First, fun news: I have an intern! She’s Alex, and has an enthusiasm for photography – and life in general – that rocks my world. I need to get a better photo of her face, but for now, enjoy her cool-girl photo stance and rockin’ blond hair patch.
On Friday, 3 May, I finally did what I’ve been hoping to do for about 18 months: I convinced an eloping couple that getting into the row boats of Central Park in their wedding clothes was an excellent idea. Since I had Alex to
boss around help, she rowed, and I was able photograph them around the 22 acre pond from the stern of my very own row boat. Then I tried rowing, and she snapped some shots of me. It was so cool, like a scene out of Stuart Little.
It’s a career highlight, a Life List item I got to check off, and I’m pretty sure that I won a bet with Katie Jane over who can get newlyweds in a row boat first.
If you do this, I recommend going on a week day and slathering on a good sunscreen.
Each week, my business account pays my personal account a salary for paying household bills and buying gin, shoes and cheese, which keeps me on a set budget since my actual weekly earnings can vary dramatically. For the past month or so I’ve waned a raise – cheese is expensive – but there’s a need to impress “my boss” with my time management skills first.
The tricky bit, of course, is I’m my boss, and performance reviews – conducted once weekly in the shower where I have time to think quietly – can lean either too stern or lenient. It’s challenging to find the honest answer to the question, “Are you working hard enough, and to the best of your ability?”
“Uh, maybe?” I answer myself.
“What about this week?” I say sternly, shampooing. “You weren’t very focused, now were you?”
“That shoot? I got it done… eventually.”
“Eventually! What about all that in-chair twirling you did first?”
See, this week I had a particularly challenging shoot to edit. I wound up having to force myself to sit until it was done, but not without staring at the ceiling, the wall, unbending a paperclip, patting a dog, and spinning around in the desk chair a few times.
Does that mean I am to be proud for digging in and getting it done, or annoyed it took me so long? I think the former because, frankly, I’ve been working like this for 25 years, and probably won’t stop any time soon, but I can’t help but feel like I need to be more on the ball, too. GROWN UP FREELANCERS DON’T TWIRL!*
This was on my mind this week, and if you have any excellent small business books that address time management, especially in the face of challenging projects, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
*Memoir title. Nailed it.
I photographed an elopement in Central Park a few weeks ago, and after, while I was taking photos of the guys, Rev. Annie Lawrence snapped these shots of me doing my thing. It is so, so, so weird to see what I look like while I shoot. Aparently I make a “dying bunny” face (look close at that first photo, and tell me you don’t see soon-to-be roadkill.) Also, I’ve never sat to snap a photo before – almost no one looks good when shot from below – but we were on an incline and it made sense.
When I was in high school, my dad once said to me, “You won’t need much by way of college, really. You’ll just get married.”
Right? That statement still runs through my brain sometimes and blows my mind.
Believe it or not, though, I lived with some watered-down, only slightly-more-liberated version of this vision of my life until a couple of years ago. I pursued things, but it was always until my “real life” of baby-having and mothering started. It’s been on my Life List for years, though, so in the back of my mind somewhere, I must have always known there was more in the cards for me.
Today, the “aw shucks” quiver has left my voice when I tell people “I’m a photographer”, but I still lay awake some nights staring into the darkness, wondering how life is supposed to go now that, for the first time, I’m totally independent of anyone else to support me.
What if I fuck up?
Yesterday I met a new client who lives in the neighborhood and needs help on a cool project. We met in my studio and talked for a while, but didn’t take any shots so I refused to let her pay me.
“I’ll buy you a drink then!” she said, so we went around the corner to talk some more, which turned into two drinks, girl talk, and a new neighborhood friend.
Two drinks at 3 pm left me a bit tipsy, and when I got home, I started fussing about my life to Gavin via IM, trying to figure out when I’ve “made it” and could cross this off my Life List. This is what he said to me, and (when I sobered up and read it again) I felt so at ease with where I am right now:
You can cross it off right now
Because you ARE doing something you love for a living
If you always chase some phantom idea of “better”, you’ll never be present and happy
You have a lot to be present and happy about.
You live in one of the greatest cities in the world and you are surrounded by cool people who inspire you and you get to do something awesome for a living, and you get better at it every single day.
You’ve already made it, Amber. Enjoy where it takes you, don’t obsess over where that “where” is.
Gavin, you’re the best, and I owe you a huge hug. (When I asked if I could quote him, he said yes, as long as I made him sound “wise and shit”.)
There are pockets of “But wait! I want to do this, this and THIS with my career, too!” in my life, but I suspect that they’re always going to be there in some form to keep me motivated (Related: will someone PLEASE elope to Paris and have me photograph it?!).
A look back to where I started shows I’ve come pretty far, though. People trust me. They trust me with their sweetest memories, they write me checks before seeing my final product, and they count on me to not make them feel foolish in front of the camera. It’s extraordinary and humbling, scary and wonderful… and it’s paying my rent.
I’m doing something I love for a living! Kermit Arm Flail!
From a recent elopement I photographed in Central Park. The bride is Lydia, who is a photographer as well, a fact I’ve been wrapping my heart around for weeks; a photographer hired me to shoot one of the most important days of her life. That’s something, you guys.
A very real part of being self-employed is having to force yourself to work through the parts where you don’t feel like working, which, for me, has been this entire week. There have been walls popping up all over the place for me, and even though I’m honestly working myself to the bone, it’s been frustrating. Despite every re-pinned, creatively font-ed sentiment on Pinterest saying some version of “If you show up and you do the work, you’ll be successful.” I wonder if I can actually do this. (My nervousness stems from the fact that despite a bustling August, my September is looking a little empty.)
A quick look around me at the people I am acquainted with, however, shows that making a living doing something creative and amazing is not only totally possible, it’s de rigueur in the crew I’m lucky enough to call my friends. Like Emily; she makes her living hosting brunches at midnight. So maybe this is just a bad week for me, despite it’s shining highlight: I finally cracked the front page of Google when you search for “New York City elopement photographer” and “eloping in New York City”. (I’m also pretty proud of this wedding, posted today.)
I’m ending this week feeling nervous about my career choices but still determined to slog through.
It’s got to get better, right?
This is Lee (wearing the exact same glasses I wore in second grade; he also owns a Members Only jacket, because he is sartorially cooler than all of us.) We bumped into each other at City Hall this week where we were photographing couples getting married; about half my business at this point is doing this. We’d met ages ago and got into a conversation about what I do for a living. Now he does the same thing.
“You inspired me.” he said.
I might as well have been Oprah with how proud I felt right then. I inspired someone! They are “living their best life” because of me! Woah.
We had lunch, and he confessed to being worried about me viewing him as competition, which is silly; just that morning I was talking about how success is not an exclusive club or finite resource, and it was a fantastic coincidence to see him the same day I posted this on Tumblr from the-50.org. Boats rise together.
Rock on, Lee.
I wrote a response to a Jezebel article on my professional blog, and am cross-posting it here. The use of the term “muff” on my pro blog was a hot debate in my own head for a solid hour, but I left it there. I know what kind of clients I want.
I was excited to read to this article on boudoir photography on Jezebel, written by Doug Barry.
“Hey!” I said, “they’re talking about boudoir photography. I do that!”
But then I got mad.
The overall tone of the article is grossly shaming, and implies that silly women are getting boudoir shoots done for a whole list of silly reasons.
“A lot of women do boudoir because they’re afraid their fiancés are looking at porn,” … “and they’d rather them be looking at her.”
What?! A pornographic video and a smokin’ hot photo of the woman you love are NOT the same thing. They are not even close to being the same thing. Not much needs to be said about what porn is. We all know what it’s for and how most of us use it. But I’ll talk about what a boudoir shot is: it’s a celebration of beauty, sexiness and sexuality, and a whole lot of fun. It’s empowering, and brave. It can take some of it’s cues, even a LOT of it’s cues, from a hardcore porn shoot, but the purpose is not the same, and the purpose is everything. Everything.
“Some women get more undressed than others —photographs range from “tasteful” lingerie shots to pornier pictures.”
Ugh. Another inaccurate reference to porn, and this time he gets even more insulting by deeming lingerie as “tasteful”. Ok, Doug, so as long as my clients are covered up, they have taste? When does it become “less tasteful”, and by whose yardstick are we measuring taste, anyway? Because from where I’m standing, a gal could wrap herself ankle to chin in a bed sheet or thrust her naked muff at my camera, and both of those are just fine. To me, it’s all a celebration of being sexy as all get out, and that will never, ever be distasteful. (The phrase you were looking for, you oaf, is “covered-up” – I even wouldn’t have taken much issue if you had chosen “modest”.)
The worst part of this article is the overall assumption that boudoir shoots are just for hetero ladies to give to their hetero menfolk. Not true. First, I’ve done boudoir shoots for lesbians, for gentlemen, and for ladies who are glowing and bursting at the seams with soon-to-be-born baby. And of course hetero ladies with engagement rings, too. They’re all worthy, and they’re all sexy. Second, you don’t do a boudoir shoot for someone, you do it for you. Even if the resulting photos are bound in a book and presented as a gift to a lover, even if you did slink around in his favorite hockey jersey, the benefit of the goodness of the photo shoot falls directly to the person who posed, because she (or he) did something bold that made them look and feel amazing.
There is nothing – NOTHING – shameful about that.
Ladies and gents, I have a print shop. I am selling my fine art photography.
(My neighbor agreed to be an impromptu hand model. #Brooklyn)
When I posted my Maui photos, a reader named Heather emailed asking if she could buy a print, which was surprising and made me happy. Attached to her payment was this note: “Have you considered a store to sell individual prints?”
Camp Mighty 2012 was announced shortly after (see you there?), along with the requirement that each participant fundraise for charity, and it clicked for me. (Thanks for the inspiration, Heather!)
100% of the profits from this shop will go to Charity:Water. I teamed up with a local printer here in Brooklyn that Giclee prints the photos on this amazing rich, delicious matte paper – the good stuff – so it’s not a glossy photo, it’s more of what you’d think of as a print. Each image is available in two sizes (8×10 and 11×14), in limited editions of 10 in each size. Prints will be hand-signed, numbered and shipped by me (with love, of course).
Go check out the store, and please spread the word if you’re up to it – I’m a little nervous, honestly, and the support will be appreciated.
I’m so excited!
A huge thank you to Jeff at Super Runaway – they created my professional website – for making the custom URL Prints.AmberMarlow.com happen for me. They do beautiful work, and are wonderful to depend on for answering my ridiculous questions in a timely manner and taking care of “internetty stuff” for me.
In addition to all that shit right there, I’ve been working harder than I ever have in my life. I’m busy and exhausted and a tiny bit overwhelmed, because it’s summer – wedding season.
“We were getting a lot of pressure from our dog. He kept saying, ‘Dads, why don’t you get married?’”
Pretty much all I’ve been doing for months is shooting weddings and elopements. The irony is not lost on me. Loads of people have asked if it’s hard, but it’s not. It’s hopeful, and it’s really fun. I love what I do, and while working, I completely forget to be sad. It’s a relief from the otherwise constant ache, and when the sadness creeps back into my chest at the end of the night as I’m packing up my things, there’s something warm mixed in there, too.
Glimmers of hope, I think? Because look. Look at all this love I get to be surrounded by. Thank goodness.
“We don’t match, we coordinate!”
“My life is filled with beautiful women. I have daughters, granddaughters, my beautiful wife, and today we get another daughter.” – father of the bride toast
“You guys do realize I can still see you under there, making out?”
“Ha! Yes! But it feels like our own little world.”
If you would like to hire me to shoot your wedding or elopement, visit my studio website, AmberMarlow.com and use the contact form to get in touch.
Saturday’s wedding. The groom’s mother bustles past me
dancing my ass off taking photos on the dance floor and grins. “I’m going to go get the glow sticks!” she calls over her shoulder.
I think, Awww yeah. Totally kickass photos.
A team of older wedding guests quickly assembles to crack the sticks and pass them to the revelers. The dance floor slowly lights up with colored tubes weaving around. The music is bumping.
I snap a few shots of them and think, “I wish I could get everyone to hold them up in the air at the same time. That would be cool. Maybe the next song will have them waving their hands in the air.”
Then I remember that I have The Gigantic Camera. When you have The Gigantic Camera, people really want to do what you tell them to, especially when they’re drunk and you want them to do something fun.
I drag a chair to the edge of the dance floor, climb up on it, put my camera around my neck and hold up two glowsticks, one in each hand, waving them back and forth in time to the music and singing along to LMFAO at the top of my lungs.
“Hey! You people! Everyone! Do this!”
And they did.
Occasionally the magnitude of how awesome life is for me right now hits me out of the blue, like a fist when my head was turned, and I get really excited. It is an interesting dichotomy.