The First Law of Nature is... where there's no space for envy.
My first mind for a long time has been to accommodate others so that others feel accommodated to. I'm not sure why, but I think it has to do with feeling left out a lot when I was a kid, so I'm empathic around those social exchanges. My uncle has this crazy habit of trying to help everyone that says they need help, even tho he knows that person refuses to help themselves and these relationships of being their helper has spanned decades with some. He gets it from his poor childhood with my mom and them.
I did this too much in my Kansas City photography career. It left me with no space or ability for self-investment as clients popped tags off new clothes around my home studio, often leaving weave trails and used eye lashes scattered around like wedding confetti. I'm the kind of 13-year divorced bachelor who cooks, cleans, washes, and vacuums (some American bs) so I know what I'm talking about. I found it disrespectful to ask me for a discount only to see the same client driving 4 hours to St. Louis for a Beyonce concert just a week later. In America and around the world I've seen how someone will exhibit an "I got it lifestyle" online, but be broke and past due for a solon appointment in person, or instead play broke in private dealings while maintaining the social media image of travel and colonist luxuries. The more strict I became about non-refundable deposits, my rates, and doing contracts the more people would get mad at me and talk about my color as if I had some certain nerve to do business the right way, not the fake friend way - "ohh the Caucasity of that white boy Matt Diamond." It's not uncommon for disputes around here to be waged with identity politics and irrelevant adjectives.
Photographer For Hire life in a mid-sized city - working mostly with dynamic and often vibrant, beautiful people - had so many amazing experiences and memories. However, economically it's the same as committing to remaining late on child support which translates to a monthly credit report marker. Irony always strikes, because my lifestyle choice allowed me to stay flexible enough to hit the highway to see my son, parents, and some select friends back in my hometown. I even got to take him for his first day of Kindergarten and 1st grade. My other option would have been to spare those visits and use that gas money to pay the state more support instead - that was never an option to me so I took the late bill and got in all the time I could when things were more simple. Aside from economics, the freelance photographer life is a priceless people experience whether working for free or for payment and it creates so many opportunities along the way.
I've done countless photos shoots, sponsored events, climbed building, rode for miles in vans and cars, took some flights, and been around the world twice now. Back in the city I was contracting weddings and even hiring other help for cash labor. For a few years, there were 4 cocktail mixer events per year I'd host, and one annual barbecue. I'd bring out people from around the city and even back home to showcase music, art, vending goods and networking under the premise of us all "strengthening our small business network" so we could spend less on corporate trash. I would take to the mic and make these riveting freestyle speeches, starting with nothing but my premise, the seed of it all. Off and on you'd find me reciting poetry, rapping or singing with a guitar. I was seeing real numbers most months in my peak years, but nothing in my spirit enjoyed the weddings except the few sappy moments you might catch that ultimately remind you of how single you are.
In the earliest years when I wasn't squeezing out enough income I was working in kitchens and honing a lot of culinary arts. My whole life stayed around the arts and hustling. After life in the military and a pre-mature marriage I just knew I wanted to be free. I also was realizing more and more, and still do, that my talents are beyond the realms of corporate servitude and the niceties they practice there.
After and throughout severe stomach illness, turning 30, and a re-grouping of my thoughts, associations and priorities I was more than happy to change my income program. I took cash tip work and on my off hours was creating some other hustler's means of traveling, or simply saving and making a feasible budget (like an Airbnb 8 nights in New York and backpacking around by train mostly). My urge had become to see life outside of the country as soon as possible, so I warmed up with some new sites here before taking that big leap.
The only photos I was taking then were travel shots and models on my terms - I didn't care about making money on the shoots, I just wanted to capture certain vibes. Translation: no more glamour and trendy fashion bs; the only old work I truly enjoy from my portfolio is the editorial shots I ventured ppl into, and at the time they often "loved me to pieces" for the outcome and experience. Love fades fast in this life, and some of it dies hard but I enjoyed making people happy while it lasted.
The more I worked my new program and took my ventures, the free-er I felt. It's ironic that many years of client photography gave me the same desire to escape while I was doing it to feel free in the first place. It was never the photography's fault, it was mine for allowing myself to be put last as I learned what love and lust is, and the nature of common people politics.. Regardless of my version of life in our 20's, these are things we all have to learn, even if it's when you're 50. I'm only 35, so I think I'm doing okay.
What else I see more and more as I go, is how many who I accommodated in these years past are too slow to show some love back as I continue on my path. If you didn't know, doing model and lifestyle type photography is like being a counselor sometimes, people sharing all their hopes and dreams with you. Over those years you'll give someone an amazing creative experience for cheap or even free, but when they see you taking flight, many people go quiet - is it hatred or jealousy? I was never giving for the sake of receiving, I just never realized how un-natural our social cycle had become.
So what I'm saying is.. it is said "the first law of nature is self-preservation" so be sure your dream, vision, and necessities of essential life don't get deferred to keep the collective pleased. #spikedtea ☕️