Rip Van Winkled... Where did everyone go?..

As the story goes, the guy drifted off to avoid a domestic dispute, falls asleep and wakes up to a completely new world. While I wouldn't say I was asleep, the story indeed has presented some relevance in my current life.
Don't laugh, it was cool in 1996 before Photoshop evolved...

I opened Prints Charming Photography in '96, after several years of saving my retail earnings (thank you for the matching funds in my 401k Fred Meyer!) By 2002, I had three daughters and a continually growing business. Feeding five of us was great motivation to try harder always. In those 6 years, I had entered my images in just about every category of PPA affiliated print competitions, amidst many other professionals.

My involvement with the Oregon affiliated Professional Photographers of Oregon was extensive, in return for the continuing education I was receiving. However, after my sixth trip to the lectern to receive some nice confidence-boosting hardware as merit (and a Fellow of Photography degree) I decided to stop "competing".

Pondering atop Mt. Constitution at 6am
I was obsessed with some Wayne Dyer tapes (Secrets to Manifesting Your Destiny) where one phrase in particular kept reverberating through me as a must-use affirmation. My goal, "to become independent of the good opinion of other people". Always the one to dodge an argument and, on occasion, to accept blame for a quicker path to peace, it was more than just to avoid the attention of photographic peers. Backing out slowly was not an options, since I have a tenancy toward all-or-nothing, so I quit this organization altogether (denying my upcoming role as President) telling them my need to "focus on my business". Of course, at Soul's core, that was very true, but it was my abbreviated way of avoiding this long explanation that I wanted to prevent an ego/insecurity by continuing to seek merits and trophies.

For several years, my balance of art-to-geek ratio was recognized by an industry leader in online solutions for photographers. More Photos owner and I gelled as being extremely visionary, progressive and he became the brother I never had. His product was merged with software giant Adobe, who had asked him for someone that knew both their product and his to present it at an international convention.
Twas a phone photo, but the only one I took in Vegas this year.

It got me out of that shadow, but safely thousands of miles away in Orlando (or was it Vegas, and staying at the Paris made me feel like I was in France?..) I suddenly had a different experience at photography conventions, but was craving a chance to get back into the photographers' chair for some continuing education.

I got my feet wet last year with several traveling trainers, including some amazing cinematographers. My inner Ansel, jarred loose my inner Spielberg (once I discovered my DSLR's video button - little know fact... The only college I looked into in 1983 was a motion picture college in Hollywood), and suddenly I had a thirst for growth. If you've been in the studio in the last 6 months, you likely know what I'm talking about.

A parallel occurrence was happening regularly, where numerous auction invitations began coming in from my former peers from PPO in the form of "Retiring" sales etc... Knowing I've got at LEAST another good 30 years of youth and vision, I decided to silently wish them well and look ahead to what I've seen as a market that has matured into everything that I desire - MULTIMEDIA!!! (look at any category on our website, and you'll see it creeping in to nearly every session)

So, I suppose you're wondering how I can tie all of this in to the Rip Van Winkle tale... I decided, after several years of Vegas trade shows (purely to assist with product) to cover my own trip and return to the seats of continuing ed.

Where did everybody go?..
I suppose this is a common tale to anyone that decides to return to college after decades, but for me it has only been a few years, and in the same room/group where I am used to recognizing a good number of people - even while I was in Orlando. I seriously felt as though I'd woken up in a room 20 years later, since that would be about how many years younger most photographers were by my side.

I didn't care of course, since I don't look or act my age, (so I'm told) but it was still a surreal experience. Where did everybody go that I knew?..

Portland is touted as having the highest number of photographers per capita in the nation. I know that this includes a WHOLE lot of people that bought one professional camera (yet to discover why we need 2 or 4 of everything) and put together a web site. The general public, not understanding the difference, accepts that "nice camera = photographer". Ansel's timeless quote makes even more sense with today's digital gear: "You don't take a photograph, you make it."

Upon presenting for More Photos at a local trade show, I was overwhelmed by how many of the last generation photographers were still complaining about "today's customer not knowing...".  I silently wished them well, but increased my own awareness on how important it is to educate our clients, educate fellow photographers (we want our industry to have standards and ethics) and of course - to continue educating ourselves.

The whole experience has not only increased my creativity, but it has also re-ignited my desire to teach and share what I've learned over the years. I didn't wake up with a rusty gun or foot-long beard, but I have certainly found myself in a whole new world - AND I LOVE IT!

Check out the new design on our site! Just launched last night.
Brian GerathsComment