10.14.2020

Some thoughts on managing entropy.


Jeez, I'm feeling ancient these days. My hair has just about finished turning light grey, I'm slowing down a bit in the pool, and huffing and puffing more when running the hills. I don't hear quite as well in my left ear as I used to. I always feel like taking a nap around 3 in the afternoon. I have less tolerance for people who waste my time and even less patience for unnecessary meetings and phone calls. One glass of wine at dinner and I'm sleepy. I can accurately guess the plot and the ending of any movie after the first ten minutes; which takes all the fun out of watching movies. 

I had a client tentatively book a couple of portraits for today but they never got back to me with times, etc. They called in a panic yesterday afternoon to see if I could still accommodate them today but I assumed, when everything went radio silence that they'd made other plans. So I made other plans. 

They were stunned when we e-mailed today to tell them that our next open day would be November 9th. I don't know what happened to this year. We started out in the Spring with everything cancelled. Nothing stirring. No jobs or projects. And now we're booking a month ahead. 

But the real issue for me is how to gracefully reduce the amount and types of work I've done in the past so I have more time to play before entropy catches up with me and puts caps on the quotient of fun we're allowed. The quantum of joy.

It's a delicate balance between boredom and that feeling of obligation. I think everyone who works at something they are passionate about has mixed feelings about paring down their time commitment. I've started eliminating jobs that I just don't want to do anymore. I'm burned out on studio headshots so I've been declining that kind of work left and right. There are a few clients who I like a lot, personally, and I'll continue with them but I no longer have the emotional bandwidth to sound excited about: "sharpening my pencil" to make a competitive bid for strangers at companies with which I have no history. Especially clients who want boring, safe, normal photos.

I've also been ruthless about turning down the sort of bread and butter commercial work that's stupid, exhausting and which has a half-life of about 3 months. To wit, we no longer accept catalog-type jobs shooting products against white backgrounds. Those icky products would be things like desktop computers, electronics and assorted tech gadgets. 

We just declined to bid on a project to shoot tons and tons of food images in one 8 hour day for a national restaurant chain. It was an unrealistic "ask" and I didn't even want to go through the usual routine of either bidding it high enough to make them go away or default to telling them "we're already booked." I finally, honestly just said that we weren't interested and suggested that there are many hungrier photographers out there who could really use the work. 

This new resistance to work extends to big studio projects for national manufacturers. Someone got in touch to see if they could book two days in December to have me photograph very large metal cabinets filled with servers and electronic stuff, in my studio. The enclosures measure eight feet by nine feet. They would not even fit in the studio door. And we know how those "two day" jobs expand. First there's an endless flurry of phone meetings. That's followed by a few reschedulings. Followed by a request that we be on-hand to receive a couple of multi-ton products a couple days in advance. Followed by two days of unrealistic expectations and those endless: "this was a demo/prototype/loaner/damaged in shipping item. Can you extensively Photoshop it to get rid of all the scratches, uneven paint, broken parts, etc.?" Followed by, "The soonest the freight company can come by and pick up these things taking up all your space is....next week," Ah....two days. We'd like to book a two day shoot that will take over your life like a virus...

So, those jobs are gone. Rejected. Trashed. But I guess it's about time to prune the deadwood of jobs. 

I love taking portraits. Haven't slowed down in the least. But I just want to pick the people I photograph, not the people who get sent over by companies anxious to populate a boring website with their "team." 

Really, I'd love to just keep working on getting better and better at making little movies, and personally interesting photographs of people. Of course, if we weren't in the middle of a raging pandemic I'd want to spend lots and lots of time traveling. And hanging out in cool places with Belinda. 

Things are good within the confines of our little half acre. We've always got personal projects on which yo work. We have our morning walks after my earlier morning swims. We cook meals together and enjoy each other's company. But I've never been so aware of the passage of time. Or the oppressive nature of being bound into one geographical area so tightly. 

I'm assuming so much of what I'm feeling today is a result of dealing with the shock and horror of turning 65 years old this month. I guess this new reticence to do any boring commercial work started around the time I had to figure out Medicare. That was last month. It required me to admit that even though I have the maturity of an 18 year old I really am transitioning to, um, middle age. With only forty or fifty years left in front of me I'm thinking it's past time to concentrate on the stuff I really want to do as opposed to all those projects I used to feel that I had to do. 

I'm guessing the majority of my readers have already figured this out. I used to think it was different for everyone but more stuff is the same than it is different. We get gray. We slow down. We want to stay relevant as long as we can. Ah well, enough complaining. I need to pack. I'm photographing an outdoor concert at Zach Theatre this evening and I want to bring fun toys to experiment with. First concert shoot using the Lumix S1H. The other camera is the S1. It will be interesting to see if they are interchangeable or if they each have their own quirks. But that's a blog for another day.