Post Project Blues.

If you follow this blog you probably know that this Fall has been extremely busy. Not busy in terms of writing about new gear or hip lenses, but busy taking existing cameras, lenses and lights out into the field and working for multiple days, and multiple weeks, for real, traditional, conventional clients who need photography. I've been tightly focused on the logistics of actually getting to locations that most people don't travel to. Places beyond paved roads and coffee shops, and conveniently located camera stores. 

Making tight travel deadlines can be stressful. Driving an unfamiliar rental car to a rural waypoint, guided solely by the GPS on your phone can be nail biting when you loose that cellphone connection. Getting to a project miles and miles from the nearest small town only to find that there are no restaurants, no gas stations, and not even a convenience store in which to get a microwaved burrito, can be a sobering experience for a photographer who spends the majority of his time in a modern, urban hub. While we love to bitch about the hardships of the road  most people who do this kind of work secretly love the challenge and the access to an alternate existence the likes of which most office dwellers are largely unaware. I know that I have a current of anxiety that runs through me at some level every minute that I'm on assignment outside my lifestyle comfort zone. 

But there's a weird reality on the other side of the assignments. I'm calling it post partum project depression. It's when you've been running full steam on a serial collection of intense work and client engagements and then, all of a sudden, you come to the natural end of the projects and all that adrenaline and feeling of connection to your work,  and basic sense of purpose ebbs. Now you have time to linger over a cup of coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop, time to read the latest news, but there's also a feeling of being disconnected... sitting in neutral.

I always feel a bit lost after a big tranche of work. I've been engaged in work pretty much non-stop since the beginning of the Fall season and one gets into the habit of packing just so, and doing quick research about the next destination on the schedule. I've gotten efficient at shooting on locations and then using my "downtime" waiting for the next flights to do global color corrections of the resulting images and uploading them to galleries for my clients. 

When I finally unloaded my mental baggage this week (and literally unloaded all the lighting gear and camera gear I've been using) I realized what I miss out when I'm on the road. I miss the Friday lunches with Ben (he works from home on Friday and we head to the local sandwich shop for Texas Tuna sandwiches = Whole wheat buns, tuna salad, guacamole, fresh sliced jalapeƱos, provolone cheese and all the usual condiments) and I miss family dinners. I miss my other clients. I miss the friends I usually hang out with and I miss my fellow masters swimmers. I miss Studio Dog.

The cure, for me, for the whole post project blues is to re-engage with all the things I love about being home. That, and buying another camera or lens... Yes. Yesterday I bought a Fuji X-E2 and ordered a 7Artisans 55mm f1.4 for the Fuji cameras. Why? It was all cheap stuff and it was motivated by seeing the results I got from my second rehearsal shoot of "Santaland Diaries" at Zach Theatre. But that's all in the next post......

Freelance work is so different from a steady job. If you work for a big company chances are you labor in a familiar framework from day to day. You might invent new stuff or market new products but you generally arrive at a certain time, you know where the office coffee maker is, you have a certain amount of time for lunch, you know what traffic will be like in the evening, etc. You know your familiar process.

If you work as an independent business, like photography, you'll find that nearly every assignment from a range of clients is different in large and small ways. From location to billing, from lighting style to deliverables. And then there are the opaque stretches of time in between. The uncertainty is more or less a consistent mantra. The allure of the "next" job seems predicated on the amount of time you waited for it to manifest...

I actually bailed on a job this week. I'd talked to a client that we do event work for about photographing their Holiday Event on the 15th. It would have been easy work with a decent payday at the end. But as the holidays progress I/we had conflicts with the date. My new neighbors are having a big party that evening. My swim team's annual party is also that evening. I talked to my client and they understood. They found someone to take over. Maybe the new guy will be so good the client will never call me again. But my post project sense of priorities gives greater weight to getting my social connectivity and quality of life back into balance. You only get so many good neighbors in a lifetime. You only get so many opportunities to hang with your fellow swimmers. 

Work-Life Balance versus the lure of work. It always seems a bit off. 

Just had the Texas Tuna Sandwich at Thunderclouds with Ben. Easily worth a day rate fee. 


Anonymous said...

Not a pro, but I have similar post-partum blues after a long business trip or busy vacation.
I purchased a pre-owned X-E2 about a year ago. For an APS-C, it's a featherweight, until you add the recommended grip extension. But then it's much nicer to hold. Beautiful jpegs for dimly lit interiors with people (+flash) snapshots, or higher uses.


MO said...

nice post :)

Dave Jenkins said...

Nobody is ever going to hire you again. . .