Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End of a Year

Thank God 2011 is coming to a close.  I'm chalking it up to a lost year.  Something tells me that the years are just going to start moving faster.

Photography suffered in favor of writing and job searching.  I landed a job with some people I think are amazing, and I got some major interest in The Void Dance, so all productive.  But I did manage some shots.  I'm finding that I'm attracted to the less planned shots these days.  I'm liking the surprises, the less traditionally perfect.  I like trying to find the beauty in the imperfections.

I don't really believe too much in New Year's Resolutions, but I'm thinking that I'm ready for a big year.  I've kind of earned it.  I'm just going to keep following my creative impulses and moving forward.  Can any of us do any better?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Doing More With Less

A number of years ago I worked for a consulting firm.  In a lot of ways it was a great gig, but the thing that drove me absolutely ape-shit nuts was that it seemed to be driven by buzzwords and cliches.  At the time I could not go into a meeting without someone tossing out the phrase "value added" at least once.  It made me insane.

To me, if you're in a relationship of any kind, but especially one in which money is changing hands, it should be a given that the person receiving the cash would instinctively, reflexively want to add value to the transaction.  Even the guy at the register taking your five spot for that whipped cafe blah-blah-blah is responsible for adding value to the transaction by being courteous, efficient, and not fucking up the order.  And the more dollars that are going into that person's hands, the greater his responsibility to find ways of adding value to the transaction.  So, to be sitting in a room full of people who earned salaries far greater than the coffee guy on the corner all having revelatory orgasms over the value added concept was more than I could stand.  I made a year and a few weeks, but then I was done.

I'm reading a book for my new job, "Delivering Happiness."  It's the story of Zappos, the Internet sensation that built a business from nothing to a billion dollar empire in the matter of a few short years.  It's an easy read, and I'm enjoying it.

I just finished the section on Zappos's core values.  For the uninitiated, "core values" is a term usually tossed between a company's marketing and HR departments that indicates someone thought of a list of ethical priorities and wrote them down.  "This is what we stand for!"  The list is printed on the web site, some recruiting materials, and flashed in front of some potential investors, and promptly forgotten the minute someone changes the subject to sales, the bottom line, or lunch.

Zappos, however is unique in that it apparently practices what it preaches, and aligns its business practices, including hiring, with its core values.  In providing examples of this, an employee wrote a story of how she did more with less.    She had begun working with Zappos as a temporary employee shortly before the holiday season.  It was her first Christmas away from home and family, and she had no money.  Her Christmas feast consisted of two yams that she somehow managed to bake and flavor with freeze-dried marshmallows she picked out of a package of instant cocoa mix.  She describes the instance has one of her happiest memories.

Over the years I've worked in various companies and theatre groups who have talked about doing more with less.  For me it always translated in working harder for the same results you would achieve with greater resources.  Today, however, I finally got the meaning of that phrase.  It's not about stretching every dollar beyond it's elasticity.  Doing more with less means infusing the resources you have with greater significance.  It means taking care with your resources, not necessarily being miserly, but being respectful and creative with those resources.  It means that the resources you have don't necessarily have to stretch further or last longer.  It means that they have to mean more.  The utilization of those resources have to be more deliberate, and that we must have a greater appreciation an respect for the results achieved.

Doing more with less is something I think everyone should consider.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I admit that I have a problem.  I'm not satisfied unless things are complicated.  And starting with my photography, the fussier the better for me.  It took me a couple of years to realize that more isn't necessarily better.

Last week I did several shoots, and started with a classic beauty shoot.  Laura, the model needed an editorial make-up shoot for her portfolio and I was happy to help her out.  The make-up was all about vivid colors, but we needed a pop.  I have miles of swatches, so we wrapped her in these an shot against a black background and white background.

There is a fair amount of post in this shot, but I'm very happy with it because unless I told you, you would never know.

This could easily turn out to be one of my favorite shots of the summer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

$50 Headshot Special

August 8 - 12
Special Headshot sessions.  Natural light set up, black background, and white background.
Package includes one finished high-resolution file, ready for printing.  Additional files available for $25 each.
Limited availability, and calendar filling.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Where It All Began

Let we forget how all this madness started, I thought it appropriate to post my latest headshot, just to demonstrate, 1) I'm still plugging along at the photography, 2) I might actually be getting kind of good at this, if I do say so myself.

It's been five years ago now that I was sitting in a cafe and trying to imagine what the next step on my life might be.  At that time I was working on my masters degree in writing and working in a sports marketing firm that was struggling.  No one at the firm was happy, and it was clear that the clock was ticking.  As luck would have it, the firm lasted for another long, painful year.  More than once I got angry at myself because I had taken a job for the money, and one that did not allow me to pursue my passions.  So, knowing that at some point the end would come, I sat down with a list of dream jobs, one of which was photographer.  I also had playwright, neurosurgeon, and astronaut on the list.  Playwright was a given, but I just felt like I couldn't let life pass me by without also taking a stab at photography.

When the end of the marketing firm finally did come, I was fortunate enough to receive a nice little severance package.  So I went to the Barnes and Noble in Evanston, sat down in their photography section and picked out the most comprehensive book on photography I could find.  Pennies were precious, and the book I found cost fifty dollars, but I decided that it was a crucial investment.  I told myself that if, when I had finished the book, I was still interested in photography, I would then allow myself to purchase a decent (but affordable!) digital camera.  Before I'd finished the end of the book, I knew this was not a waste of my time and within a week I had purchased my first Olympus.

Teaching myself about photography and lighting kept me sane while I was unemployed.  While I actually enjoy looking for a job (I know, I'm strange), the steady stream of rejection can really take its toll.  Seeing the incremental improvement in my work, was all the validation I needed to tell me that even though there were people who couldn't see what a fantastic employee I might be, I could see that I was smart and talented.  (You have to tell yourself these things to keep from taking a sniper rifle to the top of the nearest tower.)

At any rate, I'm quite proud of these achievements.  It's all self taught, which makes it all the sweeter.

And an attractive model doesn't hurt.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Looking for a full-time job is a full-time job.  And there are some good ones out there.  There are also some frightening ones.  To date, by far, my favorite is the job interview I had two weeks ago.

I was called by an up-and-coming company that is expanding and needs an assistant for the CEO.  I spent about fifteen minutes on the phone with their HR person and agreed to come in for an interview.  When I arrived, I was asked to wait in the reception area, which is located right outside their main conference room.  Their conference room has the thinnest walls known to man, so for twenty minutes I sat and listened to another interview.  They were interviewing another candidate for the job I was to be interviewed for.  In the conversation I actually heard things like, "All of our employees are about thirty years old, and we're looking for someone who will fit in with that group," and "Sometimes I need to wear a tie and sometimes I don't."

It was clear that this was a job that was probably a little beneath my skill level, but since I was there there was no reason not to go through with the interview.  That is until I heard them offer the candidate the job.  Since she didn't immediately accept, but asked to have a couple days to think about it, I'm assuming the HR person decided that she should go through with my interview.

My interview lasted about ten minutes.  Ten of the longest minutes of my life.  But I was fine.  And when I got home I sent a little thank you note.

And then I sat down and blogged about it, for all the world to read.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Safari

The past several months have been all about computer work.  Refining retouching techniques, writing, designing marketing materials.  And more so the last two weeks with the news that my job will be coming to an end soon.  Resumes and cover letters do not write themselves.  I am pleased to report, on that front at least, this past week has been a very good week.  I don't want to jinx anything, but let's just say that I'm happy with my progress.

So much so that has been virtually no time to send out resumes.  I have a list of twenty five that I need to get out this weekend.  But it also felt like I haven't seen the light of day in ages, so I decided to let the resumes wait and to take the old camera out for a spin.

My favorite place in the city is Michigan Avenue.  I find it both invigorating and relaxing.  It just feels like life with an exclamation point.  So, I went to sit at the pumping station and snap shots of whatever happened past. I love this shot for the color.

Note to self:  there is more to life than work.  Especially when there are red hats to take pictures of!