A little back story... From the beginning, I was a photojournalist; a visual story teller. My earliest interest in photography came from looking at National Geographic and books on World War II and the Vietnam War. I had a craving to tell those kind of global stories. To share the world's atrocities with people who couldn't be there and to be a witness. That's why I became a newspaper photographer. And that's why my plan was to start off at a small daily and work my way around the country, and then the world, bouncing from city to city every few years like I had done growing up as an Air Force brat.
But along the way, life changed me. I became more interested in the world outside my window. Falling in love with Danielle was a big part of that. Gone were my dreams of traveling the world and in it's place were dreams of a family and a sense of home.
I loved the variety of stories I was able to photograph while working at the newspaper. And having been completely screwed over by our wedding photographer, I found a sudden interest in the art of wedding photography and wedding storytelling. A business was born. And it grew. And it grew and grew. To the point where something had to give. So faced with the inevitable insanity of working 40+ hours for The Man and working 40+ hours on Hope Photography and working a gazillion hours as a new father, I decided to quit the newspaper. Yep, I cut all ties to the part of photography that caused me to pick up a little black box with a lens on it in the first place.
And I realize now, that I miss it. Dearly.
So what's the point? Hang on, I'm getting there. Promise. Stick with me.
Like all artists, I go through creative slumps; deep troughs in my year that make me feel like I'm a hack. It's usually either when we're completely slammed or, like right now, when it's dead out there because of the off season. I look at our work and the photos all start to look the same and I struggle to keep the creativity flowing.
I'm in one such rut now. Does it effect my work? I don't think so. If you look at the last portrait session or the last engagement session here on our blog, both done in January, you'll find the same high standard of photography we've built the business on. In other words, I think my work is up to snuff. But this creative slump does effect how I feel. And I guess in a way, that does, or will eventually, seep into my work.
I realize that this might freak some of you out if you are current or potential clients. It's ballsy of me to admit this, but you know what I've realized of late? Every photographer out there goes through this same thing. Some handle it better than others. Some sell all their gear on Craigslist and get jobs at McDonald's. If you are a photographer and you've never felt the way I feel, then I dare say that you aren't a true artist. You're just a businessman with a camera. And who wants to hire that?
What to do about it? Well, one thing I've done is become addicted to Instagram in the last year. Taking photos with my iPhone (iphoneography for the cool kids) is something that has completely caught me off guard. It's become more of a second camera than a phone. Heck, when our point and shoot camera died on our last vacation, that's all Danielle and I shot with practically. It's such a good little camera and with the bevy of photo editing apps out there, you can make a good photo a great photo. I post all sorts of stuff; from the mundane daily family variety to simple found beauty. It ain't about the camera, but the person pushing the button, right?
It's a great tool to spark the creativity. But it's just fun. You know, like other social media, it doesn't really fill any gaps in your life. So I reached out to my Instagram family last year complaining that my creative candle was beginning to dwindle. An Instagram buddy of mine, Zack, told me to get off my butt and shoot something for myself. Yes! I thought, great idea! That's what I'm missing! I could list off a hundred things I've always wanted to shoot, but haven't.
Did I take his advice? Months later, the answer is no. And I should've listened. He knows what he's talking about. The man made a revolutionary video two years ago that rocked the photography world. He's been there, he's done that! I'm a fool for not dropping everything and doing what he said.
It comes down to being busy. And lazy. I bounce ideas off Danielle all the time and she constantly says, "do it!" But alas, I never get around to it. I've wanted to shoot cars (like, cool cars… classics and exotics, not Camrys and Accords) forever, but I've never taken the time to find the cars to shoot. I used to love doing band portraits when I worked at the paper, but I've never done anything else with it in my free time. I have cool ideas for portraits. Funky series, etc. I've thought about getting back to my photojournalism roots and finding some local stories to share.
Today, I was brainstorming in the shower (don't go there, pervs) thinking about how I need to just do it. Just assign myself a story, a project, anything and shoot it. Now's the time. February is slow. No weddings, some meetings, a few portrait sessions, a website that badly needs to be redesigned. Now. Is. The. Time.
But I immediately started finding fault with all my ideas. And quickly I was back to just thinking, eh, I'll do it next month. So I came up with a bold plan. Some (Danielle) may call me crazy. Some (Danielle) may call me stupid. Some may call me a genius.
I'm making February (what a stupid word to have to spell. Can I get an "amen"?)…
What. Wait? Here's the deal: I want to shoot just about ANYthing in February. So much so, that I'm going to do it for free (with a couple stipulations… more on that in just a second). There are 29 days in February this year, so if I can shoot one thing a day, that's 29 assignments. That shouldn't be a problem. I used to shoot 5 assignments a day at the newspaper. When am I starting? Now!
These are my rules…
1: No events (weddings, banquets, award ceremonies, etc.).
2: Nothing commercial (in other words, you can't take a photo I shoot for you and use it on your company's website or billboard).
3: Nothing that will cause me to die. I don't want to be eaten by a shark or have a parachute fail to open in my pursuit of this crazy endeavor. That would suck. Seriously.
4: Nothing outside of the immediate area (unless you're footing the travel bill). This is our off season after all and I don't have a budget for this project.
5: I get to shoot it however I want. Which means I might be doing some experimenting (funky lighting, weird lenses, clowns). Which means you might not like the end result (but you'll probably LOVE it). Which mostly means you might have to be patient.
Here's what I'm thinking… come up with ANYTHING you would like to have a professional photos of and email me. What do I mean by anything? Well, that's just it. Anything.
You have a cool car you've bought/built? I'll shoot it.
You have a 100 year-old grandma in the nursing home and would like a nice photo of her? I'll shoot her (well, I'll photograph her).
You've built the world's coolest treehouse/outhouse/doghouse/kitchen/chopper/AR-15 rifle? I'll shoot it.
You're a professional pilot/jockey/artist/cop/dog wrangler/telemarketer/surgeon and have always wanted photos of you on the job? Done.
You're kid got a new bike and you want a cool photo of him with it? I'm there.
You're a band, you're an actor, you're a dancer, you're a mime, you're in therapy because you're a mime? I want to shoot you too.
You're about to give birth and would like someone to photograph the emotions of the day (from the neck up of course)? As long as the doc says it's cool, count me in. I don't faint easily.
You're back yard has a beautiful vista and you've always wanted a sunrise/set image that would make you weep? I'll do my best and bring tissues.
You have a rare albino chupacabra? I'll get a tetanus shot and be right over.
The possibilities are endless. It doesn't have to be anything super unique. I'm open to just about anything we don't already shoot everyday. I might turn you down, but chances are I won't. I want this February to be a creative powder keg that I will set under my butt, light, and ride the explosion through 2012. If it's a success, I'll do it next year too.
That's what I'll get out of it. What will you? The photos. I'll probably blog them and give you the files. You can use them on Facebook, hang them on your wall, make them your computer desktop background. I don't care as long as you're not using them for commercial purposes. I don't want to take food off another photographer's table just like I wouldn't want them to do that to me. Don't think of this as "Wes is doing jobs for free". Think of it more as "Wes is trying to give back by providing his talent for personal photos in exchange for a creativity boost". Or something like that. I need a snazzy catch phrase.
Holy crap. If you've made it this far into the blog version of War and Peace, then kudos. I greatly appreciate it. But I have one more favor to ask. I need this to go viral. This will only be a success if folks contact me. This link will be on the Hope Photo Facebook page, my personal wall (and Danielle's), and I'll tweet it (though I am the world's worst Twitterer). So share it. Forward it. Pass it on to anyone you can think that could use this opportunity.
Am I crazy? Probably. Am I biting off more than I can chew? More than likely. Will it make me a better photographer? I sure as heck hope so.
I need to get going on this pronto. I realize that by hitting publish on this post around 11:00 pm on January 31, isn't the wisest thing in the world if I want to try and shoot every day in February. But hey, sometimes you just have toss up a hail mary and hope you score.
The bestest way to get in touch with me about this is going to be email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to give me as much detail as possible about what you want shot, as well as contact info and when the best time to do the shoot would be.
As always, thank you so much for your time! I'm always blown away by the fact folks take the time to look at our photos and read our blog posts. You guys rock!
* That's what she said.