Commentary # 28 ~ February 2009
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If You Communicate (Well), They Will Come

February 2009

- by Craig Wassel

To me, one of the greatest honors you can receive in life is to be asked to be a part of honoring the life and memory of someone who has passed on.

My wife's grandmother passed away at the end of January, and I was asked to prepare a special print of a portrait I took of her (seen at right) that was placed on the alter at the memorial service. I am still, though, unable to express how honored and touched I was when my mother-in-law asked me if I would write and deliver the eulogy (link) for her mother.

Being asked to deliver a eulogy is not something you take on lightly. When I respectfully asked if it was appropriate for a non-blood relative to accept that honor, my mother in law lovingly replied that I was a part of the family, and that no one in the family had any reservations about it. She also said how much she thinks of these monthly commentaries, and that she had no doubt that I would express the sentiments of the family in a fitting way.

It's always a reflective time when a loved family member passes. My stream of thoughts took me many places, and also eventually helped me see something about my photography a little more clearly than I had before. A couple of years ago I was doing some location portrait work for an organization to which I belong. While there, a member who I did not know very well struck up a conversation with me. As it turns out, she was a long-time avid photographer. In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that a local a hospital displays a good number of my landscapes. I almost wished I had not, because she was a little taken back by it. She said she worked at that hospital, and she did not even have anything hanging there.

She asked me how that opportunity came about. I explained my relationship with an established art consulting firm in the area, and that the consultant had found me via this website. She went on to say that in all her years of making photos, she had never sold anything. She asked me how I got my business going. I really did not have an intelligent answer, and I replied, "I just slowly started getting business. It just sort of happened".

I wasn't trying to lie or even be evasive; I just had never really thought about it much. Still, what a bad answer and poor communication to a fellow photographer. After being asked by my mother-in-law to prepare and deliver a eulogy for her mother and then reflecting on many things afterwards, the important element of communication struck me very differently than before. Certainly I did not start writing these commentaries in the hopes that it would lead to public speaking opportunities, and I certainly did not hope that I would book some photography business from delivering that eulogy.

But - here is the point.

We photographers spend a lot of time shooting and working on and thinking about what we want to communicate via our work. There are no doubt photographers out there with stunning work that is known to few others beyond themselves. Many of them may be making photographs purely for their own satisfaction, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. For others who also want to get a business going, though, photographs that speak are not enough. Would Ansel Adams have gotten the opportunities and made the name for himself that he did without his involvement with and contributions to the Sierra Club and other conservation groups? Maybe, but more than likely not. For all I know, that photographer I spoke with could be an enormous unknown talent with tremendous earning potential.

So I have come to realize that my business did not just "sort of happen". Whether it was consciously or subconsciously intentional, I have at least attempted to communicate with others about my business, and have not expected my photography to do all the communicating for me. The communication can take many forms: a website, a logo, a business card, advertising, writing about photography, or teaching or public speaking about photography. I am sure there are many I have not mentioned or even thought of.

The more specific point is that we need to communicate and make connections with others if we want our photography to become a business. We need to pick a few of these areas we are good in and work them, and possibly make an investment in help in other areas. If we teach well and enjoy it, we should teach. If we don't have the skills to build a solid website, we can hire someone to help us.

I suppose you could take this "communication" element and just label it as marketing. I would rather keep with communication, though, because I think it keeps more with the spirit of the genuine connection we try to make with people through our work. So how does a photography business start? Obviously, the photography has to speak, but the other channels of communication have to flow, too. We need to try to make a connection with people the same way a portrait photographer tries to make a connection with her/his subject. We need to communicate if we want opportunities.

And if we communicate - and communicate well - they will come.

" . . It is more important to click with people
than to click the shutter. . . . "

~ Alfred Eisenstaedt ~

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Ida Peterson
1910 ~ 2009

Eulogy for Ida Peterson (link)

" . . . we need to communicate and make connections with others if if we want our photography to become a business. We need to pick a few of these areas we are good in and work them, and possibly make an investment in help for others . . . . "

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