Cavalia :: Controlling The Work You Show
My dear friend, Marc Climie, often says…
“Let your work determine your clients. Don’t let your clients determine your work.”
In order to live by that philosophy you have to be very careful what work you show to the world through your site, blog, and book. If you don’t want to shoot family portraits, then don’t show family portraits. If you hate selective color photographs (as you should) then don’t show them. Here is a good scenario…
You want to shoot portraits of bands and musicians for press kits and promo work. You are a struggling photographer just trying to get started and you get a call from a friend of a friend and they would love for you to shoot their family portraits. You need the work so you agree to it and, hopefully, you do a kick ass job. You just shot the best family portraits of your life. What do you do with them?
Continue reading and seeing after the jump ::
Aside from delivering those family portraits to the client, you bury them in your local hard drive and you don’t show them to anyone else. Why? You want to shoot bands (or headshots, or editorial assignments, or documentary weddings, etc.) not families. You have to show the work that determines your clients. If you put those family portraits out into the world then you are saying “I shoot family portraits”. Is that what you want to say with your work?
Let’s add another layer to this and say the family loves, loves, loves their photos and REALLY wants to buy a huge print of one AND they want some selective color goodness on it. You know the kind. Everything is in B&W except their jeans or eyes or whatever. I hope that you cringe at this request knowing that there have only been two acceptable uses for selective color. One was in the movie Schindler’s List and the other was the original Live Strong campaign. So the family really wants this to happen and you really want to cash their check because rent is due in 14 minutes. What do you do?
There are times we do this for love and there are times we do this for money. That is the mash up of art and commerce. Especially for emerging photographers. As you are starting your career your ability to hold your artistic ground isn’t solidified and you will find yourself bending to the will of your clients more than you may like. I’m here to tell you that it’s ok. You aren’t that much of a whore for doing it! We all have to do it at some point all throughout our career. After all we are in the service industry. Our clients may have a very specific need or desire and while we don’t like what they are asking for, we need to keep collecting a check to keep our family fed.
Off you go to Photoshop… to selective color… a family portrait. And what are you going to do with these pictures? Deliver them and forget ’em. The rest of us don’t have to look at them.
My point? As my business has grown the number one genre of photography I am so pleased to say no to is event photography. I hate event photography. Hell for me would be a non stop corporate cocktail party with 14 billion awards ceremonies thrown in all requiring grip-n-grin shots with the CEO. Guess what I just shot last week? Grip-n-grin pictures featuring media mogul Ted Turner and key members of his family. At least it was Ted Turner right? Wrong. There I am, camera in hand, lining up a group of folks and asking them to smile for the photo. Here is the picture…
Guess what? I’m not showing that picture. I’m not showing the pictures of him or pictures of he and his family or the shot where he hands flowers to the cast of the show he was attending. Why? I don’t want to shoot those pictures. I’ll tell you I shot them but I won’t show them to you. Want to hear something even more terrible? I did it for free AND I paid an assistant to go with me. Shooting pictures I hate to shoot cost me $120 after it was all said and done. Maybe I am in hell already. I most certainly delivered those images to my client but I’m not putting them out in the world to see.
So if I hate shooting events then what in the hell was I doing shooting an event for free? I was seizing an opportunity.
I love anything Cirque. I fell in love with their productions the first time I saw one of their shows in Vegas some 10 years ago. When I found out that one of the founders of Cirque had a new show here in Atlanta called Cavalia that introduced horses to the mix I HAD to go. Better yet, I had to photograph it. I’ve been wanting to do a personal project with horses for awhile now and what would be better than mixing horses with acrobats? I told my lovely wife, Meghan, that I really wanted to get access to Cavalia while it was in town. Meg knows the folks handling PR for Cavalia so she got to work on it. The reply?
(more crickets chirping)
Until a month later. The PR company reached back to Meg with an opportunity for me to have pretty decent access to the cast and the show. For one night only, Jennie Turner, daughter for Ted Turner, would be performing in the show and they needed pictures of her performing, taking a bow, and then cover the grip-n-grin photo-ops at the end of the show with the Turner family and cast of Cavalia. Did I want to shoot these pictures? No. Did I jump at the opportunity? Hell yes. Taking the photos I didn’t want to take was my key to getting in to take the photos I did want to take. Well, almost.
Shooting this event turned into an opportunity to make a relationship with the good folks who put on the show. Around the big tent there are these massive banners with the horses and cast of Cavalia performing their routines in some sort of mountainous desert. They are gorgeous and I can’t find them on the web but somebody shot those images. THAT is the access I want. You get that kind of access by making relationships and NOT showing grip-n-grin event photos in your portfolio. I would love the opportunity to shoot the promo work for any Cirque show. I have to figure out who makes those decisions. Once I find that person or group of people then I have to show them images that I want them to see. I do not, under any circumstance, want them to see after the show happy snaps.
After all this blabbling, here is a small set of images from my evening at Cavalia. I did my research before I went. I looked at all the photos I could find of the show and I was determined to not replicate any of them. I wanted a unique set of images from a show that has been shot numerous times by lots of photographers. For me this meant concentrating on behind the scenes, B&W, and motion.
The last image in this series is just about my favorite. I went in looking for a picture that you would not expect to shoot at Cavalia. I was shooting the performers but kept seeing movement out of the corner of my eye. Then I saw the shadow and ditched the action for the shadow play on the side of the stage.
So now what? How do I use these images beyond blog fodder? I’m going back this week with an armful of prints. My goal is to shoot portraits of the cast. I need more access and more time. I’m hoping that these images combined with individual images I shot of the cast members as they performed will add to all of the smiles and hand shakes I gave out the night of the performance. They are such an amazing group of people I am really hoping to gain a little more access and have a little more time to create something a little more unique. We shall see how it goes!
How many of you are willing to lose money on an opportunity? Have you done it recently? What type of work would you pay to shoot? That’s basically what I did here.
PS – Winning Vision Mongers Christmas stories coming up soon!