Look forward

The end of the year brings all sorts of looking back. The media has list after list of 2008’s best, worst, dumbest, etc. and we seem compelled to look at the year that was. I say, fuggidaboudit.

For many creatives, 2008 was a tough year. So why review it? It’ll just depress you and, more importantly, it is the past. It’s done. Whatever it was, whatever happened, has already happened. Past tense. Over. Unchangeable. This is true even if you had a good year. It’s done. So it is wasted effort to review it over and over again. 

Instead, I suggest you take these probably slow days around the new year and look forward. Take an afternoon and go to a museum or something equally relaxing and inspiring; then, sit in a cafe (or a bar, if you prefer) and brainstorm ideas for 2009. No editing–just write down any idea that pops into your head about your business and your creativity. Be specific and focus on things over which you have control. Maybe you’ll come up with ideas for personal projects, or promos, or a new creative technique, or imagine adding a marketing assistant to your business–doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you have the money to hire an MA, this is just about brainstorming so don’t get hung up in reality. Do, however, keep in mind that you can only control yourself so writing things like “have a client hire me for a $100K project” is not a good thing to have on your list because that is out of your control (you can market to clients who are capable of offering such projects, but you can’t make them actually offer one). 

The next day, look at your list. Separate it into three parts: Doable Now/Soon, Doable in 2009 Sometime, and Doable After 2009. Note there is no “not doable”–everything is possible…eventually. Rewrite your original list into the three separate lists. For example, maybe you had “move to Tibet to shoot monks” on your brainstorming list, but you don’t want to take your young kids out of school or leave them behind–put that item in “Doable After 2009.”

Now take the items in the first two lists, those for 2009, and figure out how you can do the things on those lists. Write out the steps to achieve each item. For example, if you have “follow illegal migrant workers in Texas for 1 week” then you’d have items like “contact migrant worker organizations in TX; decide how to shoot/make equipment list; book flight; book lodging or get camping equipment…” and so on. Take these mini-lists and schedule them on your 2009 calendar (you can always move the items later if they need to be changed due to shoots). 

The third list you need to look at to see if there are steps you can take in 2009–steps to help make those items happen sometime later. For example, if you want to go to Tibet as mentioned earlier, you’ll need to save up money. So, items like “starting a Tibet Project savings account” and “saving at least $2000 for Tibet Project” are some things you could do in 2009. Schedule those items as well in your 2009 calendar. 

Suddenly, you have a plan for 2009. A plan to achieve the things you want to achieve. Each step is concrete and doable. And each step will lead you to your goals for 2009 and help you on your way to your longer-term goals as well. These are all individual things you can do–basic tasks–that when combined, will help take you where you want your business to go. You are thinking about your present and your future, not wasting effort worrying about mistakes you may have made in the past or things that happened out of your control in the past.

Stay focused on each day as it comes, work the items as they appear on your calendar, and you’ll be surprised at how much you get accomplished in 2009.

Truman Capote was right

Truman Capote was said to have said, in reference to the novels of Jacqueline Suzann, “That’s not writing, that’s typing!” I feel exactly the same about the crap paparazzi put out in the world. They don’t make images, they take pictures and do it in the worst sense of the word “take.”  They prey and sneak and invade. There is no art to what they do and it is because of them that photographers have to fight to keep decent reputations. 

The pictures of the Obamas on vacation in Hawaii are just such images. It isn’t news that Mrs. Obama wore a one-piece bathing suit or that Mr. O doesn’t have much body fat. The images impart nothing but an uninvited glimpse into the private lives of human beings who, like all of us, deserve privacy.

Every time I see some long-lensed invasive piece of crap, I feel dirty–like I’m seeing photos from inside of a department store dressing room or bathroom. 

Don’t even try to argue about how so many people want to see the images that it makes it okay. It doesn’t. People do all sorts of things they shouldn’t and would do more if given the opportunity. That doesn’t make the actions good and it doesn’t exonerate the actions of the providers. We’re all big monkeys and we like stimulation, even when it is not good for us. But sometimes you just have to say “no–it is wrong and I will not participate in this.” 

If this offends you–specifically, if you are a paparazzo–tough. I don’t want your business. You’re not a photographer, you’re a bully with a camera and until you change your way of making a living, I want nothing to do with you.

For the rest of you, the artists (real photographers), I’m sorry that this post is so negative. I thought someone in the industry needed to say something. I felt so bad for the Obamas, who couldn’t even spend a couple of days–hell, a couple of hours–without being exposed in the media somehow. I’ve felt bad every time some Hollywood person in the middle of some personal crisis has a camera pointed at her/him. And I feel bad every time I hear someone who is not in the photo industry equate what the scum paparazzi do to what so many of you do. It isn’t even close to the same thing.

But they won’t stop until we stop looking. We have to stop looking and try to get our friends and family to stop as well.

What to do

I’ve been getting lots of calls from photographers looking to work with me lately. Unfortunately, I can’t work with anyone during my first academic year in law school so I’m having to let down all these folks, but the increase in calls recently got me to thinking…is this a reflection of the difficult times? Maybe…hard to tell for sure, though. The holiday season is often a slow time normally for many photographers so it could just be that. Whenever it gets slow, for whatever reason, people tend to get antsy and look for something to do.

So, with that in mind, here is a list of 10 things you can do right now or anytime you have a day when you have “nothing” to do.

  1. Go to an art museum. Looking at other creative work is usually inspiring for artists and doing this can get your grey cells working on new and fantastic ideas for your own work.
  2. Watch a great visual movie. This can be done as an alternative to #1 if you don’t live near a good art museum, or it can be done for its own merits. A film with fantastic direction and/or cinematography can inspire. Maybe you’ll see something that you could try to re-create in your own way, as an homage and a personal project.
  3. Draw something. Even if you think you can’t draw, trying to is great for your creative brain. Do something abstract, or play with color–just make something visual. 
  4. Get a buddy (or a couple) and play Add-A-Line. To do this, you draw something, then you hand it to the next person who adds to it (their “doodle” must connect with yours somehow), then it goes to the next person (or back to you), etc., and you keep at it until the page is filled. This can be done digitally as well, but the files tend to get big–only do it digitally if you can’t be in the same room with the other “players.”
  5. Try to re-create some image someone else has made. THIS IS NOT FOR YOUR BOOK or any other public medium but rather just an artistic exercise. It is not copyright infringement (it’s never going to be seen by anyone) but rather will force you to think outside of your own head. This can result in new thinking about your own work.
  6. Go through your marketing list and develop a “hot list” of 10-25 targets you are going to go after via their own mini-campaign(s). If you have time, start brainstorming how you could go after that mini-list (individual promos? lunch meetings? chair massage gifts?…)
  7. Organize a group show. Get colleagues to all contribute work centered on one theme (maybe a One-Item theme where every work has to incorporate the same item somehow) and plan a party/opening to show the work. This is a great thing to do with clients too who have their own creativity to show.
  8. Do something scary. Jump out of a plane (with a parachute, of course) or learn to rock-climb or face whatever thing scares the bejesus out of you (but that can be done in a controlled environment). When you do something that scares you, you learn that you can do more than you know.
  9. Shoot something with some limitation–like if you use multiple lights usually, only permit yourself to use ONE light. 
  10. Volunteer somewhere. Creative or not, this is a great way to remind yourself how lucky you are.


Looking for something to give to a client at the last minute? Or, something to use as a Thank You gift in the future? How about doing some good with Charity Checks!

Holiday giving

As I do every year, I’ve given a big pile of games to Toys for Tots. I do this rather than sending presents or anything to my clients and friends of Burns Auto Parts, because I think most of (maybe all of?) you would rather think about happy kids than getting a card or something from me.

And, honestly, it makes me feel great.

This year I was unable to deliver the goodies myself (deep in law school exam hell!), but my husband kindly dropped off the goodies and the Marines were happy to get them. This year, there is a greater need than ever and the donations are down. This is true for a lot of charities. If you can spare an extra anything, please help some worthy charity. It will do more good than you know, and you’ll feel good for the doing, too.

So, I’d just like to thank all of you for everything you do for me. I’m so lucky to get to work with you!
(and I miss it these days while in school!)

Thanks for everything, and have a fabulous holiday season!!!

Holiday cynicism

…but it’s funny and I just got home after a killer Civil Procedure exam and a half-mile walk to my car in the pouring/blowing rain and a harrowing drive in said rain. I’m feeling a teeny bit cynical.

It’s a Charlie Brown Ad Agency Christmas!
(may not be entirely safe for sensitive types)

Rush to the bottom

I don’t have time to connect the dots here (my finals start tomorrow), but I’m sure you can do it without my help–here is an interesting article about how pricing may be harming the innovation in iPhone apps. Basically, people expect things to be cheaper than they really need to be to sustain the business that produces them. Sound familiar?