Thursday, July 31, 2008

Puppy love

I've been avoiding the phone for a while. Have somehow developed quite a dislike for the thing. It seems that whenever I answer there's something unpleasant, unwanted or irritating on the other end. The phone avoidance was having some consequences, though. Mostly financial, as I would have to return the calls once I'd got round to listening to the messages. And, as would happen, I would sometimes lose out on some work. People don't hang about while one sorts out ones little quirks.

So I started answering the phone. The 'answer the phone' muscle was quite atrophied, so it was painful at first. And I had just walked away from that client (another reason for phone avoidance), and so I couldn't afford to let anything slip by.

As it turns out, the first call I answered was from a lovely woman who had just imported a puppy from the UK and wanted some pics taken for her advert. Not your every-day, garden variety request, although I had thought of marketing myself as a pet photographer a while ago, and had photographed lots of animals in the past ... none of them in the studio, though.

I share a studio with another photographer and wasn't too sure how he would take to having a hound sniffing about the place. But I had created this space for new work and if it was going to dribble in in the form of puppy pics, who am I to argue? It's a huge studio, anyway, with cement floors, so if any damage was to be done, it would be minimal and moppable.

But it all just fell into place. The client turned up on time, without first cancelling a number of times (it's just amazing how many people miraculously fall down the steps and bump their heads just before a portrait shoot - there's a very, very slippery staircase out there somewhere). The puppy was gorgeous (okay, I am a sucker for a puppy) and, for her first shoot, an absolute pro. And my colleague was his usual gentle, charming self. It did help that he fell in love with the puppy too. It was all rounded off with prompt payment and an email of thanks for the pleasant experience and my creative work. Aaahhhh ... a far cry from taking abuse from a psychopathic publisher! Could I have more of these, please?

Maybe I will become a pet photographer after all!

Creating space

A few days ago I walked away from a client.


A huge chunk of my income has come from this client and, volatile as the relationship may have been, bills must be paid. But the fellow has a penchant for abuse. After a few weeks or months of being utterly charming, entertaining, funny and interesting, after sharing a few glasses of wine, some late-night chats, some witty emails, he will suddenly turn. Like a lightswitch that suddenly, one day, zaps your hand when you try to turn the light on.

I will be peacefully minding my own business, walking the extra mile on one of his projects, and a piano will fall from the sky. Interestingly, he catches me by surprise every time. He's really, really good at this.

It gave me a glimpse into the world of the battered wife who stays and stays. Who defends the batterer, listing all his good points ... you know, those ones that no one eslse can see.

And so we had trundled merrily along. Him giving me work, me doing the work. Him emailing me questions about photography, asking advice on photo ideas. Me generously dispensing the info he needs. And then it happened. The freight train smashed through my wall flinging abusive emails against my head.

Two days of defending myself, trying to diffuse with humour, with logic, with good, common sense, with appeals, and I am left feeling exhausted, beaten by Friday evening. Sitting staring at my parter and asking 'What on earth is wrong with me? How is it that I invite this into my life?'

And his answer? 'It's not that there's something wrong with you. It's just that you let these things carry on for too long. Most people would walk away after the first or second time. You try to see the bigger picture, make excuses for people, forgive. You don't carry grudges and so you can move on.'

So I sipped a glass of red and thought about things like self-esteem, self-worth, abuse, the price we pay for the things we have, which, of course, led to thoughts about bills needing to be paid.

And then I thought about the laws of attraction. Energies. Lots of thinking for a Friday evening.

And I thought: It's time for some self-respect. I can continue to take this abuse. I know it will come again. Or I can walk away. Walking away leaves a vacuum. A vacuum must be filled. It will be filled. If I clear the space, something will (somehow!) waft in and fill it.

So on Monday, with my heart beating hard, I handed back a project and closed a door in my head. The door that has this fellow's name on it.

Later that same day a lovely woman phoned and asked me to take photographs of her and her new puppy. Shortly after that, some boxes of wine (to photograph, not to drink!) were delivered. The next day someone else phoned and a little more work dribbled in.

I created a space and the space is slowly filling.