Lately I've been hearing from photographer friends, photo assistants, models, agents, etc., how slow it is in the business. Everyone seems to be focused on the down economy and singing the blues. However, I remember the last time the economy went south and how I filled my slow time.
First, I had to market and promote myself at every turn. I did this by sending out mailers to potential clients with new work and by working on my personal projects. At the time my personal project was my first book, Sepia Dreams. I'd never made a book before and the first time I told friends at dinner I was doing a book I was met with nothing but negative comments. This group of friends all went to Harvard and told me it took years to get a book deal, it was harder for a first time author, etc. I left the dinner in the middle of winter down and walked 30 blocks back to my place in Manhattan. That night I decided not to tell another soul I was doing the book but went to work on it still.
Long story short I spent my down time photographing and interviewing 50 people. I put a proposal together and went to shop for a literary agent when I was 90 percent done with the project. I found an agent on my birthday and we put 20 book proposals together. We sent the 20 proposals out on a Thursday via Fedex. On Monday morning my literary agent called me and said I had two meetings right away with publishers. A few hours later while I was running from meeting to meeting four more publisher were in the mix and I had a bidding war for my first book. By Tuesday morning I had a six figure deal on my first book and all I could think about was how my Harvard friends told me I'd never get a deal or that it would take me years. Always Dream Big!
Looking back, the process of doing the book is to this day what I treasure most. I love photography of course, but to photograph and sit down and interview each of my subject one on one is something I'll never forget. In some cases I did the interview at the time of the photo shoot but in some case's I had to do them later. For example Samuel L. Jackson's interview had to be done later and he let me come to the set of Shaft and interview him in his trailer. With Bill T. Jones we did the interview in a tea shop off 5th avenue and 18th street. The interview I treasure the most is probably Gordon Parks. I did his interview right after the photo shoot in his apartment in the United Nations tower. The process is something I will always treasure.
This morning I woke up with very little sleep and another big idea hit me. It seems all my ideas come to me in the wee hours of the morning. The thing about ideas that come to you this way, is you must take action right away, or like smoke they vanish into thin air. I starting writing my idea down right away and I will keep this one secret until I have a deal on the table. At that point I will walk you through the entire process of making my next book project.
Here are a few images from my first book, Sepia Dreams.
Always Dream Big!