Life at a crossroads.
“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” —Winston Churchill
At one point in my life, change was a constant. It’s the one thing in life you can count on, right? In today’s world, change is something you can’t escape. And it’s happening faster than ever before. Our world is at a tipping point. Ask anyone. Even the most cynical and jaded observer will agree.
Truth be told, I never started out to be a wedding photographer. I earned a degree in commercial advertising photography and worked my butt off to be the best I could be as a professional photographer. My 20 year career has been an amazing journey. Not only have I seen and survived the complete revolution digital brought to my profession, I’ve traveled to amazing locations, photographed celebrities, world leaders—but best of all, I’ve witnessed and captured the most amazing stories of love. Stories that have left an impression and inspired me.
About two years ago, I felt a shift in my business. More than the effects of the economy, something fundamental changed and it caught nearly everyone off guard. I’ve seen photographers shut their doors and walk away. Shooters that I admire and respect, not only for their artistic talent, but their business savvy. That’s when I knew things were getting serious. There’s been a great deal of speculation as to the reasons why. Some will argue that it’s a lack of business and marketing skill. Others feel it’s the proliferation of new and unskilled photographers flooding the industry. People displaced from their jobs, who’ve always enjoyed taking pictures and have access to cameras with the technology to get them 80% of the way there.
There’s no lack of discussions, blog posts and news articles on the reasons why. There’s certainly some truth to all of it, but I’ve been doing this long enough to realize that part of it has always been true. I’m not here to crush anyone’s dream of being a photographer. No, this is something completely different. And it’s touching our lives straight across the board, in nearly every industry.
What I do know is that the days of being able to support my family by photographing weddings is over. Thankfully, I have a strong background and sensibility for commercial advertising and that’s been my saving grace. But the time for change has come. It’s not personal, it just feels that way.
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” —Anatole France
They say that action is character. I’ve educated myself, worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for years. There are no shortcuts and I’m not afraid to work hard. I’ve mastered consistency and competency. I’ve defined a point of view, a style of shooting. My specialty is photographing people and their stories. I’ve always felt that if you followed your passion and worked hard, that you’d be successful. But none of this has been enough. It was time to reinvent Randy. How would I do this?
The tipping point for me was around the beginning of the year. There simply was no work, anywhere. The time had come to give serious consideration to the reality that this was going to get a lot worse before it got any better. I needed to swallow my pride, step up as a man, a provider for my family and do whatever I needed to make ends meet. That’s when I heard about a New Year’s resolution contest on the Kim Komando radio show that I listened to on weekends.
The contest was simple. Share your story about what you resolved to do. Make every word count. Think it over, take action and bring inspiration. Kim personally reads each entry and would pick one person a week to help. These had to be realistic, achievable goals. I decided it was worth sharing my story. So I did. It was a story of gratitude for my amazing career that was at a standstill for no apparent reason. I asked for a professional to help me dust off my resume and find a job.
I’ll never forget the day Kim called me and personally shared with me that she had selected me as the first winner in the contest. How she was moved by my story and had taken the time to visit my website and look through the image galleries. How she felt the connection and emotion I captured in my images. That it moved her. Something that was special and unique. So she asked if I was willing to continue on this path, because she and her team had come up with a very special prize to help me take my career to the next level.
I have a lot of different skill sets that would seemingly make me a valuable commodity in any company, but I’d put my entire life, heart and soul into being the photographer I am today. If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know how passionate I am about this. Capturing people’s stories and preserving their legacy. In sharing my own struggles and helping others along the way. It would be very hard to set all of this aside and walk away.
Realizing this, Kim, her staff, the wonderful folks at Carbonite and iStockphoto created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help me reach my full potential. The break I’d always dreamed of coming my way. They are sending me to London this next week to attend the World Photography Festival and then iStockalypse. To realize how life-changing all of this is, visit the links and look at the schedule. I’m being given the opportunity to reinvent myself and carry forward a lifetime of experience. To build alliances, relationships and partnerships that will help me leverage my career in a way I could never do on my own.
Stock photography has also been hit hard by the economy and there are many who will argue that it’s becoming impossible to have a career shooting stock, but I’m not afraid of a challenge. I’m focused on giving this my best shot (pun intended) and making Kim and her staff proud. For the choice they’ve made to use their position to change people’s lives. And speaking of the character in action, take a moment to read Kim’s personal story. This is a woman who’s worked hard to accomplish her goals and has endured life’s greatest challenges. Her radio show has always been a part of my life. She has a gift for helping people understand the complex technology we live with every day. From computers and software to digital cameras and privacy issues. There is a real person behind the show that cares about people and helping them understand technology to better their lives.
Months have passed since the prize was announced. The time has come to begin the journey. To make the transition into a new phase of life. I am blessed beyond words, not only for being present and aware during this transitional period, but for the friends in my life. From my photographer friends to my clients who have trusted me with their stories and in doing so, share a connection with me. So much support and encouragement that I am humbled to the point of being speechless.
Rod is a photographer from Australia. He and I have known each other for decades. We’ve become close and dear friends. He, more than anyone, shares and understands my personal frustration. He’s been supportive in word and deed, offering wisdom through the years.
“This adventure you are about to go on will be an amazing self discovery. I liken to what it must be like for astronauts—just you relative to the world at that moment. You will feel invigorated, lonely and appreciative.” —Rod
And this letter that arrived last week from Michael. I photographed his wedding years ago. He is a talented photographer in Seattle and we’ve stayed in touch sharing information about photography, business, marketing and life.
I’ve had this 20 pound note in my wallet since our last trip to England. It’s not doing me much good and it’s probably time it makes it’s way home. I know it’s not much, but should be good for a pint or two—perhaps around Piccadilly Circus. Best of luck on your “Redefining Randy” tour. Safe Travels. —Michael
One door closes, another opens. I am so thankful for the people, circumstances, successes and unfulfilled expectations. It’s hard to accept this generosity, it’s not in my nature. But I honor it, bless it and breathe in the perfectness of it all. I know in my heart this is a transition that is timely. I marvel at what is coming my way. The beginning of a new adventure that holds creativity, wealth, freedom, peace and grace. Magic is happening.
My mind set for this trip to London is simply show up with intent. Not getting attached to how things should look, but to have clear intention and be detached from the outcome. Being open to how it comes to me and simply live in the moment. Sometimes we don’t leap, we are pushed.
Kim… if you are reading this… I am sincerely blessed to have been given this opportunity. I will do my best to honor what you’ve created for me and pay it forward when my time comes. Saying thank you seems so empty and shallow compared to what you’ve done. But thank you! And special thanks to Carbonite and iStockphoto for helping sponsor this life-changing event.
I’ve just finished reading a book on procrastination. The author stated that one of the best ways to finish something you start is to publicly state your intention and have your readers hold you accountable. So here goes. I want to share this journey with you. A daily diary of sorts. To post once a day while on my adventure in London, sharing the stories of the day along with photos. To bring you along and see how life meets intent. This means that you must hold me accountable. Inspire a conversation by leaving a comment.