Hello everyone! I have been a bad blogger these past few weeks. The studio is crazy busy and we are deep in the holiday rush. I wanted to let everyone know that next week (on Monday), I will be launching my brand new blog! I'm very excited. The new blog is going to have big wide images and a cool new design. All of the previous content is being moved over so you will still be able to read old entries, Monday Lessons, etc.
I have lots of new sessions to blog, a review on a new point-and-shoot that I have been using and new pictures of my kids. So, make sure and come back to the blog on Monday for sure to get the new link and info!
Do you remember making mix tapes for people? It was one of my very favorite things to do. I remember carefully pausing and starting the cassette recorder and trying to time the drop of the needle on the vinyl and the space between the songs. I am just thinking that I may be revealing my age too much at this point with words like "vinyl" and "needle". Anyway, CD's made it easier in some ways and now playlists and itunes make it really easy. I have to admit that I do miss the old days sometimes. It seemed more heartfelt when you had to write out all the songs on the little cassette tape, gather up loads of records or CD's and sit for hours making it all happen. I would get deep into my music collection, consider all the songs and their order on the tape, make a cool insert with the song names and create something special for a specific person.
Of course, the mix tape also has its not-so-pretty side when it is like the break-up mix tape or the you just broke up with me mix tape. My personal favorite mix tape is the I like you and I am flirting with you via this mix tape. A few weeks ago, Steven and I saw Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. It's great and it pays homage to the mix tape in a big way. Another movie that did that was the John Cusack flick, High Fidelity.
So, because I love that you guys keep up with me and what I am doing, I am creating a playlist for you today. Here is a list of songs that in some way define me, songs that I love and songs that I think you will love too. I wish that I could make you all cool handwritten cassette inserts or groovy collaged CD covers to complete this little playlist but, alas, we are all so far away. Use your imagination, fill in the blank spaces and enjoy...from me to you.
The Story, Brandi Carlisle (The Story)
Step Inside this House, Lyle Lovett (Step Inside This House)
Better Together, Jack Johnson (In Between Dreams)
I Don't Like Mondays, Bob Geldof & The Boomtown Rats (Great Songs of Indifference)
Angie, Tori Amos (Crucify EP)
Dream Lover, Bobby Darin (The Ultimate Bobby Darin)
Stop This Train, John Mayer (Continuum)
Tonight I Wanna Cry, Keith Urban (Be Here)
Into The Mystic, Van Morrison (Moondance)
If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out, Cat Stevens (Gold)
Be Mine, David Gray (Greatest Hits)
Lenny, Stevie Ray Vaughan (Texas Flood)
On The Nickel, Tom Waits (Heart Attack & Vine)
Hallelujah, Jeff Buckley (Grace)
Spanish Eyes, U2 (The Joshua Tree Deluxe Edition)
Don't Dream It's Over, Crowded House (Recurring Dream)
Head On, The Jesus & Mary Chain (Automatic)
Death or Glory, The Clash (London Calling)
Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run)
Go listen, tell me what songs are your favorites and maybe even send me back a "mix tape" of your own.
While I type, Steven is boarding up the front windows. I am watching the news and you keep seeing all these people going IN to Galveston, taking pictures and acting like idiots in front of the TV cameras. They're running around in flip flops like it's a party. It's hard to watch. The storm isn't even here yet and Galveston is flooded. What are they thinking? They expect that the entire island will be underwater for about 12 hours. There are people calling in to the coast guard who are stranded already and a big barge is out at sea with 22 people on it. From what I hear, the coast guard can't get to them. I don't know about you but watching the people fight through Katrina changed me in a profound way. This is not something to joke about. Over the next few days, people will die and homes will be leveled. People will lose everything they have. It's sobering to be sure.
I hope that you'll be thinking of us here in Houston, wishing us well and, if you pray, pray for us.
Have you ever had someone say something to you that just stopped you in your tracks? That very thing happened to me last week and I've been thinking about it ever since.
Here's the background...
I recently joined my local professional photography guild and have been going to the meetings. Like anyone coming into an existing group of people, I have been searching for my space and my people - trying to find that comfortable feeling of belonging.
This past month was my 4th meeting. Every month there is a print competition. I'm a fairly competitive person and, even though many of the typical "blue ribbon" images that come out of these competitions are different than my usual style, I was curious about learning what scores well and trying to "shoot to win." I had submitted prints twice before and done quite well so I decided to go for a third and brought in two prints to be judged. These particular prints did not do very well but that was okay. You win some and you learn some.
After the competition, I was walking out with a friend and got stopped by another fellow member. He had been one of the judges that night and saw me carrying prints and asked me which ones had been mine. I just smiled and said, "Oh, you guys didn't like them very much". He asked again which ones they were and I replied, "One was the print of the two sisters hugging". He looked back at me and said "Oh yeah, that just looked like some Mom took it."
I was shocked. I don't even really remember what I did or said. I think it was something like, "Oh well, like I said, it didn't do very well". I just exchanged a stunned glance at my friend and we kept walking. Now, I'm no rookie when it comes to critique (years and years of art school took care of that) but this remark took me aback. It wasn't criticism, it was a jab. Sure, it was mean but "mean" is easy and subsequently easy to deal with. The problem with this particular jab was that it was meant to be offensive.
Unfortunately, I hear a lot of photographers talking about the influx of new women photographers: The so-called "Moms with cameras". Some complain that these "untrained" women are bringing the industry down. Obviously, this is an ignorant view on many levels. The presumption that these women are automatically untrained is ridiculous, as is the idea that you have to be formally trained to be good. Further, the word "Mom" is being used purposefully in an attempt to be particularly denigrating. What, Moms can't be serious and professional? My first reaction is to raise my feminist flag and scream "sexism," but I don't think it's that simple.
Now, I understand what my particular "critic" was trying to say. What he was trying to say, albeit poorly, was that he felt like the image was amateurish. The point is not to debate what he meant about my print, what's important to me is to open up a dialogue about what photographers mean when they dismissively say "Mom with camera". I don't think it's simply sexism, I think it points to the fear of the establishment in the face of a changing industry. The broader issue is one of exclusion.
Until fairly recently, photography was, like many other professions, male dominated. Not anymore. Women are flocking to photography in ever-increasing numbers and for a variety of reasons. Digital technology has lowered the cost of equipment, removing one of the main barriers to entry, and women and men are setting up businesses and doing great work. Also, the public's taste for a less traditional photo-journalistic style has allowed many photographers to become successful without a traditional studio setup.
I understand the fear and the threat. Some of the seasoned pros in our business started many years ago when cameras cost a fortune and it was difficult to learn the ropes. They spent years as apprentices or in school. They didn't have instant LCD feedback to catch mistakes and there was no Photoshop to fix the mistakes that they didn't catch. You had to fix things with paintbrushes on original prints or negatives. You couldn't shoot a thousand frames hoping to get 200 good ones. It was a completely different business. Now, the "old school" is seeing the changes and almost certainly feeling worried as they ponder their professional place in relation to the changes. That's natural and I know that feeling well.
It is hard to know where any of us fit in this new and changing market. As a studio owner with a big rent payment due on the 1st and the overhead of employees and the costs of high-end equipment and printing, I have felt the frustration of not knowing where my place is next to the photographers who shoot for $100 and give away inexpensive CD's of the images. Will my customers run to them? How can I compete with that? The answer is pretty simple: I cannot compete with it and shouldn't try to.
I think we, as professional photographers, have the choice to either operate from a place of fear and circle our metaphoric wagons in an attempt to fight off and exclude or we can open our minds to new trends, technologies and people and embrace (if not welcome) the new. If we want to stay relevant then we have to move with the changes and not against them or we will be left behind. Also, our industry is not just the shooters. There are a lot of photographers and photography-related businesses that are making a lot of money on the efforts of the "Mom with camera". These new photographers are buying lights, backdrops, using labs and taking workshops from more established professionals. Those that adapt and embrace the new will survive.
Our industry leaders should be beacons for newcomers. How are newcomers supposed to mature (professionally, that is) if they aren't accepted into the fold, trained, inspired and mentored? How is a photographer, of any experience level, supposed to feel when they come forward seeking fellowship and education and their work is greeted with a scoff? I know how I felt. I felt discouraged, embarrassed and small.
There are people out there that have thousands of dollars to spend on photographs and people who have less. Are we saying that someone with only tens or hundreds of dollars to spend shouldn't have professional photographs? There are a lot of different markets. If you charge thousands then find the person who wants to pay that, who loves your work and your level of service and allow the person who has less to find their person too.
After a lot of thought, I am left with this: Before I was a Mom and before I was a professional portrait photographer, I was an art student, a high school photography teacher and a fine art photographer. One of my greatest rewards came from watching people who had never taken a photograph before watch in awe as the image appeared before them in a tray of developer, just like magic. I taught students how to start really seeing the world around them and framing it in their lens. Did all of them go off and become professional photographers? No, but a few did. All of them, however, learned to see the world in a new way and gained an appreciation for the complicated process of image making that will, at the very least, make them better photography consumers.
I get it. I understand the fear and the feelings of self-preservation. When your livelihood and your dreams are in danger, the easy answer is to eliminate the competition. The problem with that position is that, while you stand still, others will be moving forward, growing and adapting. In the end, if you love what you do, work hard at it and stay away from your fear long enough to do it, consider yourself blessed and don't begrudge others their joy. As for me, a professional photographer and camera wielding Mom, I am excited about a world filled great pictures and with people who love and value photography.
(photo of me by Julie Denning: photography student, my assistant and pro photographer-soon-to-be)