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What I’ve Learned | 2013

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.

It’s a constant struggle to balance being patient with always being ambitiously in-the-moment.

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Since my son was born – I’ve become much more protective when it comes to family (including our Intern family) – and much more ruthless when it comes to business. 

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. The clock has 24 hours in a day. Sleep is first optional then required.

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.

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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.

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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.

Phoenix Children's Museum | LeahAndMark.com

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.

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.

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Posted by Mark

Atlanta. Wedding. Editorial. Photographer. LeahAndMark.com

I’ve been ‘Let Go’

As the title of this entry suggests, I’ve been let go from my job. Laid off. (Although I have never liked that term.) It happened yesterday afternoon around 1:30pm, relatively non-eventful and without any dramatic scenes. Basically, since I had changed departments a few weeks earlier and hadn’t ever unpacked my boxes – I grabbed the two of them, walked to my car and drove off – after deleting all of the junk I could from my work computer – mostly loose files that don’t mean anything to anyone except myself – just in time too because the IT guys arrived right after I had logged off…

Of course this isn’t my first time losing my job due to the industry/slowdown/company troubles. However, this one is slightly more inconvenient. Plus I’m not getting anywhere near the same amount of severance. I will say that telecommuting, and being a bit stubborn has helped in that I was paid ALL of my vacation time – even though arguably I wasn’t in the office for almost 6 weeks this year – but nothing’s on paper, and in the end I always completed my job duties. Although not much, the vacation pay helps greatly.

So while there is that initial stress of ‘not having a job’ – I can’t freak out yet. Not yet. I’m waiting on 2.5 jobs to get back to me with an answer so I’ve at the very least got to get through the weekend without freaking out. And still – it’s like red alert around here. Cost cutting measures and reduction. With real efforts towards curbing spending and such, we’ll be fine for at least two months – and that’s if I do NOTHING during that whole time (which obviously will not be the case.)

But I’m awake again today at 4:30am because I feel like I have to keep to my normal schedule… If I do not keep myself busy I will fall into that slump, that depression or overwhelming high anxiety that I suppose some people get after something like this happens.

And yet, we still went to our regular Wednesday night StandUp for Kids outreach – where we work/counsel/provide food and hygiene packs to at risk, about to be homeless and homeless RIGHT NOW kids. And although it’s very easy to become disillusioned with them, with their no action and lack of progress – lately I’ve been working with two youths whom I actually connect with. They live in an abandoned school which I’m sure is quite condemned. It’s been raining a lot here lately and I know the place leaks and floods badly. They didn’t even have flashlights until I gave them a few last night.

And while they may have made some unwise choices such as leaving their parents (which in cases like these is always a difficult call since MANY parents truly are that awful) – they are not like so many of the other kids. At least to me. They communicate. They don’t have that ungrateful attitude of entitlement that many other streetkids present (and I’m not saying that I don’t understand the facades that many have to take on). I simply feel like these two genuinely appreciate the help I give them, and are not taking advantage of the system that to a degree does enable their lifestyle.

Sure they have to turn some corners such as getting their birth certificates so that they can get an ID so that they can get jobs – but that’s in the works… and we’ll see how that actually goes. However until they let me down – but more importantly themselves down – I am left with thinking about them going back to that abandoned school that’s been flooded by the rain, and sleeping there at night.

That was yesterday.