Mark, Photos

Repost: What I’ve Learned

26 Jul ’11
MontrealStreet012

This was originally posted back in February. With 10 New Interns starting on Thursday, it seems like a good time repost this. – Mark

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If you want to succeed, you have to make many, many more friends.

You know, I’ve never thought that this wouldn’t turn into something more. Back when I started shooting – while I still had my day job – I was really afraid that I would fail at this, so that kept me going. It was about the same time that Leah was finishing grad school so we were going through some major transitions. I knew things were aligning – but there was always that nagging fear that this would be added to my list of failures.

Leah saves my life everyday.

I’m a fat kid trying to be thin. All throughout elementary and high school – I was a fat(er) kid. Not like round – but I definitely categorized myself as fat and I have deep stretch marks on my arms to remind me.

I’m hyper aware of how things look on the outside. That’s photography. There’s a lot of flowery BS said about capturing emotion but that’s not what I do. I take pictures of people doing things. The trick is getting them to do things. Something. Anything.

The only reason we’ve had any level of success is because of how hard we work. I’m ridiculous about it, and I wish I could work 8 hours straight. But I can’t. So I end up working 3 hours here, an hour there, and then 4 hours after Leah’s gone to sleep. I don’t know how everyone does it but that’s how I do it. I don’t think I’ve really conveyed that to our Interns.

Building your own business has to be an obsession. At least for the first two years.

Balance? Most people need a new definition of balance in their lives. Thirty minutes of love – family or sex – holds a lot more weight on the scale than 10 hours of being stuck in an office. Equal time for different things isn’t balance.

I’m probably unbalanced too often.

The Internship seems so obvious now. It didn’t start out that way of course and even now we have to ask ourselves if we want to do it again, and again. It’s a true internship/apprenticeship. We don’t pay them anything and I teach them more than they work for me.

I know people have different learning styles and that I have a different teaching style. If my style doesn’t work for you then you should probably go find a different teacher. This isn’t a school for special people. This is work.

Sometimes you have to cry.

I don’t know how anyone thinks they can succeed as a timid photographer of people. Go shoot landscapes if you’re timid. Photographing people is about connecting with them on their level while at the same time telling them what to do. You don’t have to talk to boss someone around.

I have a small family and I think I always wanted a big family. So I surround myself with people. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy photographing weddings. All of a sudden I’m a part of the family. Leah has a big family – about 11 times the size of mine. I went to her family gatherings without her back when we were still boyfriend & girlfriend.

Yeah some of the Alumni Interns are straight copycats of us, and that’s okay. They’re not doing anything new. I wish they realized that.

Three months is the perfect amount of time for an Internship. It’s also too short. When the interns start they all have this crazy sense of urgency to learn everything they can in the first 3 weeks and then ask how they can get better. I usually just tell them to keep shooting.

You have to get all of those obvious shots out of your system. Just like writers and their first novels.

It’s a mind trip. It’s three months of amazing peer support while at the same time it’s three months of insecure self evaluation. You have to learn to control those thoughts and keep working.

I’m a petty person. I haven’t gotten less petty over the past two years, I’ve just tried to shut up and not move. My natural inclination sometimes is to snap back, so instead I have to just sit there and stop thinking until the moment passes. Leah’s the exact opposite. I’ve never met anyone who comes from a place of good, more than Leah. She’s Dalai Lama good. Deep down.

I believe in myself and it borders on delusion.

I generally don’t read photography business books. Those ideas aren’t interesting to me and I know every photographer and their mom is reading the same book. I hope they are. We’re able to succeed doing what we do [differently] because every other photographer out there follows the same business plan. We try to play a different game altogether.

How’s that for generic business hype-talk?

I need a life coach.

Posted by Mark

 

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