Every time I sign in for my appointment at Virginia Mason. I’m asked for my name and date of birth in order for me to check in and direct me to the right floor and pavilion. With a date of birth and birth weight that are exclusive to the number seven. I’ve more than become quite versed in the inevitable follow up “Oh wow. You must be the luckiest man alive. You should play the lottery.” Well, in the gazillion times I’ve heard those words.” I’ve smiled awkwardly, before advancing to point B.
This time however, Perhaps due to the nature of my visit. Or the fact that I had yet to partake in my morning coffee ritual. I couldn’t help but respond with the first thing that came to mind. I leaned in and smiled, as the words “I’m checking into a fucking hospital. How lucky should I feel?” rolled off my tongue. While not well thought or intended to have even the smallest hint of meanness. It felt good. As if I had been holding back a sneeze or postponing a celebratory jiz. Quickly adding “Besides, have you ever heard of someone winning the lottery using a succession of the same number?” I felt a sense of release and satisfaction. A heaviness left me chest as if a curse had been lifted. “Sorry kid, I had to test these guns before I declared war on the rest of the small talkers.” The next time someone hits me with a “God is testing you.” I’ll hit them so hard, their words will be lying in blood two miles down the road. Until then…
I was having this conversation with a potential client when my humble studio beginnings came up. I shared how I somehow managed to set up a makeshift home studio in my small Hoboken apartment. Not only was the space incredibly small, but those who dared venture in to the mile square for a session had to follow up their nightmarish search for parking with a three floor walk up to said apartment. Strangely enough, I made it work to moderate degrees of success.
Fast forward a couple of years and I’ve just about quadrupled my space in nearby Jersey City where parking is a breeze and elevators seem to be all the rage.
Still, with the sizable change. I often find myself trying to find space to set up a full function studio as well as finding closet space to store away equipment while I’m not using it. And while any mention of clutter or booby trapped studio equipment is strictly that of an over worked imagination. I’ve been ever vigilant to keep things, if not out of mind,. At least out of sight.
Needless to say, my new found focal length has given me the space between my subject while having my subject further enough from the background to avoid unwanted shadows and unexpected falloff.
Yes, I’m still clumsy, but I haven’t broken anything or caused any permanent damage since I got here. Hopefully, with a little coaxing and improved balance I’m beginning to feel more confident in myself snd my work. If that continues, doors are sure to open.
When I left the home last night. I thought I had it all covered. Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Camera with battery and card? Check. Tripod? Check. Off I went, as I drove to my nearby destination. After I parked and unloaded my vehicle. I realized that something was missing. Searching both my car trunk and my fading memory, I realized I left the tripods.release plate on the kitchen table. Disappointed yet undaunted, I tried to make the best of it. I found a nearby stoop to keep the camera steady while the shutter remained open. I took two shots, this being my favorite, before heading home in search of the missing piece. Surprisingly, the two images I did take came out pretty damn good.
Every now and then we need to be taken out of our comfort zone,.Shook up like good cocktail and have a little in your face with someone about something. When I look back on today’s little war of words. To be honest, with all the off the grid shooting I’ve been doing over the years. I’m surprised it hasn’t happen more often. Especially with some of the chances I’ve taken of late.
It was today’s little exchange however, that both caught me off guard and left me a little rattled. As we were returning from an Easter breakfast at one of our favorite upstate farms. We stopped along the side of the road to get some fresh vegetables to add to the days take. As my wife parked the car and headed towards the farm store. I crossed the road to get a closer glance of an old and (What I thought was abandoned barn.) As I began to cross the road I noticed two women walking towards me looking quite agitated. The younger one asked me what I was doing. I respectfully replied “I apologize If I’m on your property. It’s just that I was intrigued by that barn.” “Oh, that’s just an old broken down barn. I don’t mind if you take some pictures.” The offer seemed a bit back handed and she went on to note that the two dogs that accompanied her and what could have been her mother or the towns crypt keeper. So off I went. Moments later, that same woman was riding towards me on her bicycle armed with enough anger and spite to fire a mouthful of teeth straight into a vital organs. “This is private property! I didn’t say you could get close!” Jeezus, I thought she was going to pull out a pistol and shoot me dead. To say the very least, the exchange was so heated. I was expecting everything from a visit from the police to an updated version of leather face emerging from the barn. At the time. I didn’t feel I was in the wrong, but in retrospect. Maybe I just wore out my welcome. Lesson learned. Tread lightly, I suppose. I did manage to get a few shots without ever stepping inside. There was enough useless garbage stored inside the fuel a full season of Hoarders.
As I find myself working harder and harder to point my way back towards becoming a full time, or at least more consistent studio photographer. I feel my doubts and insecurities reaching a boiling point. The combination of learning new things while unlearning others that once worked just fine for me and many of the people I worked with. With shoots being booked and sessions coming in. I find myself overloaded with information and ideas. I have to admit, it’s a little overwhelming.
As I was setting up for a upcoming shoot and getting familiar with some new software, gear and switching up backgrounds. I had to stop, take a deep breath and step a bit back to find comfort in some older sessions to remind myself “You got this. You can do this.” I can always go back to the things I already know and relied on, but that wouldn’t get me anywhere but where I already am. In order to grow you have to learn, take chances and try new things. In order for me to continue doing what I love. I have to get past my anxiety fear of failure. To quote a wise green guy. “There is no try, only do.”
As much as I love my wife, family and small circle of friends. I find that when it comes to certain things. It’s best to go it alone. And as much as my wife inspires and supports my love of all of the different aspects of what I shoot. She is without a doubt “The worst case scenario’s” most vocal advocate. So much so that I’d sometimes leave certain excursions as well as elements of my work to my own special me time. For, after an hour or so of “What if we’re trespassing?” “Are you sure we can go here?” “What if we get a ticket?” or the best one of all “What if he kills one of us?” I’m ready to trade in my camera for a book on bird watching. While it’s often a good thing to have a second set of eyes. Sometimes the additional voice in you ear is enough to make you want to go it alone.
Having worked with Tory on two separate occasions. We’ve worked towards creating some noteworthy images. Ones that displayed both her talent and beauty. Strangely enough, each of the two sessions left me scratching my head, thinking, she is far more beautiful than I’ve portrayed her to be. Far to beautiful to be hiding under all the clothes and makeup that only serve to mask any of her beautiful features.. Just an opinion, but one that cried out, begging for redemption on my part. For, in my heart of hearts. I had failed in not portraying her as the beautiful woman I saw her as.
Armed with ideas and a sense of determination I reached out. Much to my surprise and slight confusion, she not only agreed, but thanked me for the second (actually third chance.) Knowing, as well as accepting that each individual has their own sense of style and look that they’re comfortable with. It can make for a difficult task in attempting to have someone give in to a look other than their own. In Tory’s case, she made it incredibly easy for me. My suggestion to wear a comfortable tee shirt and go minimal with the makeup could best be equated to a less is more theory. Personally, I felt that those small changes went a long way to bring out her true beauty. I was finally given the chance to see the woman I always envisioned was under the makeup and clothing.
I can’t go without thanking her for both the opportunity and trust she gifted. I’m more than happy to report that I finally got it right.