Don't Shoot the Messenger
"Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Dark Of Night
Shall Stay These Couriers From The Swift Completion Of Their Appointed Rounds."
by Skip Cohen
It's going to be tough for today's Sunday Morning Reflections to not sound like a rant. But I'll do my best to at least be relevant. The topic is the USPS, and I wonder if the quote above, known as the Postman's Oath, is still valid.
Yesterday I went to the mailbox, and there was a holiday card from our good buddies Mark and Tony in Cleveland, mailed on December 23. The good news is in two parts - first, I got it. Second, it was the stimulus for a call to them to wish them a happy new year and find out what they've been up to. However, 5 1/2 weeks travel time for a card from Cleveland to Florida?
I bought Sheila something for the holidays and ordered it online around December 1. From December 15 to January 12, the tracking information showed the expected 12/15 delivery date and simply said, arriving late. The company I ordered from was doing their best and about to issue a refund when it finally arrived.
One of the hats I wear is CMO for Platypod. I'm very proud of our fulfillment department because they haven't missed a day since the pandemic started. Also, orders in by early afternoon almost always ship the same day - but then the mystery begins. And 2-3 weeks after that correspondence from our customers starts, as people inquire about their orders.
So, here's my point, and it's one we all need to remember. I know the pandemic has turned shipping upside down. Tracking information is rarely right because it's not being updated regularly. And if you're outside the US, carriers are limited by the availability of flights. For example, in the early days of the pandemic, I was told there had been a 75% reduction in flights to Australia.
One side of me understands the challenges the USPS, FedEx, and other carriers have had to deal with. Let's face it - this wasn't a year that thousands of people were going to be waiting outside Walmart for the Midnight Madness sale on Black Friday! But the other side of me can't help but feel these carriers completely underestimated the pandemic's impact on consumer buying patterns this past season.
As I asked the postmaster at my local post office in mid-January, what was going on, he looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "I've got packages I'm still waiting for!" And if you Google USPS delays, you can take your pick from dozens of articles and videos talking about the backlog, which, based on my card from Cleveland yesterday, they're still dealing with.
And that brings me right to the bottom line. It's not the fault of your mail carrier, Fedex or UPS driver or the companies you've ordered from - Don't shoot the messenger!
Wishing everybody a Sunday loaded with plenty of on-time deliveries of memory-making moments. While the pandemic has created an excess of time, don't waste it on things that don't really matter. Let those people most important in your life know they're on your mind with a phone call, text, IM or email - just don't send a card.
Happy Sunday - or Monday if you're on the other side of the world!
Laughing Through a Changing Industry
by Skip Cohen
It's "Sunday Morning Reflections," but while I'm going to be off-track from business and marketing, I want to stay close to the topic of what I love most about the photography industry. I've written many times that the best thing about this industry has nothing to do with photography, but the friendships that come out of everyone's love for the craft!
Continuing to function through the pandemic would be impossible if it wasn't for my friends. Everybody has lots of friends, but think about those select few who are most important to you - you know, the ones you'd give up a kidney for. Even more important today, the ones that help keep your spirits up when you want to give up! They're your cheerleaders, and conversations sometimes turn into pep-rallies.
Here's a perfect example - my buddy Tony Corbell! We met in 1987 when I joined Hasselblad, and the company was a sponsor of Dean Collins' Tour. Years later, I'd succeed in closing the best sell-job of my career: talking Tony into giving up his view of the Pacific Ocean at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara for a parking lot in New Jersey, to work for Hasselblad.
We've laughed and cried our way through years of adventures working with so many of the artists who set the stage for making the industry what it is today. Dean Collins, Don Blair, and Monty Zucker, for example, are just three of the incredible legacy we both feel responsible for and maintain right up through this very minute. They left behind the standards for quality and excellence we all need to stay focused on, even through the compromises we have to make because of the pandemic.
Well, On November 2, Tony and I join another good friend, John Cornicello, on his podcast, and we're just going to have fun. We're going to share some of our favorite stories about the legends of this industry. "Fun" is one of those lost words today, buried under the stress of business, politics, and the economy. Well, we're going to do our best to bring it back. With John's help, you'll understand even more about why, like so many of you, there is no other industry we could have ever been this happy being in.
Tony and Skip's Awesome Adventures just might top Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure - Plus, you can count on plenty of stories about the legends you might have met over the years, or at the very least you should know!
Wishing everybody a terrific Sunday and time to create new adventures with those people most important in your life. It's our friends who keep us going when times get the toughest. Hunkering down is all about your health, not keeping in touch. And as my buddy Bob Coates got us all thinking about early on, "social distancing" is a misnomer - we have to stay social, but physical distancing is the point.
Happy Sunday...or Monday if you're on the other side of the world!
See you on November 2!
by Skip Cohen
I recently found a series of posts I'd written many years ago, and this one hit me as being just as relevant today, as it was back then. In fact, it might be more relevant today, since the pandemic has us talking and sharing more online.
I love it when somebody tells me, "I want to share something with you, but you've got to keep it just between us!" I smile and usually say, "If you're really uncomfortable, don't tell me, but be assured nothing ever gets passed on." I'm proud of the fact I've never passed any of those secrets on, but here's my point.
If you have something private and it would hurt somebody to repeat it, keep your mouth shut and keep it confidential. I know every time somebody tells me to "please keep it quiet," that I'm easily the 100th person who's been told. Add to the number of people who already heard the big secret before me; we're in an industry notorious for being way too inbred!
By inbred, I'm referring to the fact that everybody I know has at least one other company under their belt before whatever they're doing now. Use my own experience as an example. I started out working at Polaroid, then Hasselblad, followed by an Internet company and Rangefinder Publishing. At one point in the early '80s, at least five people from my Polaroid days worked at Fujifilm. While at Hasselblad, I wound up on the Board of the Center for Creative Photography. Who was chairman of the board? Peter Wensberg, past VP of Advertising at Polaroid.
Now, take anybody you know in the industry who's got a big secret and decides it's safe to tell just a handful of isolated people. Within a day or two, there might be hundreds who know about it, and even more damaging might be the consequences if word got out.
It's like playing the stages of the Kevin Bacon game. Take anybody who's been around more than ten years in photography, and I'm willing to bet you can connect them to almost anybody else in 3-4 stages.
So the moral of the story is, don't share your secrets unless you want them released. The best way to spread the news in the industry? Just tell somebody, "Please don't tell anybody but…"
by Skip Cohen
It's a typical Sunday morning. If you're new to Reflections, be warned: I always go off track, typically writing about something other than business and marketing in imaging. This morning is too good not to share, and if you have fun with this and get involved, then I'll take credit - if you hate the idea, it's all Glen Clark's fault! LOL
Glen and I have been friends since a meeting at Kodak in the early nineties. We've worked on different projects together, caught up at various shows/conferences, and shared a bunch of meals together. And we grab a phone call with each other regularly. We've had a lot of great ideas and laughs over a twenty-five-year friendship, and we're not letting the pandemic slow us down.
Yesterday he sent me the images below and wrote:
Oh thank God...I finally got a haircut today. I still think you should do some "before and after"
Covid looks on your blog. I think it'd be hilarious (and eye-opening).
So, I'm running with the idea. Let's start our own gallery of photographers with BP (Before Pandemic) and AP (After Pandemic) images of haircuts, beards, anything fun in the grooming category. Everyone has been forced to let their hair grow through some part of the mandatory or voluntary quarantine.
Here at our house, I finally trusted Sheila to cut my hair. As Florida's Covid-19 numbers spike again, we're not going to the barber/salon. But I have to admit, she's cut my hair twice, and she's getting good at it. And if she screws up - who cares? Nobody's close enough to see it anyway!
Then I remembered a month ago another great friend, Melissa Ghionis shared her "BP" and "AP" hair. She wrote on Facebook:
About 14 weeks without a haircut (since WPPI!!!) made for a very rough "growing out stage"!
Thankfully Jerry doesn't love me for my looks.
And also thankfully Todd White is an amazing man and made me look like me again.
Sadly, Lucy didn't do quite as well as the rest of us when I bought a dog grooming kit. Fortunately, the mirrors are all too high for her to reach and see herself. Otherwise, we'd have a case of puppy PTSD on our hands. I definitely took too much off the top, but she seems to have forgiven me so far.
So, how brave are you? Let's have some fun with this and share your before and afters...and if you're still in the before mode, share the image anyway. Send it to me in an IM on Facebook. Let's get an industry gallery going, with no other purpose than having fun.
Remember, "fun?" It's a word that's too often lost, especially over the last few months. Time to get it back!
Wishing everybody a day filled with a few laughs and simply having fun. We'll get through this crisis, and while we'll never look back and laugh, that doesn't mean we can't have a few chuckles NOW! Thank you for following me; thank you for your support and, most importantly, thank you for helping me stay focused on what's important - this morning, a little laughter!
Stay safe and healthy!
Some Words Just Don't Fit
by Skip Cohen
One of my longest time best buddies in the industry is Bob Coates. His work has been featured regularly on the SCU blog, most recently, last week with "Naked Bob" and a unique project he put together with a group of artists in Sedona.
Bob's always been ahead of the times. In fact, 2-3 years ago, after coming home sick after every major convention, he replaced handshakes and bro-hugs with an elbow bump. Within a year, so many of us had picked it up because it just made sense!
Bob is back with another idea and again ahead of his time. In a Facebook post, he wrote:
I would love for people to change the term from Social Distancing to Physical Distancing. Every time I read or see the first phrase it is like fingernails on a blackboard. We can be social at a physical distance.
Language matters. Social distancing imbues a fully negative connotation and reinforces a negative feeling vs physical distancing, a more friendly way to direct proper safety procedures.
Well, I don't know about you, but I like it a lot. The truth is, from a purely social perspective, the pandemic has brought me closer to a lot of people. I'm in touch through social media much more, and between Facebook, email, and the phone, I'm keeping in touch with friends more than the usual 2-3 times a year we'd catch up at a conference.
So Bob, as the James Dean of linguistic rebellion, who most readers will have to look up to see who he was, I'm with ya.
Never Lose Your Sense of Humor
by Skip Cohen
Last Sunday, I was on a "staycation," at the end of a week off to clear my head. I needed a break. We didn't go anywhere, just hung out at home, enjoyed each other and the pups, while binge-watching good and bad movies. A tropical storm blew into South Florida, so we spent a lot of time inside.
I'm back this morning, and my post yesterday seems to have sparked opinions from all sides, including one person who gets the Uninformed Jackass Award and runner-up for the saddest use of the F-bomb. He(or she) told me the flu comes the same time every year with the same number of deaths and never shut down the economy.
And on that note, I set out to write today's Sunday Morning Reflections. One key point I wanted to make yesterday - you've got to take care of yourself and the people you love and care about. I have no idea who to believe about anything lately, so we're going to continue to hunker down. However, I have noticed some interesting discoveries while in hunker down mode:
And to my "buddy" who told me this is just another flu season...no need to put on a mask. With your head where it is, you'll be protected. You just won't be able to drive.
Time to wrap it up and simply wish you a great Sunday and time to think about how to make your life better. None of us know who to believe in where the pandemic is taking us, but we are an industry that watches out for each other, and we can get through this together.
Wishing everybody a day filled with peace, love, and respect for other people's opinions, even when you want to choke the crap out of them. Never lose your sense of humor.
Happy Sunday, or Monday if you're on the other side of the world. Stay safe and healthy.
A Rant, But With a Positive Twist
by Skip Cohen
Like most of you, I'm tired of dealing with the pandemic. It's the topic everywhere. Even commercials on TV have changed to a social distancing theme. One company after another wants to assure us we're all in this together...but the reality not everybody is!
All of us as an industry might be in it together, but the number of stupid people on the planet seems to be growing. I had some fun this morning and Googled "stupid things done during the pandemic." I found a treasure chest of gems at buzzfeed.com.
They shared 19 stupid things people have done or said. Here are two more of my favorites:
I'm putting a few of my favorites below:
With Father's Day and graduation still in the timeline, there are so many opportunities to start getting back a small piece of your business as a photographer. There's no question it won't be easy, and business has changed, but many of you just need an encouraging first step to getting back on track...and this is where we are, all in it together.
by Skip Cohen
Over the last few weeks, a lot of friends have sent me pictures of strange DIY pandemic outfits. Every one of them has made me laugh, and wondered what was going through their heads when they created their personal safety gear. Well, two hours ago I went out to do a fast, safe shopping. Headed into Ace Hardware next door was this guy.
We're talking serious DIY skills here and protection. First, he's got a mask on. Then, notice the construction of the plexi window - those are rivets or short bolts down either side. Then on the top is some kind of filter, and I'm assuming fan. Last but not least, the rubber gloves!
Best of all was that he got out of a stunning new white Cadillac SUV. Although, I didn't notice if he had the gear on while driving. My guess is that he's short on clearance with the vent pipe on the top.
The finishing touch, though, is the statement printed on the top.
"I am perfectly healthy & want to remain that way."
No, sir, I'm not sure you are. LOL
And there you have it - DIY at its very best and original - not some hand-me-down joke circulating the Internet. Osprey, Florida home of the 2020 Danger Will Robinson Play-offs!
If you've spotted any great DIY outfits wherever you are, feel free to share them here! But they have to be first-generation pass-along - meaning you have to have spotted them yourself.
You can find anything on YouTube...posted by WhiteWaterStu
Living With the New Normal
by Skip Cohen
The only thing still consistent for me on Sundays is how much I enjoy writing Sunday Morning Reflections. As I've written so many times in the past, it's therapeutic and often more for my benefit than my readers. Well, needing a therapeutic moment at least once a week is another characteristic of what's become the new normal.
Over the years, I thought I did an excellent job of adjusting to all the changes. I accepted my loss of privacy as my phone suddenly was with me everywhere I went. I learned not to take it personally when somebody was talking to me, and the call was dropped. I adjusted to all caps in an email, meaning somebody was yelling at me. I ate lower carbs. I changed my vitamins each time research showed that whatever I was taking was no longer a healthy solution...on Vitamin E - off Vitamin E etc. I gave up ties, then suits and sport jackets, then accepted completely casual attire. I even tried to like eating Kale!
Life was so easy just seven weeks ago!
I now have five masks to choose from when running to the market. I say hi to neighbors, but I don't always know who they are because of their mask. ( I had my first wardrobe malfunction at the register: My mask slipped off one ear and my left cheek was exposed!) The old Jerry Seinfeld "close talker" episode would now be anybody five feet away rather than the social distancing six. I have to pay attention to the one-way aisles in the store - God forbid I should head up an empty aisle in the wrong direction. And going to the mailbox is a process. I get the mail. Open it in the garage, and make sure I don't touch my face before washing my hands.
But here's what hasn't changed...
My love for this crazy community we're all a part of. Even something as fun as my mask wardrobe for today's post brought out another new normal in my life - playing with Platypod. For those of you who have one, Square Jellyfish makes this great little adapter for your cell phone, which I use for "Facetiming" with family and friends.
And I'm actually talking with friends MORE now than before. We're all starving for contact, and my phone as an instrument to talk to somebody directly has never been more valuable. Just when I finally figured texting out, talking came back.
While I miss real contact, bro-hugs, and a firm handshake, this is the new norm. There's a stronger sense of family and plenty of time to be together, but also time to find plenty of moments for personal thought. We've binge-watched one great series after another, but always together - Sheila, me, and the pups.
There's also never been more support for photographers to expand their skill set. The downtime has created one opportunity after another with programs like QuaranCon, Out of Chicago LIVE going on today, the f64 Lunch Bunch every Wednesday, and the list goes on and on. And, there are some great deals out there with discounts for ongoing programs like KelbyOne and Creative Live.
I guess it's time for my point this Sunday - Business will come back, but until then, you've got to protect yourself, your family, friends, and dig deep for every ounce of patience you can find.
Patience is not the ability to wait,
but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.
This is a time to step outside your comfort zone because it's the only place growth can flourish. Expand your skill set; take time to consider how you can hit the ground running as things slowly get better and do everything you can to stay in touch with your clients and target audience.
It would be an understatement to say what we're all feeling is a pain in the ass, but we really are all in it together. None of us are alone!
So, you know how to hold focus on your subject with a camera in your hands - now it's time to hold focus on your attitude. Keep it together, and on those days when you want to give up and feel weighed down by frustration - besides your immediate friends, there are so many of us out here willing to help - including me.
Wishing everybody a Sunday with more smiles than frowns and hang onto that sparkle you had when you first started in this business. Don't let the politicians mess with your head. Reduce your intake of news and whether you've got somebody there to hug or it's a virtual hug with a friend quarantined miles away - go for it!
by Skip Cohen
We all need a few laughs these days, and a BIG thanks to my good buddy Bleu Cotton for sending me this video from The Adley Show. It's priceless and clearly identifies everything we should all be doing to stay safe during this crisis!
Just trust me and watch it!
As the World Runs Amuck!
by Skip Cohen
Okay, life is different for all of us. Nothing is the same, as our values shift, living through social distancing and being hunkered down. While some of you will feel it's inappropriate for me to find humor in what we're going through, you deal with the anxiety your way, and I'll deal with it mine.
As I got up and went grocery shopping at 7:00 am this morning, taking advantage of "Senior Hours" at Publix supermarkets, it hit me how many things have changed since we went into self-quarantine.
Feel free to add to the list. Life is definitely strange, but you guys are my anchor to what's really important, friendships, laughter, and smiling.
Stay safe and healthy!
by Skip Cohen
It's time for the third installment of photographers finding joy while hunkered down. It's not easy to keep things in perspective, but it isn't impossible either! We'll make it through this if we can all remember we're not alone, watch each other's backs and turn off the news once in a while!
This has always been an industry of artists who worked together - don't be shy. Send me your images ( skip (at) mei500 (dot) com ) of things that are bringing you joy and creating a little light through the pandemic.
I'll make it even easier - just attach a low res image to your comment, wherever you're reading this, and we'll add it to the list of photographers who've been sharing photographs and videos.
And here's mine for this week...Lucy and Belle simply make us smile! They're both nine months old next week, and they definitely keep us laughing.
The Story - From Nick Vedros In the garden I noticed we had a mouse problem. They were eating in to bags of everything in our outdoor storage container. So I decided to catch the little devils and drive them a few miles down the road and release them into a nice field.
Each mouse I catch I pick a new destination to divert my mental state while this Coronavirus pandemic is going on. The creative mind needs constant fresh input. This is number 3 of mice being captured. Wait for it.
My 10 year old terrier instincts kick in and you can see how fast she can move to keep up with the mouse. The poor dog for the life of her cannot figure out why I let the mouse go and not give it up to her.
Levi Sim - I was out hunting hiking the other day when I had a close encounter that most life-long adventurers only dream about. I discovered a mountain lion -- a cougar, a panther, a catamount, a painter, a wildcat -- sitting in the sun 80 yards down the hill from me. He had killed a deer that morning, gorged on the tasty bits, and was now lolling about in the sunshine digesting.
He was like a house cat, rolling on his back, scratching his head, grooming his fur -- until he yawned and I realized just how large his mouth and teeth were. I watched him for 2 hours, fascinated. A magpie landed on his deer and he suddenly went into full prowler mode. His eyes grew large and he stalked toward his kill to pounce on the scavenging bird. The muscles in his back and legs were taught. It was amazing. Nothing like a big cat in a zoo. The bird flew off and the cat laid down and rubbed his back in the grass.
This is an experience that most people will never have in a lifetime spent outdoors. I feel blessed and better for it. Levi Sim (Please note: Levi is a responsible hunter and strictly for consumption. The mountain lion was not harmed.)
Is It Soup Yet?
by Skip Cohen
It's Sunday Morning Reflections time, and I doubt my feelings this morning are any different than yours - I'm missing the freedom I took for granted just a few months ago.
Occasionally watching the news, I'm frustrated with the various arguments regarding the pandemic. For example, mask-on or mask-off? It shouldn't be a question. It's not wax-on wax-off with Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid. I don't get the need to argue - then again, I've never understood bikers who feel the helmet law challenges the Constitution!
I hit Publix supermarket yesterday with my mask and gloves...discovered if I'm wearing glasses, they steam up every time I exhale. So, without my contact lenses, and my glasses off, my vision is horrible. But I started laughing, thinking back to stupid things I've done when I can't see! Years ago I bought Bonnie Raitt's new album. I put it on in the car on the way home from NYC and it was horrible, all bad hard rock. Another look - without my my glasses on I bought "RATT."
I made it through the supermarket run - didn't touch my face, and washed my hands for twenty seconds when I got home. Welcome to "Normalcy, 2020!"
For those of you too young to understand, "Is it soup yet?" It came out of a Lipton's soup commercial in the 70s and was a slam against Campbells. Suddenly, thanks to modern chemistry and technology, instant soup was there in seconds rather than the incredible struggle to wait a few minutes to cook soup on the stove! The bottom line is - today, it means "Is it time?" or "Is it done yet?"
Sadly the answer, when it comes to the challenges of dwindling patience, we're all facing staying home, is "NO!" And, while this mess we're in isn't over yet - we're getting closer to the end...patience is a virtue, although I found the perfect quote for how so many of us feel:
"Why is patience a virtue? Why can't hurry the F--- up be a virtue?"
However, there are some very cool things happening if you take advantage of the time you've suddenly got.
And last on the list - I've got at least forty images to share in a few upcoming posts based on the post I shared Friday and yesterday about sharing Joy. A few of you couldn't figure out the email address of skipatmei500dotcom. It's done that way to avoid spammers and spiders...so replace the "at" with a @ and "dot" with a . Send me a low res image of something in your life right now, making you happy and bringing a little joy into your life. I'm going to be sharing all week long.
Wishing everybody a Sunday of peace, patience, safety and good health. Those long therapeutic hugs are still valid with whoever you're quarantined with, and if you're solo - give yourself a big pat on the back, stay safe and call a friend. We'll get through this.
Dawn Davis said it best in a comment to one of my posts yesterday:
Please be safe and stay healthy. There is no better time to strengthen our bonds,
to virtually stand together, to help each other through this storm,
and come out the other side stronger.
Stay safe everybody...Happy Sunday!
Going back twenty years ago, these letters were a lot more fun to receive via snail mail. Always from Nigeria, and if nothing else the stamps were fun to collect. The letters always went home with somebody from the office for their kids.
Well, there's simply no place we can hide. Sooner or later they find us, but at least it was in my spam folder. This morning's email below could be one of my most favorites, and certainly deserves points for creativity!
I NEVER respond, but if I was, Sheila suggested the following:
Dear Mr. Braunwalder, Mrs. Virgie Brown is correct. I died in a car accident last week. Please send her all funds that were due me!
Just keeping it light on a rainy Saturday morning in Florida. Wishing everybody a great weekend!
I am Mr. Braunwalder Garland of IMF Head Office.
Your email appeared among the beneficiaries, who will receive a part-payment of your contractual sum of 6.5 Million US Dollars and has been approved already for months. You are requested to get back to me
for more direction and instruction on how to receive your fund.
However, we received an email from one Mrs. Virgie Brown who told us that she is your next of kin and that you died in a car accident last week. She has also submitted her account for us to transfer the fund
to her. We want to hear from you before we can make the transfer to confirm if you are dead or not.
Please in confirmation that you are still alive, you are advised to reconfirm the below listed information to enable us facilitate an immediate payment for you.
1 Your full names
2 Your present contact address.
3 Your telephone & Fax numbers.
4 Your Occupations/age/sex.
5 Your Private E mail Address.
Once again, I apologize to you on behalf of IMF (International Monetary Funds) for failure to pay your funds in time, which according to records in the system had been long overdue.
Mr. Braunwalder Garland
This is one of those Sundays when it's so hard to write Reflections, but not for lack of material. The challenge is NOT turning this into a rant about Congress, as the government shuts down. When our taxes are due in April, I want to let the IRS know in a most apologetic way, that Sheila and I don't agree on the budget. As a result, our tax payment will be late as we continue to discuss the challenges.
Keeping in mind my level of sarcasm this morning, I need to go someplace different and special. Well, there's only one place to go this time of year, and that means I have to warn you I'm about to get sappy.
Whether you celebrated Hanukah earlier in the month or you're looking forward to Christmas Eve tomorrow, I've always been the leader in holiday spirit. It's my favorite time of year, and my appreciation is nonstop. But it all goes well beyond loving this industry and what photographers give the world every day.
This is also a time when Sheila's going to join me in today's post. We've been a couple for eleven years and married for over eight, and we're grateful for all your support, feedback and inspiration. It's been a fantastic year, and it really couldn't have happened without you.
December is always a time when all of us focus on the importance of family, friends and the love in our hearts, instead of the craziness of the world around us. And, it's not exclusive to just the United States! So, in a crazy world of chaos, our wish to all of you is for peace, hope, good health and a time filled with memory-making moments with those people you love most in your life.
I also want to wrap up today's post by keeping it light. I wrote the poem below in 2012 and have modified it almost each December. I'm putting you in an awkward position, dealing with me thinking of myself as an amateur poet laureate. I bring it out of mothballs every year believing that somebody will recognize my talent and help me launch a reputation right up there with Robert Frost or at the very least a junior Dr. Seuss!
Here it is out of the archives but updated just a little:
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
I’d unplugged my computer and even the mouse.
My blogs for year-end were all ready to go
There was no reason to work, the Internet was slow.
For reasons unknown as if it made sense
my email needed cleaning and I got off the fence.
For over a year I’d saved every note
the ones I received and the ones that I wrote.
So I started deleting each email and letter.
The more I deleted the more I felt better.
Emails from Vanelli, Bourne and Tom Curley,
Coates, Varanakis, Sammon and Hurley.
And then went the drafts I’d written, but never sent
from those days when writing just helped me vent.
When all of a sudden I jumped up like LeBron,
My joke files from Vedros and other friends were gone.
Gone were the best jokes from PG to X rated,
the ones that I loved and the ones that I hated.
My email had been full with great moments and smiles,
but my computer was slowing down with the over-stuffed files.
I wiped off my tears and even my nose
the files, like Saint Nick, up the chimney they rose.
My collection of jokes was gone and deleted.
I felt so alone, so sad and defeated.
When all of a sudden I jumped up with a grin
My backup drive was never plugged in.
I’d only deleted the stuff on one drive!
My tasteless jokes, each one did survive!
And I heard a voice, I thought from the sky
Was it Santa, his reindeer who had just flown by?
I realized the words were from Sheila, my wife,
"Shut off the computer you fool - get a life.
It’s Christmas and you’re screaming gave me a fright!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night"
Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season filled with love, compassion and appreciation. Sheila and I feel so fortunate to know so many of you and have your support.
And as always, go for those eleven-second therapeutic hugs with those people most special in your life. With each hug think about how lucky we all our to simply have each other. It's a time to appreciate our own little piece of the world around us.
A Holiday Tradition in Photography
All images copyright Bleu Cotton Photography
Over the last ten years, I've repeatedly shared Bleu and Alison Cotton's holiday card. Every year I get their card, laugh and think, "There's no way they'll top this one next year!" Well, a new year rolls around and *poof* they do it again.
Most of you are professional photographers, and while it's too late to do much for this year, it's perfect to think about your 2019 card. No professional photographer should ever be sending out a store-bought holiday card!
Create your own card using one of your images for the front, or put your creativity into staging a photograph like Bleu, Alison and Fisher do every year. Then, include a message that extends your wishes for the holidays with a tie-in to your URL, address, phone number - anything to link people back to what you do as an artist.
Just to add to the fun, the return address on this year's card was from the Marx Brothers! So, to one of my favorite families in photography, Happy Holidays and thanks for never slowing down on the creativity from year to year. And, to Fisher - thanks for feeding your parents all these creative ideas - I know they'd be boring without you! LOL
Here are a few below I've saved over the years and in fact, featured in previous blog posts.
The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.
It's the perfect topic for Marketing Monday - all the BS from this year's politicians in Florida. I can only talk about what we've gotten in Sarasota, but I know it's the same everywhere. As a result of this year's direct mail campaigns, entire forests have been turned into wastelands as one tree after another has died in support of another politician's campaign.
And, I'm only sharing the direct mail pieces I collected over the last two weeks, which completely covered our dining room table. But, let's not forget the phone calls. In this past week, we've been averaging a dozen a day with at least five so far from Kelsey Grammer!
It's the perfect time to point out a few marketing basics:
Don't negative sell - The majority of the mailings so far in the race for Governor take turns negative selling Gillum vs. DeSantis. There's almost nothing that's honestly from the heart sharing why either one feels they should be governor.
Don't put your competitor first - A number of pieces kick the competition before they talk about their candidate. In the battle between Scott and Nelson, they sent out an 8 1/2 x 11 heavy stock card. I got two different cards on the same day. On one card Nelson's supporters chose not to say anything about their candidate and on the other only 1/4 was dedicated to Nelson. Both messages completely put Scott in the spotlight, and neither ever tell you what office Nelson is even running for!
Years ago Rollei ran an ad in the US about a new camera. The headline read, "While Hasselblad has slept, Rollei has turned dreams into reality!" Then it had a picture of a Hasselblad camera on a pillow. The ad put Hasselblad into the spotlight so much that, as president of Hasselblad USA at the time, I offered to pay to keep it out there!
Easy on the overkill - Between the same message over and over again, combined with phone calls and television ads, we're sick of all of them. Keep your message simple and pay attention to when you're doing a mailing. You've got to help people understand the value of your offer.
I know this is more of a rant than a post, but my frustration with this nonsense is over the top. I can't help but wonder how many school lunches, shelters for the homeless, meals on wheels for the elderly and better medical care for our veterans could have been supported, instead of the money spent on the nonstop flow of paper in our mailbox!
I'm a proud American, but the world has run amuck, and while I'm so grateful for the right of free speech, that shouldn't extend to the right to fill our mailboxes or interrupt our lives with the constant dribble of robocalls.
Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere,
diagnosing it everywhere and applying the wrong remedies.
Just Because Your Dog Poops in the Street Doesn't Mean You Don't Have to Clean it Up!
Most people who walk their dogs always have a poop bag with them. Wherever your dog does his/her business, you respect your neighbors and pick it up. However, now and then there's one fool who thinks if the dog poops in the street, it's no big deal and we've got one of those in our neighborhood.
Well, the analogy of pet owners and poop got me thinking about business owners and how, instead of taking responsibility for the problem, point the finger the other way. If it's not their fault then why try and fix it?
Here are some typical scenarios:
Well, let's solve all three scenarios, with or without a poop bag!
It's only a little rant this morning, but the comparison between photographers who blame every challenge on somebody or something else fits right in with people who don't pick up after their pets!
Responsibility finds a way. Irresponsibility makes excuses.
Photo Credit: Cantrell Portrait Design
Here's what started today's rant, which was later fueled by a couple of stupid statements in one of the photography forums. I get a great magazine called The Week. It's a weekly summary of the news around the world. As I was looking through a back issue, I saw a story in their regular feature, "Only in America."
"Netflix is reportedly asking employees not to look at one another for more than five consecutive seconds. The gaze limit is part of new sexual harassment guidelines, issued in response to #MeToo, that also bars employees from flirting, "lingering hugs," and asking each other for their personal phone numbers."
I look back over the last ten years, and I keep asking the same question when did society run amuck? When did we become so serious? When did we all wind up under the microscope?
Here are some examples within photography:
I spend a good part of my day reading comments on Facebook in the various forums and so often, sometime around the sixth comment on a specific topic, somebody gets a little too sensitive. The next thing you read is a battle of semantics as people start to fight through the sensitivities of how somebody has expressed their opinion. Then the floodgates open and I've seen suggestions on how to improve a truly bad image suddenly go down the accusation path of every prejudice you can imagine.
Maybe just learning to laugh more is part of the solution. When did we forget to laugh or in this business forget that beauty is in the eyes of the checkbook holder? It doesn't matter what everybody else thinks.
I already imagine the trolls out there rolling their eyes and getting ready to shred me. The problem is bigger than the challenges with digital workflow; Uncle Harry stealing your business; photographers not knowing enough about photography; print competition not judging your prints fairly, and people copying other artist's photographs.
Okay gang, let's pick a week during the year where for seven days in a row we laugh at just about everything! We'll laugh at images that are out of focus. We'll laugh at all the challenges in our business. We'll laugh at people who disappoint us. We'll laugh at growing older.
By the time we get to the second week, it'll be catching, and we'll laugh with our family and friends. We'll laugh with our clients. We'll laugh with our vendors, and the world might start to loosen up. Then, once it's loose enough, maybe we can really accomplish something - talk more to each other, share ideas, grow our businesses and live healthier more productive lives.
I thought I had a unique thought with all of this - all mine until I went looking for a quote with Google that would wrap up this rant. With a big smile on my face, I'm proud to announce the topic of this blog is hardly original and has been bouncing around the world for centuries, but I'm in good company!
"It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there's nothing you can do about them,
and why worry about things you do control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized."
Dr. Wayne Dyer
"The human race has only one effective weapon and that is laughter!"
"God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh!"
"Laughter is the shock absorber that eases the blows of life!"
And to quote my good buddy Terry Clark,
"Smile big, laugh hard, and make people happy!"
I started blogging in 2009, and thanks to help from several very good friends we launched SCU in 2013. The blog has grown, but sadly so has my list of frustrations. While some of you are focused on the ingredients to build a successful business, there are some of you who still don't get it.
Today I was reading through some of the posts on Facebook, and it was all I could do not to get involved in some of the discussions. I stayed clear, but it's obvious somewhere along life's path a bunch of people took wrong turns.
This is a back to basics kind of time in business when a hand-written thank you note is going to carry more weight than a new design for your home page. It's a time when sincerity tops technology and fulfilling a promise will be talked about long after that new lens you just bought.
While many of you are motivated, passionate and doing everything you can to build your business, new relationships and your skill set, here are some of the knuckleheads who put me in rant mode:
If these sound like anybody you know, let's all chip in and get them some professional help.
The photographic industry is made up of some incredibly talented artists, and just like all those old westerns I watched as a kid, there's always going to be a faster gun. There's always going to be somebody out there pushing the edge of the envelope. These exceptional artists have a passion that drives them and a desire to shoot in a way nobody else would, and they keep many of us motivated by their creativity.
I found a great quote that seems to fit this post and since my grandfather was the one who taught me about a firm handshake and eye contact:
"My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who work and those who take the credit.
He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there."
Thanks for letting me rant - wishing everybody a troll-less finish to the week!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.