My husband and I have been partners in marriage and in business for over 35 years. We have collected a lot of memories together over those years and because we are both photographers and filmmakers, we have recorded many of those moments.
I’ve been sifting through our analog archive of photographic prints and “chromes” lately in the process of purging other “stuff” in my life, that I no longer need. It is amazing how much stuff one can accumulate over the years. We have never been “consumers” in the typical sense. I’m almost embarrassed to say that we don’t even have a flat screen TV in our home – we do in our office, which is part of our home – but not in our living area. But we have somehow accumulated lots of folk art from a lifetime of travels, lots of photographic gear and hundreds of thousands of images.
As I continue to look through a lifetime of images, I occasionally pull a couple of photos out of the archive and share them on Facebook on “throw back Thursday”. What stands out to me in looking through a lifetime of photographs is that my husband and I have had an incredible journey together. I don’t think either one of us could have begun to imagine some of the experiences we have shared, when we first started out – I know I didn’t.
I’ll share one image and story with you. Tom and I had an assignment for Travel & Leisure to shoot a story on the Chesapeake and we had arranged to photograph Michener for the article. The day of the shoot, I brought my dog-eared paperback copy of Michener’s “Caravans”, that he had written in 1951. I had carried that paperback in my backpack for a year when I circled the globe the first time. I was told by some that I shouldn’t hand a paperback to Michener to sign – but I did anyway. He was touched, because he knew how important the book had been to me on my journey.
I remind myself daily to enjoy each day that I am given and to never underestimate what may be around the next corner. Expect the unexpected.
I came across this old “tear sheet” in the process of cleaning out the attic. Tom and I have dozens of boxes containing over 35 years of printed collateral with our “work” in it.
This brochure cover was from a shoot for I Love NY. Clearly it was a low budget job, based on the fact that we were also the “talent” in our own photograph. When this photo was shot, we were just starting out in the business of photography. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 35 years since we started Kelly/Mooney Photography, because it seems like yesterday. As I sifted through decades of work, I started thinking – “What is it that sustains a career?”
Don’t let age define you. Let’s face it; we’re a youth obsessed culture. It’s not easy getting older, especially when you’re in a creative business like photography where “fresh” is equated with “young”. But there’s absolutely nothing you can do about your age. You can’t change it. It’s like your height – it is what it is. But you can choose how you think about it. If you tell yourself that you’re old – you will be.
Take more risks – not less. Why not? What is the worst that could happen? Am I the only one who thinks this way? I guess I was lucky that my mom and dad put those types of thoughts in my head a long time ago and they’ve served me well. Why should I change my outlook now, when I have fewer years on the planet?
You’ll fail more than you succeed. I sure have. In the last couple of years I’ve been rejected more times than not, but only because I have been challenging myself more than at any other time in my career. I have always “been on the move” in my life and my career and I am not one to stay too complacent or static. There are just too many things left to explore.
Fear comes with the territory.Fear is what motivated me to start writing. For me fear would often visit in the wee small hours of the morning. My mind would bounce from one unfounded worry to another and I couldn’t turn off the chaos in my head. So rather than toss and turn for hours, I got out of bed and started to write down my thoughts. It’s amazing how trivial some of the worries looked in the light of the day, written on a sheet of paper.
Listen to the ideas that don’t go away. We all have ideas. But how many of us act on them? Less than 5%. When I have an idea that just won’t “quit me”, I take action. The first thing I do is I commit to the idea. Then I tell someone – someone I respect, because then I have to carry it out – just to save face. I call it forced accountability.
Don’t take things for granted. Nothing stays the same or lasts forever. Be grateful for your loyal clients and show your gratitude. Business is all about relationships and it is amazing how people seem to pop in and out of your life. Doors are always closing and windows are eternally opening in a well-lived life. Recognize those times when they happen.
Always wonder. My spirit has not aged past 25 years old. I still have dreams and they are vivid and real in my mind. My dreams are propelled by my insatiable curiosity about everything. Many years ago I made the choice to become a professional photographer because I knew that my camera would give me access to a rich and rewarding life and to interesting people, places and cultures. My cameras (“my tools”) are still a means to a life of wonderment.
I’m on the National Board of Directors of the ASMP, The American Society of Media Photographers. About four years ago, I was asked if I had ever thought about running for the board. The person who had asked me this question, knew that I had been shooting video in addition to still photography and thought that it might be a good idea to have someone on the board who had an understanding of this medium. That was four years ago, and even though I had been shooting video for over 10 years – the “explosion” of this medium (in terms of the demand) had really just started.
I did run, served three years, ran again and got elected. I’ve shared my knowledge of this medium through meetings, seminars, blogs, emails and during Q&A’s when I screen my film.
This past Wednesday, I spent my day manning the ASMP booth at DV East Expo. Former national board member (and now President of the ASMP Tennessee Chapter) Chris Hollo and my partner Tom Kelly joined me. We were well prepared with a large flat screen monitor displaying a loop of our members work. I was intimate with the reel as I had just finished editing it and I was very impressed with the quality of the work. It certainly was an attention grabber.
So, what was ASMP, a trade organization of still photographers, doing at a video expo? Essentially, we were there to provide a community and reach out to other professionals who are shooting both mediums and provide information about sound business practices. If this demographic does not understand the value of copyright or value the concept of licensing, then it will ultimately affect the way business is done in the still photography industry.
Some people may think that ASMP is becoming too inclusive or is creating more of a problem by suggesting that video may be the answer for its members, only for them to find out, that industry is glutted as well. The old business models of bloated production companies with fat budgets are hanging on for dear life, along with the old business models of the film industry. But if you think outside the box, especially in terms of how you structure your photography business – the opportunities are out there.
ASMP doesn’t cease to be an advocate for its still photographers who have no interest in motion – it’s actually making the entire industry healthier by educating the hybrid competition. A lot of the people I talked to yesterday, shot both still photography and video, but even the ones who just shot video – called themselves “photographers” and they all had questions about “the business”.
I’m so closely associated with “video” by members of this society; they tend to forget that I am a photographer. I don’t call myself a photographer simply because I spend 50% of my time shooting still images, or call myself a videographer because I spend the other 50% of my time producing video. I don’t want to define myself by my tools, at all. I “see” as a photographer, with the vision of a filmmaker and the heart of a storyteller. I also have a strong desire to stay in business doing what I love to do. By being an advocate for sound business practices across these mediums, I get a lot more back than I give. All photographers’ benefit, regardless of what type of cameras they shoot with.
Friend and fellow board member Ed McDonald, tells his own story about how he had become too rigid at one point in his career, as far as how he perceived himself and what kind of photographer he was. He found that when he became more flexible in how he “defined” himself, his business got better. As I think about Ed’s story, I know we have a lot in common. For me, when I stopped restricting myself to just shooting still images – not only my business got better – so did my still photography. Shooting motion has made me a better still photographer because it has made me a better storyteller.
I got an email late last night from someone I ran into at the expo. They wrote:
“Thanks for your vision and inspiration and all you’ve done for ASMP.” So simple and so poignant and I thought – “isn’t that what I was supposed to do?”