paper that she needed to check off her list. She proceeded through the usual list of questions: “Did you go to photography school?” “What type of photography are you interested in?” So on and so forth.
I could hear her typing my answers and I paused to let her catch up. But then she asked a question that really struck me on many levels. “Did you get into photography because it was cheaper?” I asked her what she meant by that – did she mean the tools of the trade were cheaper? When she responded “yes”, I told her that was somewhat of a misnomer and that the first cameras I bought (mechanical ones) I had used for 10 years. I added that now, because of the exponential impact of technology on my profession, my cameras and the software I need on the post end, have to be upgraded at least every two or three years, and that was only part of the investment required in the “tools of the trade.”
As she typed my response, I felt myself getting a bit anxious and I started speaking rapidly. I told her that even if that were true – meaning that I got into the photographic profession because it was cheaper – that would have been the absolute worst reason for me or anyone else, to choose photography as a profession. I went on to say that you need to be passionate about some aspect of photography that makes you want to do it more than anything, if you want to have a chance of sustaining yourself financially in this profession. Pursue photography because it brings you joy and that if you are getting into it because the entry level costs were “cheaper” you’ll simply be competing with thousands or tens of thousands of button pushers.
I went on to tell her that I became a photographer as a means to an end. I had been studying architecture in college and after two years left school to travel. I traveled the world for a year and came back knowing that I wanted to pursue a lifestyle that would incorporate travel but more importantly fill my endless curiosity of people and cultures and exploration. I wanted to become a storyteller, and became a photographer as a means to that end.
As the interview progressed I noticed the typing started to diminish as I told her that I have never separated my business from my pleasure and that they have always been tied together throughout my life. Simply put – my business is my pleasure. I talked about my frustrations starting out as one of a handful of women in a man’s world and for the most part a man’s profession – at least in the early days. I talked about the endless stream of rejections and the “wins” that seemed to pop into my life when I needed them most, rescuing me in the knick of time, just when I was thinking of quitting and moving into another career. I told her that unless she really wanted to do photography, she wouldn’t survive in this profession. I talked about my mentors when I was her age and how grateful I am that I had those people in my life. I relayed a couple of anecdotes about things my mentors had said to me and how those words had been pivotal moments in my life and that when things got tough, I drew upon those words of wisdom to get me through the day.
Then there was a very loud audible sigh, followed by a long period of silence and my mind raced through the various things that I had said to her. Was I too harsh? Did I paint too bleak of picture? Or worse yet – did I make it sound too easy and that all she had to do was “just do it”. I felt this overwhelming sense of responsibility that maybe I said something that was going to dictate the rest of her life and I kind of panicked in that moment of silence. And then she said “thank you so much for talking to me today, I started out just wanting to write my paper, and I’m going to have a great paper, but you have no idea how much talking to you has helped me.” She went on to tell me that she had been struggling with a decision that she was trying to make between going to law school and going to film school. I told her that she needed to make that decision all by herself and that it wasn’t a decision that anyone else could make for her – not I – not her parents – not anyone else. I told her to dig down deep into herself for the answer, beyond the influence of others, the dogma of the day and all the noise. And most importantly to remember that it was her life and that she got to choose how to live it and that she had every right to change her mind along the way.
Quite honestly, it has been one of those “onion” months for me, with layers of setbacks and second-guessing myself. I got off the phone feeling good about paying forward what I have learned along my way and in that moment, I realized that this might be my “purpose” at this point in my life. The day had turned into one of those sweet “strawberry days”. She didn’t know it, but she had helped me as much as she said I had helped her. It’s those conversations and those little moments that keep me going, and come to my rescue, just in the knick of time.
I would love to hear from you all – why did you want to become a photographer? Something you say or write just may help someone and paying it forward is the best feeling in the world.
It’s been a very full year for me. I mean that in every sense of the word full – full of new experiences, full of hope, full of achievements – but also full of my share of rejections and disappointments. I’ve shared a lot of these experiences through this blog.
There have been times I haven’t written in a while because I didn’t feel like I’ve had anything worthwhile to say. And there have been times when I did write but I probably shouldn’t have because it wasn’t worth reading. I always told myself that when I didn’t feel like writing in my blog, that I just wouldn’t do it. So if there are long periods of time when I haven’t posted a new entry – it’s because for whatever reason, the desire may not be there. I have always appreciated the comments and feedback.
Here are the top 5 posts as far as number of hits:
As you can see, the blogs about DSLR (for video) gear is where the interest was. But I’d have to say that out of those 5 posts, “Standing on a 10 Foot Frozen Wave” was my favorite. For me, it’s all about the story. And as Orson Welles once said “If you want a happy ending, it depends on where you stop the story”.
Happy New Year everyone.
Video is very much a collaborative effort, and that’s exactly what I love about it. I’ve made some wonderful connections and partnerships while creating my documentary, Opening Our Eyes.
But every now and then, I find that I need to go “solo”. I am a storyteller and a bit of a wanderer by heart and it had led to an interesting life – a life full of people, cultures and far flung destinations around the world. I have found that when I travel solo, I become more absorbed into the culture of where I am. I have no one with me to distract me or draw my attention away.
I’ve spent many years, traveling, observing and shooting stories for magazines all over the globe. In looking at my old work or even when editing new work, I’ve noticed a similarity in “feeling” among many of my images. There’s a quiet contemplative mood that shows through. In my people photos this “mood” is apparent in the connection that I make with my subjects – whether in a posed or candid photo. With my landscapes there’s more of a serene, yet melancholy moment.
I’ve come to realize that this “feeling” in many of my still images come my perspective as an”individual” who is solo when shooting. I can always tell which images I’ve shot when I’ve been by myself as opposed to those shot when traveling with a group. It’s hard to put into words, but when I’m alone and I’m exploring, I shoot differently. I see differently. I interact differently and people react differently to me.
So, I will always make room for both ways of working in my life – collaboratively and as a solo act. Each one brings its own rewards into my life and to my craft.
This has been something that has been weighing on my mind for months now – ever since the seemingly “overnight sensation” of people giving video workshops as well as the growing number of still photographers that are feeling the need to take these workshops.
The biggest problem that I see with all the video/motion workshops that are out there is that they oversimplify video production and take the approach that the single independent still photographer can learn and do it all – produce, operate the camera, capture good audio and manage the post-production and edit. I suppose to be fair – while it may be true that the independent still shooter can learn all facets of video production, that is not the best approach as far as setting up a viable business model for a video production company.
Video is a collaborative medium. While I may be able take just about any video production from soup to nuts single handedly – I know that the production would suffer if I did. I learned a long time ago to build a team of good sound people, editors and even camera operators that I can draw on to hire on a need be basis. They make the production and me look good and that’s what keeps my clients coming back. It also allows my business to grow because I can take on more projects. If I’m not entrenched in all aspects of the production. It frees me up to start production on another project while still in post-production of a previous project. If you are a one-man band, you not only don’t have this option but you actually make yourself look small in the process.
Video and motion have many facets to them. I advocate that the best business models are when one positions themselves at the top of the content creation ladder by overseeing the production of the whole and hiring the appropriate crew that will facilitate the process. By recognizing the differences between this business model and the “solo” model that most independent photographers work under, you’ll have a much better shot of maintaining ownership of your work and creative vision as well as having the potential to grow your business beyond your own singular capabilities.
The other problem with workshops that over simplify the process of video production by promising that you will be up and running after a one day workshop is that they are centered around learning the gear and the software which changes by the month. If you learn just the gear du jour and not focus on the business of video production you will be in competition with other independent dabblers and that’s a quick way to the poor house in terms of sustainability.
A week doesn’t go by when I don’t get at least a dozen calls or emails from still photographers who feel they need to get into video and are overwhelmed by the learning curve. I tell them that the best thing they can do is NOT to try and learn all these skills themselves and that in fact that will only delay their entry into the video production, business if that is what they are after. A better way is to keep your focus on your vision, apply that to a sustainable business model that will incorporate video and collaborate with others who will make you look good and help you grow your business.