Saturday, December 11, 2010

My First Paid Photography Gig

I've kept this to myself for many years, now, I feel the need to get it off my chest. What better time to come clean than just before the holidays and the start of a new year? My very first paid photography gig was photographing children with Santa Claus.Yes, that's right, don't make me say it again.

I had just graduated from high school and got a job as a salesman at Malloy's Cameracade in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I was a good salesman, real good, I had Nikon F2's, Canon AE-1's and Minolta SRT's flying off the shelves. I enjoyed the job and was told by my boss that I had a future with the company if I wanted. I thanked him, but told him I wanted to be a photographer and I planned on going to art school.

One day, just after Thanksgiving, The Manager of Foodland came in to the store and asked my boss to recommend someone to take photographs of kids with Santa. He recommended me. The job paid $50. Not having any real negotiating skills at the time I accepted his offer. Remember this was the late 70's, by today's standards that'd be about $5,000.

That was then, today he would have just posted the job on Craigslist, offering no money but saying things like,  "It would be a great addition to your portfolio" or "Wonderful opportunity to network with parents who could hire you to photograph their children during other special occasions."What a difference a few decades can make.

I shot the job, got a check. Not only was I paid but I also got face time with the "Big Man" himself,  I even sat on his lap and told him what I wanted for Christmas. I have a picture to prove it but it's for my eyes only. Santa did not disappoint, that year I found a  Canon FTB under the tree on Christmas morning.

Happy Holidays to all.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Immigrant Family, Ellis Island

One of my first assignments in an advanced Photoshop class was to make a composite in which one person appeared in the image multiple times. The assignment was called "Bring in the Clones." We had studied the work of Henry Peach Robinson, one of the most prominent art photographers of his day. His first and the most famous composite picture, "Fading Away" (1858) was both popular and fashionably morbid. He was a follower of the Pre-Raphaelites and was influenced by the aesthetic views of John Ruskin.

I began the assignment by going through my archive to find a background on which to assemble a composite. The Idea to create a portrait of my ancestors as immigrants, came to me when I found an image of the Registry Room, on Ellis Island. I had taken the photo a few years before, while on a family trip to New York City.

My wife Lori, our son Wynn and I, dug through our wardrobes to find vintage looking clothing. Lori and I had it easy, once we were dressed we just had to sit back and look stoic. Wynn, on the other hand, had to change three times and each time invent a different persona.

Back then, there was no "One and Done" philosophy, couples had many children to help with the daily chores and there were no child labor laws. The more children you had the greater the family income. Infant mortality was much higher then as well.

Final image is a composite of four photographs, The registry room, the triangle composition of Myself, Lori & eldest Wynn, then Wynn with glasses and bow tie, and last but not least, Wynn as his own sister, which I'll bet comes up in a therapy session, or two, at some point in the future. I'm sure my parenting skills will be called into question. Whether or not I'm around to defend myself, and my art, remains to be seen.

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