I love gear.
The obsession can be pretty intense; thinking about it, talking about it, even arguing about it on the internet – which ends up drowning out the most important thing: making photographs.
Years ago, I discovered that the longer I do this “photography business” thing, the less gear I end up using. As I refine my work more and more, the tools I use become less and less. As I distill, the results become finer, smoother, more crisp and with more clarity. It’s like I am my own wine distillery, only instead of refining wines, I’m bringing my work to its most fundamental point. Using less and less to make more. Which can sometimes be a bummer for the Gear Obsessive lobe in my brain that wants to argue with other people about things like camera straps and camera bags. Or development times. Or how to hold a camera. Or how to think.
But over the last 13 years there has been one element that has saved me time and time again; has calmed me down, has supported as much gear as I can carry, has helped my business and my personal life and has made me see things from various perspectives and has shown me when I’m wrong or right, and has helped me through failures and victories and sadness and overwhelming joy and celebration.
It isn’t a tripod, or a camera lens, or a bag. It doesn’t have shutter failures, or a warranty or a radio triggering system. It doesn’t have megapixels. Sometimes it has a burst rate, but mostly when I haven’t taken the trash out, or I’ve been spending too much time playing Grand Theft Auto.
The most important element in my business and in my life is my wife, Sara.
She’s been the tripod and the foundation that everything I have is built upon.
She’s always offered support and understanding, even when I am too bull-headed to accept it. For years she would watch the stress of me trying to run myself as a business and she would always offer help. “I’m here for you.” she would say, and I would dismiss it and keep pushing that rock up the hill. I would beat my chest like an ape and think “No. I am Man. I can do this alone. I must. To provide.”
Finally, last year, the stress became too much; too much worrying about money and my health and contacts and emailing and making marketing materials and car payments and the Future and no clients and some clients and late payments and lists of possible contacts and gear and printers clogging up and not having money for inks and . . . I could feel my heart start to squeeze a little. I was drowning. And when I finally came to her, head hung, coughing up water, ashamed, I heard my own quiet faint words as I said “I need help”.
And she said “Yes. I am here for you. I always will be. Tell me what I can do to take some of this weight.”
And she started to help; pencil scrawlings on paper became databases and suddenly I had connections where I previously didn’t. And I had meetings where before I didn’t. She did this because she wanted to help, because I asked, and, most importantly, because she believes in me.
Every so often, when business drags and things get really slow and money makes me start to panic and I start to get fatalistic and over dramatic and hate the world and hate every other photographer around me and want to just burn everything and quit, Sara will sit me down and she will tell me “Maybe if you *weren’t* this good. Maybe if your work really wasn’t all that and never got better. Maybe if I heard that clients don’t like your personality. Maybe if nothing changed, then I’d suggest it might be time to move on. But your work is better than anyone in this area, and you get better day by day. People know your name. People know your work. Clients like you. Even if you can’t see your own progression, I do. So, no. You can’t quit. I won’t let you. You are too good.”
Sara can see my path much clearer than I can.
She is absolutely the most fundamental element in my life, and in what I’m trying to do to make a living by creating images. She is the strongest tripod that exists or has ever been created.
And she makes sacrifices because she believes in me and what I create. Sara is also a photographer, but she photographs less and less because she spends more time helping me. I feel bad about that, because the time she could be creating landscapes gets cut because her husband is struggling. She deserves more rewards than I can provide her. I don’t think there isn’t a week that goes by when I don’t think about everything else she could be doing for joy besides entering names and addresses in a database to help keep me more organized. It bothers me. But she says she knows I’m happiest when I’m shooting and interacting with people. Thats what I should be doing. She’s helping me with the other stuff. Amazing.
Don’t forget the people who are there to support you. Make sure you leave time for them. None of us can do this alone, and having a support system that is more than CPS or NPS or a rental house is absolutely necessary. A wife. A family. A best friend. Those are the true legs to the tripod that is the foundation to any person, not just a photographer or a business. Photography is amazing – I’m not wired to do anything else but create images. But know when to step back. Know when to put the camera down, and pick up your loved ones hand. Holding a hand while watching a sunset is so much better than taking a picture of it. And the value far exceeds print sales too.
I didn’t know what I wanted to write for my first post here at DEDPXL. I got scared that it had to be something about cameras or sensors or film. But as I sit here looking out over my studio and the images on my wall, and think about my business and my work, I realize that Sara inhabits every part of it; from the joy of getting a really amazing frame, to when I think I’m a crap photographer, to when I’m standing in front of a classroom of young aspiring minds and sharing my love of creating images that empower people and enlighten imaginations. Every step of the way, her support keeps me going. She helps me ignite, over and over, that passion and fire and desire I have for the alchemy of photography.
Editor’s note – Check out this short film Sid made to propose to Sara.