Family! December 9, 2010
It has been a while since I have written in my blog. My attention has been on work and moving through grief brought on by the death of my brother in October. The photography has been therapeutic and healing. As always I am constantly reminded of the value and power of photography in our lives.
The other day I delivered a large print to a friend who is the executive director of an adult day facility. The image was of her two dogs and herself in a field. Her dogs often visit the facility and provide love and comfort to the clients. The image was a gift to the center and those who use it. My friend showed the picture to about 25 clients when I was there. There was applause, laughter, expressions and delight as they saw the image and realized it would be hung in the center. I was introduced to the audience and soaked up the compliments as the dogs went begging for ear scratches. I was surprised at the reaction. The dogs and their owner are loved and respected by the staff and clients. The image of the three of them made everyone happy.
As many people do these days my brother’s family decided to put together a DVD of photos from my brother’s life.Finding the images and putting it all together was a great distraction as well as a trip down memory lane. In the end we found over a hundred images that we put together with music. Many of those who came to visiting hours sat down and watched the slide show over and over. Most of the family found it comforting and used the images to tell our favorite stories about Kevin.
As a photographer I was fascinated by a series of family photos taken as my sister,brother, and I were growing up. My Mother loved recording family events so there were plenty of candid family shots or shots of the family against the mantlepiece. This series was more formal. They were black and white and well lit and still in remarkable condition. There was a formality in the posing and clothing. Most were shot in the living room with my Mother sitting in the chair and the rest of us standing around her. Behind us were bookcases and windows. They ranged from the family before I was born to the whole family just before my brother left for college. Clearly they were taken by a professional. My Dad did public relations for a resort in the Adirondacks so I am sure he had access to several photographers in the area.
The images present a wonderful look at the dress and culture of the 50′s and 60′s. The formality reflects the traditional family that I was raised in but also somehow the connections we had. These images more than the many candids and informal groupings speak to me. I wonder if some of these early portrait sessions left an impression on me as a young child. An impression that led me to a life of photographing other families and recording their lives. Oddly enough though I certainly recorded my son’s life in pictures…we have no formal family shots of the three of us except for a few self timer shots I did in the studio. Not quite the same.
These images provided the opportunity for younger members of our extended family to chuckle about their aunt and uncle and grandparents. My sister and I marveled at how young we were and how beautiful our Mother was. We even conceded that our brother was kind of cute as a kid. Of course I was cuter. The hard thing was to realize that we are the only two left from that little family. These images remind me of those no longer with us but also of those who loved me and raised me during that all too brief period of childhood.
Carroll Family about 1953
Afterglow/in honor of my brother Kevin M. Carroll (1945-2010) October 21, 2010
A poem written by my father when he was 24, and read at the gravesite of my brother, Kevin McDonald Carroll, this past Monday, by my sister Kathleen.
This above all, we know,
This is apparent to men:
After a time we go,-
Not how, nor where, nor when.
Only a moment the lark
Troubles the quiet dawn,
Then soars, and above the park
Wheeling, is gone.
But for a season the rose
Opens in fragrant bloom;
Then, when the summer goes,-
Frost – and doom.
Yet, something there is that stays,
Something is left behind:
A scent in the garden ways,
An echo on the wind.
(Author: George K. Carroll from the Chicago Tribune Line O Type column in 1924)
I paddled through clouds today September 27, 2010
Today I paddled through clouds and watched an eagle fly by. I was kayaking on the Waterbury Reservoir on absolutely still waters. No motorboats, no other paddlers..just peace and quiet. The gray puffy clouds were reflected in the water where I also saw small patches of blue and sunlight. My bright yellow kayak sliced through the cloud water as I looked around at the surrounding hills covered in autumn color. They too were reflected in the water.
There was stunning beauty everywhere I looked. Yet I didn’t bring my camera. As I paddled along grumbling about forgetting it I realized that was probably a gift. Without the camera I could focus on the details around me. I could be more in the moment. Not constantly looking looking for the next angle or image.
The hills were full of subdued colors. There were the expected oranges,yellows, and reds, but I also saw leaves with peach and rose colors. They were all reflected in the water. Viewing the reflections from the distance they were soft and out of focus. I would paddle toward them but I never could paddle over the reflections like I did the clouds. If I got close to shore the birch,pine, beech, and maple reflections were sharp and in focus and reaching straight down into the water. It seemed like I could reach into the water and grab a branch from underneath me. On top of the water there were leaves floating. I paddled through them like a slalom course to distract me from the long paddle to my destination. Everything had its own reflection in the glassy water. Branches, rocks, twigs, leaves, and trees all had their twin in the water below
Every once in while I would stop paddling and just listen. At first I heard nothing. Lovely nothing..quiet. Then I listened more carefully and heard the rustling of the water, the call of few geese up above me, a few gulls crying. During one of those moments I heard the whisper of wings and looked up to see a bald eagle fly up in front of me, soaring across the water and across to other side. I followed his flight and listened to the wings in the air. I watched those wings flex and beat against air as the eagle gained altitude and disappeared into the woods. A few minutes later I turned and headed home, paddling through the clouds.
Stories told; Histories shared September 20, 2010
During the last month I was reminded once again about the power of photos, particularly portraits that record the history of someone’s life.
On the first occasion I was attending a memorial service for a son of a friend of ours who had died suddenly and much too young. Our friend is a photographer so it was not surprising to find lots of albums that contained images he had shot of his son and family over the years. There were also piles of black and white 11 by 14′s sitting in various spots in the room where the service was. Most of the people attending the service were engrossed in flipping through the albums and talking to our friend and his daughter about the images. At some point I turned to the black and white pile and began sorting through beautiful portraits of our friend’s son as a young child. There were shots of the son with his Mom who had passed away several years before. There were shots of him with his extended family of aunts and uncles. There were shots of him, older now, holding his baby daughter. Through this one pile of images I was able to get a sense of his life before I knew him,and after he had become a father. One picture stood out for me. It was a picture of my husband before I knew him, with our friend’s son on his lap holding an instamatic camera in his hand and looking at my husband very seriously as only toddlers can do. I had forgotten that he had babysat for our friends many times. Later their daughter would baby sit for our son. The photograph had clarified for me the long history of my husband’s friendship with the family . It had added another element to this young man’s story.
Most recently my brother was in the hospital for a serious operation. Two of his three sons came up to be with him through surgery. My brother asked me to bring two photo albums to the hospital for him to share with the guys. One was an album that I had put together of family photos from my parents albums. When both parents passed I inherited most of the family photos. I split the photos into three different albums for my sister and brother and myself. They each contained baby pictures, family photos and other birthday and holiday images. That was one album I brought. The other was an album my brother had put together from photos he had taken of his families over the years. There were photos from two marriages and images of his three sons and different ages.
The day before his surgery I found my brother surrounded by his youngest and oldest son and his nephew, my son, perusing the albums. He took that time to share his stories of growing up in Lake Placid. Showed them pictures of their grandparents as young parents, shared pictures of their aunts as kids, and themselves as young kids. His sons saw pictures of their Moms and their Dad. Everyone laughed at the cars, wardrobes, and hairstyles of the 70′s and 80′s. For my brother these albums gave him the ability to tell his story and theirs.
I have always known the power of portraits. I grew up in a family where recording events such as birthdays and holiday gatherings was matter of fact. The house I grew up had photos scattered in every room. I have covered almost every flat space in my house with photos of my son, my parents, my in-laws, and other family members. For those that have passed on they serve as a reminder of the people I loved and who loved me. For those still around the images remind me that time does not stand still and that I need to stay in touch with that person and keep them in my life.
As a portrait photographer I am always gratified when someone tells me how the portrait I took of their loved one(s) has impacted their lives. Most of the family and senior high school images I take end up on walls or in frames on tables, in albums or scrapbooks. Sometimes they end up in someone’s wallet. These days they often end up on someone’s computer. As a Mom and a daughter I understand how important these portraits are in telling the stories of our lives. I believe that is why I so passionate about portrait photography. I want to help others tell their story.
PS. The photo included in this blog is of my family late 1950′s. I am the little one with the Beatle hair cut being uncharacteristically grumpy.
What am I worth? June 29, 2010
“It is a beautiful scarf, but so expensive!” said a woman who was examining an artist’s work at the recent Open Studio weekend. I was visiting my friend Jenny who creates exquisite textiles in her studio in Bolton. I felt a familiar sense of frustration as I explained to this woman the hours of work, the skill and experience that went into making the scarf. She said she understood but left without buying. I shared the story with Jenny and she smiled knowingly. Like any artist she has a long experience with the struggles of balancing what the market would bear versus what she needed to charge to cover her costs and make a living doing what she loves.
It is a struggle most artists and craftspeople face everyday. What is my creation worth? What will people pay for my work? What do I need to be paid to break even? What do I need to earn to make a living? Build a product and there are some simple straightforward rules to follow in pricing. The costs of producing the product,including materials, salaries, insurance, and marketing, is placed in a formula and numbers are crunched to come up with the optimal price point. An artist can follow a similar approach and compare their competitors prices and come up with a number. However they are often left figuring out an important piece. What is my time worth? What does my education,skills, and experience add up to? It is easy enough to figure out cost of the materials that went into creating a piece of art, but what is the value of the ten hours you put into the creation?
Established artists have figured most of this out. They have the experience to know that there are some buyers out there that will pay $800 for their watercolor, or $75 for the scarf, or $400 for a piece of jewelry. They have identified their market and priced accordingly. Still even the most established find themselves having to justify their pricing. The less experienced price their work and cross their fingers hoping their pricing and the market are in sync.
As a photographer and fellow artist I have struggled with pricing most of my career. Pricing my products is relatively easy. I look at my costs and my competitor pricing and voila…a number. But what am I worth? What is the value of my time..my skills? What will people pay for my time behind the camera creating images? If photographer A charges $100/hr and photographer B charges $200/hr, do I charge $150? Am I coming to the table with the same skill set and years behind the camera? Will my market buy my services at that rate. After years in the business the pricing is easier, but like so many artists I have to fight the urge to underprice or undervalue my work.
The issue of how does one value or price art brings me right back to something that I used to think about a lot when I worked on the issue of pay equity or the wage gap. How does society value women’s work? In this case it is how does society value the work of an artist?
Spring color and light May 17, 2010
The Vermont landscape during these sunny May days is a visual delight. Everything is green. From the mixed bag of dark to light greens on the hills to the rich greens of the valleys. Both hills and valleys are dotted with the pinks and whites of old apple and dogwood trees. Then there is the bright yellow of the dandelions in the fields, lately contrasting with the rich browns of recently plowed fields. Drive through residential neighborhoods and you will see color everywhere. The yellow forsythias are starting to fade but the purples of the lilac trees are still bright. The dark pink cherry blossoms are gone but are replaced by pink and white crabapple blossoms. They are joined by the bright pinks and orange azaleas are blooming. Though most of the daffodils have gone by now, clusters of multi-colored tulips stand tall and proud.
I am so drawn by the color as I drive through the country side or walk in the woods. Even my own yard pulls me in with color and light. I have spent a lot of time this spring photographing some of the flowers and greenery around my house. The foot and a half of snow we saw last month didn’t slow me down.
Today I was reminded how the direction of the light changes the look of an image. I have a 23 year old crab tree on the far corner of my front lawn. It was my first Mother’s Day present and provides a lovely focal point for that corner of the property. It is now covered with white blossoms. On the other side is a little perennial garden that is looking a little run down except for a line of intense pink tulips. The other day I noticed that the blossoms against tree made for an interesting image. Today I decided to shoot it twice. Once with the sun coming up in the east behind the tree and tulip. Another with the sun on the west shining on the tulips. Tulips are great fun to shoot with the sun behind them. The sun creates different layers of colors and intensifies them. The crab apple tree goes somewhat dark depending on my exposure and creates interesting texture. The afternoon shot is less interesting to me because of the direct light. Still, it has potential.
I recommend heading out into your yard and photographing an object with back light and direct light. It is a fascinating difference. As you enjoy the beautiful light and color of spring look around and watch how the angle of the sun changes color intensity and shading. Have fun.
Breakfast of Champions: Honoring three women May 4, 2010
Wynona Ward from Have Justice Will Travel (c)2003
This morning I attended a breakfast put on by Vermont and New Hampshire Girl Scouts to celebrate and honor three leaders in our community of Vermont. I knew and in fact, have photographed all three of these women for one reason or another. The most notable for most Vermonters would be Beth Robinson, a lawyer and co-founder of the Vermont Freedom to Marry organization. Without question her quiet but persistent conversations with Vermonters and legislators led the way for passage of Vermont’s Freedom to Marry Act. I had photographed Beth and a business partner some years before for an article in Vermont Magazine about notable Vermont women. She was one of about 18 women I photographed.
The second woman was Wynona Ward, Founder of Have Justice will Travel. Wynona,another lawyer , had spent almost ten years driving around the state providing legal service to isolated rural women who are victims of domestic violence. Her goal in life is to end the generational cycle of violence toward women and children through her mobile multi-service program. I photographed Wynona in her early days when it was just herself and her SUV providing the services. She now has a small staff. I photographed her for a project I started back in 1998 to honor and recognize Vermont woman who made a difference in the lives of Vermonters through paid or volunteer work. I photographed almost 30 women for that project and took about half of those images plus text and created an exhibit that traveled around the state. The purpose of the exhibit was to educate the community of Vermont about the issues Vermont women and their families face every day. I wanted Vermonters to meet the extraordinary women who made our lives better.
The third woman honored today was my dear friend, Marcia Merrill. An accountant and business owner, Marcia has spent much of her life advocating and fighting for equity for women. Through her accounting business Marcia has mentored and hired many young women wanting to explore the world of accounting. As Chair of the Vermont Commission on Women, and as long time member of Vermont Business and Professional Women, she has spoke out for equity and fairness in the workplace, and fought against bullying and domestic violence. I have had fun photographing Marcia to promote her business, and with groups of her friends and family.
This breakfast was called the Breakfast of Champions. The audience ranged from middle-aged working women to young girl scouts. It was an opportunity for most of us to celebrate our own and share our wisdom with future leaders. From Beth, the young women learned that it takes a long time to move change forward. It took fourteen years of constant and patient work by dedicated people to achieve passage of Freedom to Marry. Wynona talked about the importance of leadership and of groups like the Girl Scouts who give young women and girls opportunities to grow and lead. She spoke of the effectiveness of working together. Marcia reminded us that as women we still did not have a place in the U.S Constitution because the Equal Rights Amendment has never been passed. Although we have hard won rights those rights can be taken away by anyone at any time. Marcia encouraged the younger generation not to forget and to keep on fighting for the ERA. All three women encouraged us all to continue to lead, to fight, and to speak out about issues that we are passionate about.
Training those eyes… April 27, 2010
It is all about the tools. Or is it? Does having the most expensive digital camera and extra sharp lens plus 21 megapixels or more guarantee great pictures? Does having the latest photo-editing software mean that your photos will be better than other photographer’s work? Probably not. Having the best technical tools certainly helps but its no guarantee that your images will be award-winning.
As a photographer the camera is just one of our tools. The most important tool is our ability to see what others do not. Then the trick is to capture what we saw with the camera. That is where the other important tool, experience comes in. I am often reminded of that when I pick up a little Canon Power Shot 710 that my husband and I use when traveling or just running around. This camera can be used as a point and shoot or in my husband’s hands a camera that he manipulates as though it were a digital slr. I tend to use it as a point and shoot although I do make some adjustments depending where I am and what I want. When shooting professionally I use and need all the complex functions my cameras have including those that allow me to set up custom shooting styles. However, I find it delightful to sometimes just point the camera and shoot.
There is great freedom in just seeing an image that captures your attention and then pointing the camera and pressing the shutter…letting the camera figure out the exposure and focus. For me its playtime. Yet it is also a time where my eyes and brain get to practice ‘seeing’. So even on vacation or taking a walk in the woods I can exercise and fine tune the tool I use the most in my profession. Using the point and shoot I am not distracted by all the information and thoughts that often race through my brain as I take a picture, but focus completely on what I see and what I want within the frame of the image.
Yet it was exactly that simplicity that I found challenging recently while vacationing in Nevada. As a long time photographer I am used to and more comfortable with the optical viewfinder on a camera. That is what I use on my SLR, using the rear screen to review the shots. When we first got the small camera I did the same. Recently I have begun to use the back screen for composing. What I notice is that as I do this I tend to hold the camera an arm’s length away as opposed to right up to my face. It forces my eyes to look at things differently. I have used view cameras a few times and had the same experience. View cameras can be 4 by 5, 8 by 10 or larger. The negatives are the size of the camera and you compose and focus through the back of the camera. The large size screen allows you to view the scene in front of you with great detail which allows for greater accuracy in composing and in the final exposure. The screen on my SLR gives me some of that same detail. However in the Nevada sun with a screen that is not much bigger than an inch and half and unshaded…seeing clearly was a real challenge. I had to take my time and make use of both viewfinders to see the image. In some cases it felt like what photographers call a Hail Mary shot. If you watch news events or sporting events and see photographers lift their cameras high above their heads and point at the celebrity or politician, you are seeing a Hail Mary shot. It is when a photographer shoots ‘blindly’, relying on skill and experience to grab a shot.
I found the same thing happened in back in Vermont hiking last weekend. There were times the sun angle made clear viewing difficult so again I resorted to both viewfinders. And again there were some of those’ trust the eyes and years of experience’ shots. Yeah, I know there are screen shades for some of these cameras but why ruin my fun. I like working those brain and eye muscles. It is amazing how just picking up that old point and shoot and playing for a few days sharpens my skills and clears my vision. I highly recommend it to those who think that complex cameras and lighting are the only tools they use to create beautiful pictures.
April 20, 2010 - Equal Pay Day April 20, 2010
Usually this blog focuses on photo related subjects but today I need to talk about another subject near and dear to my heart.
Today is Equal Pay Day, a symbolic day where women’s salaries for 2009, finally catch up with men’s 2010 salaries. It is day that women and advocates use to talk about ending gender based wage discrimination and the sad fact that forty-seven years after the Equal Pay Act of 1963 women earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. Yeah..you heard me…77 cents for every dollar. In 1963 women earned 59 cents for every dollar. Some would say that is progress. I would say damn slow as molasses progress. Hardly anything to cheer.
I can hear it now. “You women have been complaining about this for years…its because you choose to stay home and have babies.”(Although time out for Motherhood does affect wages, when you take away that statistic the gap still exists.) Or ”There is no wage gap.”. (There are industry specific statistics that show pay gaps between men and women) or “Don’t legislate to close the gap it will hurt businesses, let the market close the gap.” Many of us have been waiting a long time for the market to balance out the wages and we are still waiting. That 23 cents gap translates into about $10,622 in lost median wages. Imagine what you could do with an extra $10,000 to care for your family and pay the bills. If you are a young woman starting out in the work force you could lose over $700,000 during a lifetime of work. The continuation of wage discrimination leaves families and the American all a little poorer.
Why should this matter to someone like me who is self-employed? It matters to me because I want women to achieve economic equity and security in this state and in the rest of the country. Why? Because it is the fair thing to do. However I can step away from my altruism for a moment and say my business benefits if women have more money in their pocket to spend. So does yours. The whole economy would be better without the wage gap. More importantly our families and children will be healthier and more secure.
Since the mid-nineties I worked with the Vermont Business and Professional Women and the Vermont Commission on Women to bring equal pay legislation to Vermont. It took us five years of hard work to get Equal Pay for Equal Work legislation passed in Vermont,and signed into law in 2002. In 2005, Vermont’s Wage Disclosure Law was signed, now Vermonters can disclose or discuss their wages without fear of discipline, discharge, or retaliation. I want to believe that these laws have made a difference in Vermont. In case you don’t know about them, I am attaching a link to a brochure for employers and employees,explaining rights and responsibilities under these laws.
This year the national focus on Equal Pay Day is to get the U.S. Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. In general this act closes the loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act. It will:
Create stronger incentives for employers to follow the law;
Empower women to negotiate for equal pay;
Strengthen federal outreach, education and enforcement efforts;
Deter wage discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations and by prohibiting retaliation against workers who ask about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages.
I am attaching another link with more info and ways to contact your Senators. I am hoping that some time in the near future we won’t have gender based wage discrimination in this country. What you are paid should not depend on your gender, your race, or your religion.
Your salary should be based on your education, your skill level, and your years of experience and responsibility. To give you a sense of perspective on this wage gap battle. Working women started the fight to end wage discrimination in the 1920′s. I think it is time for the battle to be won.
Mental Snapshots April 12, 2010
Most of the time I try to have a camera with me when exploring Vermont’s countryside, but Saturday I left it at home. It was a cloudy day when my brother and I drove up to Little River State park for a walk. Didn’t think there would be much to photograph. For those outside of Vermont or who don’t know this park, it sits up on a range of hills just before Waterbury and includes a beautiful resevoir. It is also home to a series of historic trails that make their way up and over ridges and along streams. Dogsledders, skiers, and snowshoers tend to hang out on these trails in the winter.
My brother and I had snowshoed the trails several times this year in the snow. It is a beautiful spot. Saturday’s hike revealed the stone walls, farm foundations, and rusted farm implements that remain from a settlement dating around early 1800′s. I love walking by these walls set by Vermonters long ago and still marking the boundaries of their farms. Trees and bushes have broken some of the walls and water rushes past old culverts. Look closely and you will see the remains of an old horse cart or a saw mill. At one point I see the head of an old shovel on the foundation wall of an old barn. I try to imagine what the farms buildings looked like on top of this mountain, without the trees. My brother and I mused about what the big city or town would have been. Did the farmers go to Waterbury or trek to Burlington or Richmond for goods? The beginning of the hike took us up a steep trail for about 20 to 30 minutes. The streams were rushing along side of us, the sun was coming out and melting the early morning snow. The trees had some buds but you could see quite a distance through woods and follow the walls with your eyes as they meandered through the hills. Between one pair of walls ran a river.
We finally reach an intersection and I was ready to continue to the right to loop back down the hill. My brother suggested we walk further up the path we were on because he wanted to see where it went. Not too far up the trail we caught sight of a cemetery. Twelve or so upright simple stones stood protected by tall cedars, sitting on a hill surrounded by stone walls. We walked up two steps to the stones,walked passed them, and turned around to see the names of the individuals buried so long ago. It was the Ricker family, part of the settlement, and the farmers that owned some of the properties we walked by. There was a stone detailing a short life of an infant, and one celebrating the life of one of the Rickers who lived to be 100 plus years. We were quiet as we read the stones. At that point I wanted my camera. I was so taken by the rays of light filtering through the cedars and the simplicity of the gray stones against the forest floor. The light touched the worn letters softly at an angle leaving shadows across the stone. The stones were lined up in two rows with smaller stones marking other graves, perhaps unnamed infants. As I often do when something grabs my attention but I am minus the tools of my trade, I took a mental picture and soaked up the atmosphere and sense of solemnity. This little cemetery hidden in the woods gave me a stronger sense of this early Vermont settlement than all the stone walls and farmer’s tools I had seen before. People lived, farmed and died up here…and right in front of me was the evidence of their life.
On the way we took another path that hugged the ridge line. The stone walls disappeared but we saw a few more foundations. The reservoir could be seen in the distance sparkling in the sun, through the birch and maple. There was strong sense of spring arriving in the soft greens and reds of three buds and alpine flowers popping through the leaves. The sun was getting stronger. It had a become a beautiful spring day.
I took a lot of mental snapshots on that walk, but the one that sticks with me most strongly is haunting simplicity and beauty of the hidden cemetery in early spring sun. Now the challenge will be to try to recreate that feeling when I go back, with my camera, in a few weeks.
Embracing digital..maybe..sort of….well yeah! April 3, 2010
I have embraced digital during the last year or so but sometimes I long for the simple days of film. Not that it was that simple but the tools were cool and the process of developing film and printing was magical. As I start to build my digital arsenal I often think about the old days….like today as I did some spring cleaning.
I pulled out an old leather bag just barely holding together. Inside was an old 330 Mamiya twin lens camera. It belonged to my husband but I used it in the early years when I wanted to use 120 film and get that beautiful square negative. The camera came with a wide angle and a telephoto lens. No automatic exposure or focus on that camera. Actually there was no meter. I remember loving the look of the images I shot with that.
Then I dug out my first camera sitting a in big old black Domke bag. It was a Canon F-1. That was Canon’s professional 35mm camera in the early 80′s. It was solid and had great lenses…and at least it had a built in light meter. You had different viewfinder options too. I found an old Pentax Spotmatic and Canon T90 that was part of our family collection. Finally I dug up my favorite and most expensive camera.
Just 13 years ago I bought a Mamiya 645, a medium format camera that used 120 film and gave you negatives with 6×4.5 ratio. The camera came in components. There were film backs and film reels that allowed me to change to a different type of film mid-shoot. I could use different view finders and motor drives. I could shoot automatic as well. It was heavy but not horribly so. I used it on a tripod a lot but it has 35mm type grip which allowed me to shoot off tripod. That camera was my workhorse up until 18 months ago. The images were sharp and lush. Portraits looked amazing. I remember that bought that camera because you could add a digital back to it. Then I discovered the back cost much more than the camera…something like $20,000!
Recently, I was lusting after a Canon digital camera much bigger than what I have now. I figured I could sell the Mamiya and put the $ toward the new digital. Then I discovered that I might get a $1,000 if I sold every body and lens….about a quarter of what I paid for it. As I played with the camera this afternoon I realized I didn’t want to give it up. It still works. I still have film. There are still labs that process 120. Although my favorite in Vermont stopped processing film two years ago. They even held a funeral or more accurately a memorial service where photographers wrote pithy sayings on strips of film and threw them into a makeshift coffin. I couldn’t bring myself to attend.
This digital world I find myself in has a complexity to it that I find challenging. The act of taking of a picture is in some ways easier but once you download the image there are new challenges that are different than anything I faced with film. Of course the key here is that photography is all about the image…how you get there…what tools you use….that is all about the process. I think I will hang on to some of my film cameras because you need every tool you can find to create a dynamic image. So although I embrace the digital age, my toolbox will still include a film camera or two….plus computers..plus more cameras…plus software…plus printers……aaaagh.
Artist or businessperson or both or... March 30, 2010
So I have calmed down a bit since yesterday’s post. I realize that I need to do the business plan, the market research, the excel spreadsheets and other stuff to create a clear vision for where I want to take this business. The work is necessary but it is not as much fun as being behind the camera creating an image. I think this is the dilemma faced by so many artists. It is one thing to create art and a completely different thing to create art and make a living from it. The phrase ‘starving artist’ is all too real for most creative people.
When I began this business 25 years ago I tended to think of myself of as a businessperson who was a photographer. Not a bad approach and it was reasonably successful despite being a full time Mom for much of those early years. I liked the logical approach to business and marketing and learning the skills that it took to be a business person. I liked being some one who could do it all. I loved networking and meeting new people and creating promotional pieces for myself. Didn’t like cold calling, but then who does.
Twenty five years later I think of myself as an artist instead of a businessperson. I am an artist with the skills I have developed for over 25 years of taking pictures. I have a new set of tools that in some ways allow me to be more creative then ever. Digital gives me more freedom and yet more challenges. It looks easier than film but it isn’t and that is what makes it fun to use. Digital photography is something that most people can do but not everyone can do well. I also have new tools in the way I choose to market my work. I have had a web site for years but now I have Facebook and Twitter and can put my images on line for anyone to purchase.
The web has opened up new markets beyond anything I could have imagined. I have an opportunity to create a brand new approach to my photography business The challenge for me is figuring out how to use these marketing tools effectively. I still need to do the grunt work of figuring out who my target markets are, and what do they want to buy, and what are they willing to spend. Even with all the changes in business and photography some things never change. The artist has to do the ‘business’ work if she wants the world to see and purchase her art. Talk about an inner struggle and conflict. As I said before….I just want to take pictures!!!!
I just want to take pictures…not write a stupid business plan. March 29, 2010
I should have known that trying to recreate something new and better would be as difficult as any birth process. I am so tired of research; of excel spreadsheets, of drawing up marketing plans and calendars; and of researching markets. I hate it all. All I want to do is take pictures. All I want to do is create. I want to create images that blow people away and that give them a beautiful memory to hold onto. I am not an accountant. I am not a marketing whiz. I am not a finance person. I am photographer. I am so tired..so fed up with all this stuff I have to do create a new better and business. Business plans are torture and hell on earth. I just want to work. I am so overwhelmed with this process I just want to run far away. I just want to work. I want to pick up my camera and take someone’s portrait…I want to think about the lighting…what will be flattering; I want to connect with a person and find that person they are and want to be; I want to think about backgrounds, and eyes, exposure, and shutter speed, and white balance. I want to hear that delight in someone’s voice when they see the proofs from a session or realize what fun they had having their picture taken. I want that satisfaction that comes from taking a strong picture that resonates with everyone who that looks at it. I want that satisfaction that comes from looking at an image I shot and feeling proud.
There is no satisfaction for me in cranking out excel sheets and marketing calendars and writing marketing analysis. It doesn’t feed my soul. Photography feeds my soul. That is the work I want to do. I realize that doing this business plan may give me the tools to create a stronger business but right now it is succeeding in making me angry and in making me question everything that is important to me. I have been a photographer for 25 years because I love what I do not because I love creating spread sheets. Aaaagh!!
Rebirth continued… February 23, 2010
In the last blog I said I would tell you about the changes to Carroll Photos. I am not ready yet to do that. I know what I won’t change…my focus on creating the best image for all of my clients. My love of the art of photography won’t change either. I also will continue to explore and learn more about this amazing digital medium everyday.
One of the processes one goes through as you write your business plan is to develop a marketing plan. Part of that process calls for creating a sound bite or a one line that describes your business. Some people call it an elevator speech. I have had plenty of them over the years. Some good, some not so much. Here is the beginning draft of the latest one.
Hi, I am Mary Claire Carroll, owner of Carroll Photos, I take a lifetime of observing people behind the camera and create an image that enables them to see the person they believe they are.
Rebirth February 17, 2010
I have spent 25 years as owner and photographer of Carroll Photos. During those years I have photographed people, events , buildings, products, and the world around me. My tools went from a 35mm film camera to a medium format camera and my own darkroom or local lab to digital cameras and the computer and some out of state online lab. Where I used to view and edit my images on a lightbox with a loupe, I now use a software program that allows me to edit on the computer and rank images the way I used to with film. There is loupe in the program that allows me to view the pixels in the images instead of the grains of the film. During that time I moved from primarily a photographer who provides images for businesses to one who photographs families and senior high school students and pets, with a few architectural and promotional jobs thrown into the mix. I also did and still do editorial work for newspapers and magazines and grant driven projects. During that time I also raised my son, became politically active, volunteered on community projects, took on few part time jobs, and oh, got older. About three years ago I felt tired and burned out so I jumped at an opportunity to do something completely different and went into partnership with another woman and became a lobbyist for non-profits at Vermont’s Statehouse in Montpelier. I had found a new passion. At that time Carroll Photos continued to exist but not thrive as I took on work when I was available which was usually during the summer months.
This fall my business partner and I decided to stop lobbying. I came back to Carroll Photos and realized that three years of neglect had severely hurt my business. It didn’t help that the poor economy has taken most of the discretionary spending money out of my clients’ pockets. During the fall I struggled with the idea that I should give up on the business and go work for someone else. I had work but not at the level I have had before during what is usually my busiest time of the year. The question was could I make Carroll Photos financially viable again. The other question was..did I even want to try.
Long story short somewhere and somehow during the last couple of months of 2009 I found my passion for photography again. I realized that I still love to create beautiful images and capture energy and memories for my clients. So Carroll Photos is going through a rebirth right now. I knew I had to do something different to make Carroll Photos be what I want it to be and create a successful business that will sustain me . At the beginning of the new year I began meeting with a business counselor who listens and directs and makes me do homework every week. I am analyzing competitors, setting new financial goals, figuring out what I want the business to look like, analyzing my market, putting together a business plan (again),and in general creating new goals and a new plan for my future. It is hard work yet exciting. I love being behind the camera and I want to keep taking pictures forever, but if no one is buying is my images or booking studio time or calling about promotional images, I need to find something else to do.
So welcome to the rebirth of Carroll Photos. You will find the same high quality professional photography at reasonable prices that marked my first 25 years in business. When you come for a portrait session I will still connect with you, put you at ease, and during a fun photo session,create the best portrait of you anyone has ever taken. Those are core parts of who I am as a photographer and that won’t change. What will change? I will let you know next posting.
Thanks for listening.
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