Wednesday, April 13, 2011

SB3 Chicago

So what happens when you put a bunch of intensely competitive commercial photographers all in the same hotel for two and a half days and just throw ideas at them? A lot, an unbelievable amount actually. It'll take a while to see it all sink in, but if even half the people I saw, deliver on half the ideas they came away with what will happen will be yet another evolution in the centuries old practice of photography.

So where was I? I happened to have the incredible good fortune to attend ASMP's Strictly Business 3 convention in Chicago with a whole host of professionals from around the country. I got to meet people that were just starting off on their career. I saw people I've reached out to over the phone and in person for advice, and people whose work just simply takes my breath away. It was pretty cool. It was the first time in years I'd actually stepped way outside of my immediate circle to learn something and it was fantastic.

The format started with a series of one-on-one consultations, with some of the leading practitioners in the industry talking about my portfolio, my business and my way of thinking - pretty handy. Then into a series of workshops subdivided by key-note presentations and roundtable forums. The workshops were wonderfully varied, open and interactive. The key-notes were led by inspirational thinkers in the creative industry, outside of photography and the roundtables were positive and open - pretty much exactly what you want from a convention like this - the perfect mix to really generate new ideas.

I happen to be new to this industry, in my opinion. I am new like one of those adolescent toddlers, kinda precocious and silly. I am just learning my craft, developing my trade, finding my way and really enjoying it. I actually hope that in another thirty years, I'll still be new to this industry, because I'm sure this industry will be new to me. That's the nice thing about photography, it doesn't stand still. Sure, it's moved a little slower at times but it's constantly changing techniques, developing new styles and engaging people in new mediums. This change is sometimes led by us, as the practicing professionals and sometimes it is led by the wonderful people that demand our images and clamor for unique imagery. That is what fascinates me about the industry of photography.

So what did I actually get from it? One of my favorite moments was when I skipped lunch to beat up on my SEO for an hour. Or it could be the keynote where it boiled your entire brand down to being awesome, think about it - it'll work. Or discovering that there will always be change and I am going to have to search within myself to figure out how to continually adapt to that change. But the one thing that kept cropping up - personal work. I looked at the portfolio and realized that I'm looking at the sum of all these years of work. I am looking at the best of hundreds of thousands of images, countless hours all over the country, working with wonderful people on great projects, but the ones that I liked were the ones I put the most of me in. That's when it hit me, that beyond the clients, the stylists, the reps, the camera gear, the mortgage, the software and the silliness what makes me a photographer is my vision, my desire, my beliefs and my interests, but above all me. I will tell you one thing, I fully intend to put a lot more me in my work because when I do, my clients are happy, my team is happy and my work looks so damn good I fall in love with it.

So, to any creative professional wondering if going to one of these conventions is worth it, I have to say wholeheartedly, yes! It will really help you remember why you do what you do and how to make it better for you. In sixty years, when you lay that camera/pen/pencil/mouse/[insert creative tool here] down that will add up to a lot more fun memories and a lot more success.

PS. The other highlight of the event was seeing one of my images in the new Find a Photographer video - pretty cool to see something from your portfolio make the cut, when they have over 7400 portfolios to consider.

PPS I didn't take a camera - I think I was the only person there. But I did take two ears, and I really hoped I made use of them. Enjoy the bonk, breakfast and Charlie Sheen images - my finest work!

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