Riding the Merry Go Round
Peggy Sue Seehafer M.Photog., M.Artist., CPP
When we picked a month to write something for our page, I wanted to use the analogy of summer fun and county fairs. Having restored carousel horses for many years and learning the history of more than a century of wooden art, I also see the similarities with our photographic organizations and the medium of photography. Both are often a fun ride with many ups and downs.
Riding around in circles seems to be the norm of late. I have always loved riding a carousel, but sometimes it does not lead you to the destination you want. This year seems to feel like I fell off the Merry Go Round and jumped on a Roller Coaster! When I started to write this, I was thinking more in terms of software, new equipment, and all the things we need to do our job. Then came the pandemic and my perspective of where I am going with this career have changed.
A look back-
I was enrolled in an Arts program in college, where one of the required courses was photography. In that darkroom, I fell in love with the instant gratification of this art form. Since I have always had one foot in the fine arts, I then enrolled in the commercial side of photography at another college, getting two degrees with art and photography, I have always seen them as the same ride. I had a great job for eight years as a commercial photographer and honed my technical skills. Joining PPA and Northern, expanded the love of photography to portraiture and provided greatly to the business learning curve. After renting a studio in downtown Saint Charles for a few years, I built a studio at my home.
When digital entered our business, so did lots of innovations of equipment. A back for the medium format camera was $20,000. Investing in equipment was always a risk as many of the products went obsolete quickly. I was trained for archival products in the art world and commercial photography was very different. And since artists are often more frugal than photographers when it comes to equipment, looking for a different way to be creative can produce different looking results. And in my opinion, it has always been important to me to be inspired by others but not to try to replicate.
Now looking forward-
Now we are in a situation where money does not seem to flow in so freely, but there are still lots of tempting new photographic tools and better computers available in hopes of making us better photographers. Or maybe just easier to be a better photographer. Sure there are so many lenses and new bodies that lure us to shop. But I often have to ask myself how will this really improve what I am providing my clients? Will it eventually pay for itself? And will I get a great deal of use out of it before it becomes just another next-generation past on the shelf? (yes, my shelves are filled with those!)
For me, this pause has forced me to take a better look at my client base and my desire to create. Marketing has become a big challenge and trying to create a fresh look and see if the buyers want it will continue to make this ride uncomfortable. But with discomfort comes growth. So I will continue to peruse the equipment, prop, and backdrop sections. But I will also work harder at my own vision of what has always excited me about this industry. Capturing a feeling, and presenting it so it hits the 12 elements we are taught. Critiques are a great way to get feedback. So enter, ask, and join groups that will give you input. Then learn to be the best critic of your own work!
So while riding the Tilt A Whirl this year, I hope you able to find your own style. A look that is identifiable as yours. We have to be able to show our clients something they desire and that they cannot do themselves or get somewhere else.
Enjoy the ride!