Thursday, July 10, 2008

Families and Photography

Both of us have had the opportunity this month to shoot in front of our families, James with his dad in Kansas, and the both of us in Monroe, Louisiana at a slew of family events: birthdays, a baptism, and a wedding.

I'm not the only shooter in my family: my stepfather Tim (that's him with my mom) gave me my first camera, a Pentax K-1000, and took the time to show me how to shoot, develop, and print in the darkroom he maintained in the hall closet. My cousin Sarah shoots for the Army. A friend of the family, Mey-ling is just starting her love affair with the camera. Our Mamiya always draws a crowd of admirers, though not as big a crowd as my baby niece Emma.

In both of our families, we are the only professional artists. But we are not the only ones to run our own business, or even run our own businesses as a couple (my parents taught me all about that too), or take risks on earning a living doing what you want to do with your days. Our family's collective resumes are testament to at least trying to define work as play (i.e.: fly-fishing store, scuba-diving shop, restaurants on St. John and at a ranch in Arizona, the boomerang man, and at least 4 employees of the girl scouts). Right now, among my cousins, there's a few band members making their first cd, a pilot giving lessons, and quite a few dreams in drawers waiting for the right moment and real estate. We've come a long way from the pioneers in South Dakota my grandmother grew up with but we're keeping alive their penchant for big moves.

So there were a number of around the table conversations about what we do for a living, how we survive in New York, how it "works."

"Do they really just email you a shootlist like on Charlie's Angels?"
"Can you pitch a story on _____?
"You still use film?"
"Are you going to give up teaching?"
"Does the magazine pay your expenses?"
"How do you get jobs?"
"Does this mean you can never leave New York?"
"How will you have children?"
"Don't you ever wish you could write the stories too?"
"How much does it pay?"
"Can you shoot X's wedding?"

I wish I could say I have answers for all of these questions. Some of them, we do have pat answers for. Yes, it is like Charlie's Angels, yes, we use film, but do digital too when we need to, I'm taking a year off teaching, but I love it and will definitely return to the classroom when the time is right. We only shoot for the weddings we love.

The questions I don't have a ready answer for really get me thinking and talking over the iced tea. Creative careers, parenthood, technology, the economy: these don't seem to have road maps. Every time I visit my grandmother (who turned 80 this weekend!) pats me on the hand and reminds me that what we're doing with our lives always turns out to be the right thing to be doing.

So thanks for all your advice. I'm forever all ears!

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