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Valentine’s Fray

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For starters, I’ve been sick with one thing or another since January 1st, and it’s getting old. First there was the shingles, which was miserable, and after that there’s this recurring UTI I can’t get rid of that I’ve dealt with twice already,  and then this week I picked up a wicked head cold that has me sneezing and snuffling and feeling generally miserable. My tutoring business is finally picking up, and there are a few potential projects I’d like to be focusing on right now, so constantly feeling like crap is both slowing me down and pissing me off. Not to mention the ongoing daily Trump assault that often finds me darting out of the house in no time flat to go protest some new executive order President Steve Bannon shits out over breakfast.

Speaking of projects, I’ve had this thing that keeps happening to me and it’s starting to work my last nerve. Someone will contact me about my photography – either offering to put me in a show or asking me to participate in some project – and when I express interest but request assistance because I’ve never had a gallery show or engaged in a photography project, the person who proposed the idea will be super-helpful for a day or two, then steadily lose interest in working with me until communication is cut off entirely and the whole idea fizzles. I am not sure why this keeps happening, but I can only assume it’s because these people don’t want to work with me if I need a lot of help to meet the requirements of their project, and while I can understand being hit with a bunch of questions over something you thought you could just throw out to someone and have them run with it is annoying, I hardly feel like the questions I’ve asked or the assistance/information I’ve needed has been excessive.

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For example, several years ago a friend of mine contacted me about possibly having a show at this gallery of which she was a board member. I was excited about the idea, but never having had a show I had no idea what it entailed, so I asked her how such a thing would come together. She informed me that when the gallery worked with artists, the framing (or in the case of photography, the printing and framing) of the pieces would be taken care of by the artist and delivered to the gallery. OK, so what are the requirements for printing? She didn’t know, but directed me to another photographer who’d had several shows at her gallery and said this person could probably help me. So, I contacted that person and after hearing back from her I asked several questions, such as – what size prints do you use, and how do you frame them, and what service do you use to get these things printed? She answered me noncommittally – something like, well I think I’ve done it this or that way, but I don’t really remember – and then she disappeared. I had a lot more questions for her, but after emailing her two more times I figured she wasn’t so game to help me out, and by that time, neither was the friend who’d originally made the offer. So, that was a dead-end.

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Now I feel like the same sort of thing is happening again. Three weeks ago, someone I follow on Facebook contacted me to ask if I ever did anything professional with my photos, and a conversation struck up around that. She was very enthusiastic about my work and asked if we could meet for lunch. We did so, and during that lunch this person was insistent that there was a market for my photographs through this nonprofit that offers art workshops to places like women’s shelters, halfway houses, nursing homes, etc. That may sound strange, but a perusal of their website shows that artists get hired by these places to offer workshops about, say, sculpting or poetry writing, where they teach the participants to do these things over the course of several hours. There was a wide variety of workshops offered, and it sounded like a cool thing to do that not only could pay me well for my time and provide me opportunities to photograph people other than myself, but that it was performing a nice service for people in need as well.

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My ‘workshop’ would have to be a bit different, though, because instead of having the participants make something, they’d just be posing for a portrait; a portrait I would work my Photoshop magic on and give to them as a fun picture of themselves looking in some way unusual and fun. It’s a nice idea, but I’ve struggled a bit with how to structure such a thing, and I’ve had some questions and I’ve been trying to put a proposal together for my friend to show to the organization. Logistical stuff, mainly, like how long can I really spend with each client if there’s just one of me and I have to shoot 10-12 people in a session, and how do I get their makeup done too without it taking forever to pull off? And how can I personalize these photos so that when I work with them I can incorporate the subjects’ personalities into them? Should I provide some sort of lesson or lecture about my portraits, portraiture in general, or sit down with each person and get to know them a little so I can include what they tell me in the final product? How much input do I want these people to have in the final result, and how much input is realistic given the time constraints?

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I also had questions about the proposal itself – how much should I charge, what additional fees should I include? How does any artist put a proposal like this together? How do you package and promote your artwork for different audiences without your art becoming something you no longer enjoy doing? OK, that last question is more just for me, but all of the others are genuine confusions I have about putting something like this together, so on occasion I’ve asked my friend some of them to see what she thinks. Keep in mind she was very, very enthusiastic about my chances of finding a niche with this organization when we met for lunch, so I’ve assumed she’d be willing to help me out as far as getting things together, but I may have been wrong about that, because in the last week or so I haven’t been hearing from her much, and her responses have been pretty brief. I’ve only contacted her with questions twice since we met, although I could definitely have asked her more, but I’ve been trying not to overwhelm her with requests for assistance.

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Still, I think I may have derailed this project somehow anyway, without meaning to do so, and I’m not sure why this keeps happening. Maybe because they like my photos people assume I know more about marketing, promoting, or even just printing my photos than I do, or that any 47-year-old woman should be able to figure this shit out for herself without needing help – I dunno. It’s not like I’ve been sitting around dreaming of the day I was able to work for a nonprofit taking portraits of people in nursing homes or shelters, and had an entire proposal at the ready  in case I was ever asked. It’s not like I’ve been preparing for the day someone gives me a gallery show, either, so when someone asks me if I want to do such a thing I’m all ready to do that, too (in fact, when it came to the gallery show, I did learn that I hadn’t even been editing my photos properly for printing anyway, and nothing I had up to that point would have worked).

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Come to think of it, though, I bet that’s exactly what these people have assumed. They see me as a photographer, not a hobbyist, so they do assume I already know these things and are ready and waiting to jump at the first offer I get. In fact, that’s probably what they would expect of any artist, since for many of them they are ready and waiting for someone to ask; I just never have been. I’ve never given these sorts of propositions any thought at all, so when someone presents me with an opportunity I expect them to help me get my shit together to pull it off – which I guess isn’t really the deal.

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On the flip side of that, though, is the thought that I’m not really sure this nonprofit thing is something I want to do. I’m not sure what I do is as right for their purposes as my friend thinks  it is, although she herself gets work through them and thinks I am a good fit. I just feel lost trying to put something together for it for one reason or another  – one reason, for example, is the fact that I think I’d have to bring a makeup artist with me to these sessions, and I don’t know any makeup artists. I’d also have to supply all the costumes, which includes accessories and wigs, and I’m not real sure how to package all of this stuff into a workable, time-efficient program. I feel like I need someone to bounce the whole thing off of, and my friend clearly isn’t going to be that person (one recent feedback she gave me was that my prices were “VERY reasonable,” which I took to mean I wasn’t charging enough money for my services, but she didn’t tell me what she would have considered reasonable).

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Lordy, I just don’t know, but I feel like my window of opportunity for this is narrowing, and I still don’t have a clear picture of how it should work. And this is on top of being sick in one form or another for a month straight, dealing with a sick father-in-law who is in the hospital, the daily Trump outrage, and juggling new clients, so that days go by right now where I haven’t even given the project any thought and don’t much feel like doing it, either. I don’t feel I’ve got any sort of grasp on it at all, which knocks it down to the bottom of my to-do list on a daily basis. You know how that goes.

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Anyway, in other news, I’m excited for Rene of Paris to come out with several new wig styles this month. There are several I’m waiting to try, and the company has some gorgeous new colors they’re adding to the line also (a pastel blue that looks fabulous and several delicious new brunettes). And as usual, they are keeping prices reasonable, which is great. I really want to try Sonoma and Evanna even though, being Rene of Paris wigs, they will probably be waaaaay too huge on me; ROP really goes overboard on the curls and swirls, but whatever. I haven’t made any videos in quite a while because I haven’t bought anything lately, but I will definitely be trying these two out and filming them in the future.

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As you can tell from these photos, I’ve been enjoying playing around with some of the Photoshop plug-ins I purchased but just couldn’t use with my old laptop; the Topaz Glow, Impressions, and Textures plug-ins in particular are really floating my boat right now, and I’m so happy to be able to use them again.

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I think this about catches me up for now; hope your February is moving along nicely and that you are having some sort of winter wherever you are. It was 85 degrees here today, which is depressing; aside from one weekend of freezing temperatures we’ve had no cold weather here at all this year, and I can’t remember the last time winter was so warm (that’s actually because it’s never happened; we’re breaking records for highest winter temps almost daily, it seems).

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