The shot was taken around 1985 at a Polaroid Sales Meeting. It was the closing night's party for approximately 350 people who made up Polaroid's domestic sales team. I was given the assignment to put the party together.
We made it a safari party, and everybody had to come appropriately dressed. For props, we had a thousand rubber snakes and alligators all over the place. We had a twelve-foot screen playing the original Tarzan movies, even a tree house on scaffolding in the middle of the room for the DJ.
We needed one more great prop! My boss signed off on $5000 to bring in Zippy the Chimp for the evening. Zippy was a star from Letterman's show because he roller skated while taking pictures with a Polaroid One Step camera. So, in I walked with my celebrity date for the night, hand in hand with Zippy the Chimp.
But here's the first point this image brings back. For most companies, the days of spending $5000 on a "prop" for a party are long gone. In fact, Polaroid is long gone! Our industry is continually changing and along with it many of the giants who helped build the foundation for photography no longer have the presence they once did.
I remember a conversation with a good friend from Kodak many years ago about marketing budgets. There was one year, late 80's I think, where she had fifty-three million dollars in funding for special projects, books, education, etc. Imagine having that kind of money floating around in the industry today!
Those days are gone, but that doesn't change the power or the success of so many new companies, artists, and concepts today. Yeah, the big bucks days are gone, but as an artist, your glory days are right now. Done right, you can reach more people than a newspaper or magazine had ten years ago. You've also got the most number of creative tools in the almost two-hundred year history of photography. You've got creativity, reach and technology all at your fingertips.
Take a look at your images from just two years ago and look at what you're capturing/producing today. Your skill set's grown and if you're doing it right, so has your network. You may not have millions of dollars in your marketing budget, but you've got something better - you've got a network to draw from and an industry that's creating new opportunities for artists every day!
And, there's one more point this throwback image hits me with - it's the magic you guys bring to the world every day. It's all about the power of a photograph.
I look at this image and smile ear to ear. I can see the way we had the room decorated. I remember the two knuckleheads who came to the party with surfboards in surf attire saying, "We thought it was a surfin' safari theme!" I remember people I used to work with and name after name comes up as I wonder, "Where are they today?" I wonder if Zippy is still around - I have no idea how long chimps usually live. And then I wonder what happened to my black hair too.
So, the next time you think you're just a photographer - think again. You're a magician, capturing moments out of time and giving us a gift of an intangible moment we can hold onto forever, and that's what makes me so grateful to have you in my network!