Saturday, September 15, 2007

Tupac/Biggie...50 Cent/Kanye West...Tommy Lee/Kid Rock and now.....Broening/Saunders

Photo/Jonathan Saunders

I got my first flame and I wear it like a purple heart.

Jonathan Saunders commenting on my blog:

"haha, i love the advertising photographer ($ making, family supporting, nice lifestyle), starting the ball rolling in complaining about having to hear the struggles of those less fortunate then he, thomas, if its so offensive to you to hear the struggles of others, don't read it, i have dropped reading you regularly as your constant bragging is equally annoying as those that bitch. so this was the perfect thread to create, a backhanded insult to other photographers not as successful as you disguised again as a chance to brag.

if this blog was to be another tool for you to pimp yourself, make it that way and leave it that way, don't piss on others to further yourself."

I just started shooting again when I first met Jonathan. It was after the temping/nanny period but before I figured out how to make a living as a photographer.We met at a photo group and I assisted for him a few times. My wife and I refereed to him simply as "the genius". As in , who was that on the phone? Answer: The Genius.

His pictures were a mix of the best of Richard Morgenstein and Dan Winters. I always struggled with the basics of composition and lighting. Invariably in my photographs there would be a pole sticking out of a guy’s head or a harsh shadow I didn't know how to get rid of. Somehow he always made it look easy.

Since I was a kid people have always said I was obsessed with photography but I was like a hobbyist compared to Jonathan. He was always taking pictures, or looking a pictures or talking about them.

I am amazed as anyone by the limited success I have had. When my wife tells people I am a photographer there is an awkward pause as if they are waiting for her to say "but he works in a office during the day '. As if being a photographer is like being a modern dancer, poet or potter. You certainly can't support four children doing it.

I lost a monster campaign a couple years ago. I had shot it twice before and felt it was mine. I felt the other photographer was a hack (he was not) and had under bid the job (he had not).I had been wronged and robbed! For months I was full of anger and resentment. It affected my relationship with my family, friends and rep. It was not pretty.

Years before during the "temping years" I was often broke. Extremely broke. When I met my wife she was on food stamps and we all agreed I married up. I had a friend who was a messenger and we would hang out at Mel's diner on
Lombard at night. I would order water and hope he would order a milkshake. He would drink the part in the glass and slide the extra bit that came in the metal container across the table to me. It cost $4.25.

When I measure my progress from where I started I have no option but to stand in awe. When I compare myself to where I think I should be I tend to spend my time complaining and see every interaction as a slight.

I wish I could report that I spend all my time thinking about that milkshake and not the monster that got away. But that would be a lie. Wouldn't it?


Jonathan Saunders said...

well yeah, this was kinda my point lost in all my rhetoric and over reaction, realize where you are, where you are is quite special.

while i had no idea you thought so highly of me back then, or now for that matter, (remember how you felt to be mentioned on another persons blog, same, x10).

some photographers still live that way sometimes in this roller coaster, people you know and people i know, selling film cameras they'd rather keep to pay rent or afford that next promo, mooching food off others, having people their in relationships leave because they see no future with a struggling photographer, making choices on having children about money instead of love, living in places they shouldn't, giving up things they shouldn't, bad life choices for good business choices. its one thing when you're starting out, but after the struggles we all went through back then, to have it still be the same, is not so special. not everyone's story is that of what they overcame once or that 5-6 figure job they got once or didn't. it's still how to pay the rent. so seeing those that are fortunate, get tired of hearing or see others frustration in a quest for success, is simply troubling. of all the photographers we knew starting out compared to those we know now, its as terrifying as it is fascinating. often, the public perception of a photographer these days doesn't match the reality, who would want to let an PE know they eat ramen noodles while doing a 5 page story for their magazine? some up and downs for those we know are more extreme then others may realize. i of course have had similar moments, as i bet we all have, which is why i realize it's good when its good.

i had this same conversation with another photographer recently as all too often i think the 'bitching' doesn't go away regardless of where photographers are at in their career, so i can obviously relate to the original point you had, we all look forward, but complaining about an ad campaign is really different then waiting for your half of a free milkshake.

the photographer spoke of being unhappy and was bitching, so i asked what exactly were they unhappy about, the last ad shoot, the pretty spouse and kids, the wonderful home, the gear, the shooting spaces.... it was quiet for a moment as they relived their version of the story you told above, then they got back to work.

we are making the same point, just telling it different, or maybe i live too in touch with how it always could be again, like for instance saying too much on a blog clients read... altho these stories are not unique to photographers, it's all part of life.

bitch about moving forward, don't bitch about hearing the same struggles you once had to overcome.

Brian Smith said...

Watching you guys fight it out is like an Ultimate Fighting Throwdown between Urkell and Skreetch...careful you could break a nail...

ThomasBroening said...

Lilliputian pulitzer prize winning cock rockers will of course not be able to follow the high minded discussion on these pages

Brian Smith said...


Maybe to Shaq...

ThomasBroening said...

mental Lilliputian -squeeze me

Brian Smith said...

You are such an Urkell...

Jonathan Saunders said...

yeah that leaves me as screech, prolly the worst thing i ever been called... ouch.