Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I photographed this comedian this week. He had a big show that night and I asked him if he ever got stage fright and he said no he had been doing it too long. And then I sheepishly asked him if he ever bombed on stage. He said no it had been a really long time since he had really tanked.

It got me thinking about myself of course. When was the last time I made a truly bad image? It has been a while for sure. In fact I remember it well. It was raining. The art director was there and I was working too hard to make him happy and ended up with something nobody liked. Of course it ran as a double truck and it still makes me wince to think about.

I remember when I was 16 working for the local weekly. I had turned a bathroom off my bedroom into a darkroom. In the summer in Baltimore it was so hot that I would process in my underwear. Once I put the fixer in before the developer and ended up with nothing. I felt like I was going to faint. I called the chief photographer who hired me and he said not to worry I could reshoot it for the following week.

Nothing feels as bad as blowing it.


Jeff Singer said...

Ok, there is two references to you in underwear in one week. I think thats a good limit, so you can stop now.


Timothy Archibald said...

I think nothing really feels as liberating as truly blowing an assignment. Things happen on photo shoots, sometimes out of one's control, sometimes within one's control, sometimes it is just some major intangible that will never be identified that allows a photo shoot to positively, absolutely tank.
When things so thoroughly fall apart, and they indeed have in my career, I am totally honest with the p.e. I don't pretend it's ok, or its fine, or anything like that. I've always simply stated "It just did not work out", and that information has always been recieved with understanding...and I'm often hired again. That is what seems to make it all seem liberating.

max s. gerber said...

Yeah, Tim. There's been a lot of talk on APE about how the definition of being a professional means delivering the goods each and every time, but the plain fact is that everybody - everybody - has bad days. The idea is just to get them fewer and farther between. The fact that Thomas has to think back to a bad day far in the past is a good sign. It's been a while since I truly blew it, too. Maybe we're all getting a little better, ultimately.

But also like Tim says, I think the definition of professionalism lies partly in how you deal with those bad days. Cop to it, definitely. If you handle those situations with grace and honesty and candor than you're likely to be met with understanding. We all like to think there are super-photographers out there, and maybe there are, but I think ultimately everybody relates to the occasional choke.

For me a find a lot of the trouble comes when I know I'm shooting for an editor or publication that has specifically requested the sort of picture that goes against my natural impulses. But bad days can be categorized in many ways. Sometimes I think it's been a bad day when I don't get something I like, even though the magazine is thrilled.

I think I understand what you're saying, Tim, about it being liberating. Getting rehired, that really helps. Getting rehired and then having the same editor be thrilled with the new results when they were previously shaking their heads on the bomb, that is liberating, indeed.