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Changes for 2008

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These are some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken with my Holga, Sea World Orlando and Aruba, two of our family vacations in 2006. My Nikon gear is generally banned by my husband and children from family vacations. Sometimes expensive gear just gets on everyone’s nerves, but mostly it’s what I’ve learned from some very influential photographers along the way. On vacation and for fun, I shoot a Holga.

All of my Holgas have been genetically modified by Randy Smith. They are wonderful cameras, Randy Smith’s Holgas. For those of you who are not familiar with it, “The Holga is an inexpensive, medium format 120 film toy camera, originating in China, that later came to be appreciated for its low-fidelity aesthetic. The Holga’s cheap construction and simple meniscus lens often yields pictures that display vignetting, blur, light leaks, and other distortions. Ironically, the camera’s quality problems became a virtue among some photographers, with Holga photos winning awards and competitions in art and news photography.” [Wikipedia]

My Holgamod goes to the beach. It rides rollercoasters. It sits in cubbies and waits while I ride the water rides. It causes all kinds of commotion with airport security (considerably more than my regular gear does, and we’re all very amused by this.) It’s a $20 plastic film camera from China that I can afford to lose/ruin/have stolen. And yet I treasure it, guard it and take good care of it. The Holga illustrates perfectly that it’s the photographer, not the camera, who creates a great image.

It has been almost 7 months since I shot my Holga. How is it that 7 months have gone by and I’ve not taken out my Holga to play? The answer to that question is the topic of this post.

Running a photo business is a lot of work. In my experience, it’s been a lot like having a newborn in the house. Maintaining perspective and balance proved difficult. In late November, in the middle of holiday family photo rush, I scheduled myself a day off and went with my amazingly talented artist friend, Suzanne, to The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. We wandered the galleries and admired the work of so many artists, and then WHAM I was struck by a photograph. Turns out, the photographer was Craig Sterling. We looked through his work as he went about his studio business, but as soon as he was off the phone and seemed as if he could spare a minute, I approached him. I told him I didn’t want to offend him, especially if he’d just schlepped a $35K Hasselblad across Europe, but some of his work spoke to me with the very same qualities I love about my Holga. He smiled at me.

Turns out, Craig Sterling uses one of Randy Smith’s Holgas, too. We were thrilled to discover this common thread. And while I have been a portrait photographer since the fourth grade, Mr. Sterling is an accomplished landscape photographer. We shoot completely different subjects but we share a common bond: a love for the photograph.

Mr. Sterling spent a great deal of time that morning talking with Suzanne and me. He was generous with his information and experiences. I sent him an email that night thanking him for his openness and warm welcome. One of the best pieces of advice I got from Mr. Sterling is that I don’t have to be a great photographer to run a photography business — rather, I have to be a good business owner.

Mr. Sterling sent me a Christmas card, a wonderful black and white of our nation’s capitol, and this message:

A good friend lent me this book…you should buy it and read it…it’s one
of the most accurate “advice books” for someone like yourself. It was
really enlightening! You won’t be wasting your money…promise. It’s only
$10.00. –Craig Sterling

I bought the book and have almost finished reading it. It’s small, an easy read, but it carries a powerful punch. I was naive to think I needed to be a good photographer to open a photography business. If I had known in 2004 what was required of me to truly run a photography business, I might have opted to continue my career as a writer instead. 🙂

Carlos, my fabulous, handsome, generous and loving husband (and CFO of Christine Gacharna Photography), put a new MacBook Pro under the tree for me this Christmas, and Santa left Adobe CS3 in my stocking. Maybe such tools will improve my photos, but that wasn’t the point; the point was to streamline my digital workflow, freeing up considerable chunks of time for the more important stuff. In the process of migrating my old life onto my new machine, I was checking in on bookmarks to some of my favorite photographers I’ve met along the way: one in particular, Jason Wallis, had a post over the holidays that led me to Strobist which in turn led me to flickr…the list goes on and on. Click on the links and see for yourself this wonderful experience of photography — a subfolder in the wonderful experience of life.

2007 delivered much of what I need to be successful as a business owner — a loving and supportive family, the right tools, incredible mentors, online resources, hard work, good books, fabulous clients who yielded equally fabulous images for my portfolio, and even a few difficult circumstances that gave me some perspective of growth and boundaries to help pave my way.

It’s easy to forget that which draws us in; photography is no exception. When I was a college freshman, my big brother told me not to let college get in the way of my education; I’ve never forgotten that advice, and I’m applying it here to remind me not to let the photography business get in the way of taking photos. If 2008 brings nothing more than a renewed focus on all that I love, I will have achieved the balance that is the prelude to success.

And judging from the images of my first client of 2008, which I’m editing tonight with my new and improved workflow and hope to show off soon, I’m well on my way.

But that’ll be another post, marking the end of this one.

Happy new year!
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2 comments
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  • Lynn Paszkiewicz - I LOVE your Holga shots! The kids on the beach shot is gorgeous. What a great idea to play with something fun like that on vacation instead of toting all the big expensive gear!ReplyCancel

  • Myra - Life can pass us by while we are bogged down with all the “workflow”. I hope your new toys help cut it down so you can enjoy the subject matter of your fabulous photos. I miss you and enjoyed reading through your blog to catch up on how you all are doing. Happy 2008.ReplyCancel

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