It’s Not Always About the Money

March 2nd, 2010 by

I received several emails from discouraged photographers after they read Shannon Fagan’s guest post about the re-positioning of the stock photography business. One asked, “So why is it exactly that you (Ellen) are still telling me to spend time and money to upload stock photos?”  My reply was a recommendation that this photographer remain in all of the possible revenue streams.  A photographer should seek diversity in pursuit of multiple areas of income as, after all, stock photography is still a big business in terms of global distribution.

Plus photography continues to offer many of us a lifestyle rich with experiences.  It’s about travel and the people we meet along the way. It has given myself and my colleagues, editors and photographers, one of the best rewards that money can’t often buy: an interesting life.

Shannon’s experience described in an email to me last week underlines how photography connects us.  It highlights the value of those connections to our lives and the lives of others.

Shannon wrote: “Here is a story that is a  reminder of why I love shooting stock photography.  It has given me experiences like these, though bittersweet, that I doubt I would have had the time to develop had I focused on a career of strictly assignment work”.

“In the spring of 2005, I traveled to New Mexico to shoot an advertisement for Nikon cameras.  A few months later, I returned to photograph in and around Santa Fe as a self initiated shoot follow-up to that trip.  The resulting personal project photographs were accepted into Getty Images’ Rights Managed collections and one of them appeared on the walls of Getty’s Beijing sales office this past November.  The photograph was of a child with a magic wand situated upon the wallpaper background of a kitchen breakfast nook.  This was the granddaughter of Peggy, a wonderfully lively New Mexico actress and travel agent who had found her way into my casting folder by way of the New Mexico Film Board website.”

“Peggy had been taking acting classes in the Santa Fe area and it was natural that she might respond to my posting for lifestyle stock photography models.  Peggy called herself “grand-meow” and certainly there was a purrrr of harmony between her and her family, and amongst herself and her neighbors.  She was the perfect real life model; inviting, and resourceful.  When I approached her to participate in a series of images about senior lifestyles, she aptly recommended her friends next door.”

“Peggy had told me in Santa Fe that she’d be headed to New York in two months with her girlfriends.  And thus she did.  In early October 2005, I got an email.  Riding atop a Manhattan sightseeing bus down Broadway near the Brooklyn Bridge, Peggy saw a photographer gathered with his crew on the sidewalk.  She knew him from his knee pads.  They were the same knee pads that he wore at her house just a couple months prior.  She told me that she shouted my name and waved until the tour bus operator told her to sit down.”

“I sent her an email this week telling her about her granddaughter’s  photo hanging in the office in Beijing.  I was a little surprised when her email bounced back just a couple minutes later.  I  Googled her name and Albuquerque (where she moved in 2006).  I was shocked at what appeared at the top of the search field. (link below).”

“I have been lucky in this profession to touch people’s lives, and they in turn, have touched mine.  It is these connections that explain why I have enjoyed the profession of photography.  Had I not seen her granddaughter’s photo in China, I likely would not have thought to contact her, though Peggy certainly was a standout from my trip there to New Mexico.”

“These random things are not so random when you simply pay attention to all of the connectedness around us.  It is a reminder to live each day to the fullest and never give up.  Keep searching. Even when the truth hurts. I leave you with the news from Albuquerque, New Mexico on Aug 31, 2009. There is video coverage in the link.”

-Shannon Fagan

writing from New York City, February 22, 2010