I keep telling people that Gulf Photo Plus is the most unique and enjoyable photography conference in the world and this year it didn’t disappoint. The most maddening and stressful and best-est part of GPP is the shootout for the closing night. Normally there are three photographers pitted against each other. This year it was only two of us; Sara Lando and myself.
Last year, I was up against Lindsay Adler and John Keatley and I knew I had to do something to kick their ass. You can see that shootout here. This year I decided to do something different. This year I walked in with a preconceived idea. In the world of hip hop battles you could say that I showed up with a written rhyme. This year was for Meg. Let me give you the back story.
Before Meghan and I got married she was a single parent of one child. She was a touring musician and she was just starting to see the embers of her music career turn into a flame. We got married and blended our families. I brought my two boys to the mix. Then, to the shock of us all, Hawke Danger surprised us. He literally was a honeymoon baby. In the course of one year Meg went from being a single mom with one child to being married with four kids. BAM! Needless to say that flame of her music career was extinguished. The unfortunate discussion she and I have had too many times is my career makes us money and her career costs us money.
Meg put her career aside for mine.
Meg has been through a lot in her life; starting with her mother dying when Meg was thirteen. Meg is the oldest of four so she jumped into grown up life very quickly. She’s always been strong. She’s always come through. The weight of all this staying strong was bearing down on her and last year, when I was at Gulf Photo Plus acting a fool for that shootout, Meg was at home and was done with life. The short of the story is I almost had to leave in the middle of GPP last year to get home and take over for Meg. What saved us was the love and support of our family. I was able to finish my trip and once I got home Meg checked out for awhile. You can read about her side of the story here.
We are in a better place than last year and it was of utmost importance to me that Meg attend GPP with me this year. She came with me once, four years ago, and we had a not even one year old Hawke in tow that time. I taught all day and she dealt with an infant all day so it wasn’t that enjoyable for her. This time we were sans children! It was so awesome!
While at GPP this year someone came up to me and very kindly shook my hand and said I was their idol. I replied that they needed to get out more often. While I appreciate the sentiment and I’m thankful I get to help people, the fact of the matter is — I’m just a dude taking pictures. I appreciate the amazing opportunities that come my way but I don’t really enjoy being in the spotlight. I’m not trying to be anyone’s idol. That’s for sure. The fact of the matter is I can’t do one damn thing without the love and support of my wife. She is my better 7/8ths. When I’m sitting at a table listening to Joe McNally tell stories and share his experiences, she’s at home folding laundry. When I’m hoping and praying that I get an upgrade to business class, she’s getting four kids to four different schools in the morning. When I’m out with a camera in my hand, her piano sits dormant.
So this year for the shootout it was all about her. I knew I was going to do something for her. I kind of blew off the challenge in some regards because I wanted you to know about Meghan. I wanted you to know the sacrifices she has made for me and our four boys. I wanted to tell you what the price we pay is for me to do things like GPP and WPPI and Cuba and the assortment of jobs I take. If I’m on a plane heading to some place cool, Meg is at home dealing with four kids. And a cat. And a dog. And helping with behind the scenes stuff with my business. And all that.
Two things about the shootout you don’t see in the video. I did try to incorporate water because Meg has often said she feels like she’s drowning. I ran out of time though. The other thing is Meg couldn’t hear what I was saying when she was playing the piano at the back of the stage. She didn’t know the story I was building and had no idea I was going to do this. When she came to the front of the stage and looked at the photo she began to cry because she saw what I was trying to say. David Alan Harvey got a great shot of Meg.
What I should have said is, “The water is coming.” because I knew I’d make her cry when I was done. I would have told the story and kicked Sara’s ass with that one line! Damn it! The other fact of the matter is, I knew I’d met my match with Sara Lando. She’s so creative and talented and she has a great accent so there just wasn’t anything I’d be able to do to beat her. Have you seen Sara’s graphic novel Magpies? You should check that out. I feel like such a hack when I look at her mixed media work.
So the story is this: A lot of people look up to me but I simply stand in the shadows of greater photographers. I’m by no means at the top of the hill. While I feel the people around me looking at me I’m just trying to get home to Meg. Meg feels small and isolated. She’s turned her back on her music because of the needs of our children.
As for me and Meg, this “balance” of work and home that people speak of is foreign to us. We think of it more like a rhythm we’re trying to find. We feel like short order cooks with six pans but only four burners on the stove. We are constantly shifting things around making sure one thing isn’t getting too cold or getting burnt. It’s hard to find that “balance.” At the end of the day, though, we are for each other and not against each other. She supports me and I support her and I’m happy to say she’s starting a new music project soon.
I lost the shootout this year… but at home… I won!
ETA – Here is Sara’s blog post about being in the shootout.