I will admit this is going to be another one of my ‘grateful’ posts, but please bear with me because this does relate to the big picture and toy photography.
This past Saturday I was privileged to be included in the grand opening celebration for the new home of my local radio station KEXP. I should probably give you a little background. I’ve been volunteering for this station for somewhere around seven years. I rediscovered my love of photography through music photography, and one of the places I practiced this was at KEXP. I would document the bands that came through their live studio space but I quickly graduated to the video team. Not because I had any experience, I simply had the right equipment – a Canon 5D MarkII. Through this twist of fate, I’ve learned how to work as part of a video team as well as learned to be a better photographer. My friends in the video department have always been generous with their knowledge and patience with the me as I try to keep up with changing technology, live streaming and for a brief stint, video editing.
When it came time for the station to raise the funds for this new, state of the art radio station / slash performance space, I didn’t hesitate to give. The only problem was that my donation level came with a naming opportunity; a tile that would go on the outside of the building. I struggled with what to put on my tile. What would be an appropriate gesture to truly tell the world how much this station, and all the amazing experiences I have had, mean to me? Would I choose a favorite line from a song, should I make a references to all the great memories or should I simply put the names of my family on it? It soon became apparent that the only names that should be on this tile were the four men who have been the most supportive, the most awesome set of guys to work with: the KEXP video crew. These four guys (pictured below) are my video ‘family’ at the station and like all good family we squabble, but I would do anything for them, and often have. Putting their names on the tile was a fitting tribute to all the good times and wonderful memories we’ve shared.
Why do I tell you all of this? How does it relate to toy photography? As I already mentioned, the ‘boys’ of the video team have taught me so much about photography, about composing a shot about how to talk tech, how to use my camera, how to shoot short DOF and the beauty of bokeh for starters. After six years of video shooting with a very shallow depth of field, I can’t image seeing anything else in my view finder. (If you’ve ever wondered why my work looks like that, well now you know the origins.) We’ve talked, in the past, about side projects and how important they are; they help to feed your creativity. You learn things from side projects, sometimes unexpected things. You make connections with interesting people and creative ideas that will lead you down unforeseen paths. But the best part of side projects, you can simply enjoy them.
The number of cool and amazing volunteers that have graced the halls of KEXP are legendary. Some of them I now count amongst my good friends. They’ve all been incredibly supportive and encouraging of my crazy plastic habit. Note: another benefit of side projects, they come with a built in support group for your main project.
So when my friends emailed two days before the opening with an emergency photo request that involved plastic, who am I to refuse? I dropped what I was doing and started working on this project for them. They ended up using the photo for their big press release that went out the next day. I was thrilled to be able to lend my talents and to contribute to this special and historic day even in such a small way.
Saturday was an incredible day of music, friendships and celebration beyond anything any of us could have dreamed of. It was wonderful to be a part of something that was bigger than myself; it was humbling. When your deep down the rabbit hole of social media, it’s so easy to take likes and follower counts way too seriously. I see it over and over again in fellow Instagramer’s (even I can be accused of this in my distant past). But I’m here to tell you that making real connections with real people is worth so much more than all the likes, followers or having your work featured – all of which is at the heart of the social media game – on Instagram. Being at KEXP for nearly 12 hours, being a part of this massive community celebration, to see what we as a community built, was incredibly inspiring. It gave me perspective.
So if you find yourself getting too wrapped up in the social media game, I suggest you take a step back and take a look at the big picture. As I’ve grown older, it’s become more important to me to connect in a meaningful way with my fellow humans. Because I can’t imagine on my death bed I’m going to say, “Gee, I wish I’d made it to xx,000 of followers on Instagram.”
Another person, in my life I’m grateful for is Mike Stimpson; he turned me onto a book called Deep Work. I really enjoyed the book and its message about keeping the internet in perspective And while I can’t see myself completely unplugging from social media and e-mail, I’ve certainly seen how it’s become an unnecessary distraction and I’m making changes in my work flow. So thank you Mike for being another person who has been a profound influence on my life, whether you realize it or not.
Do you have a side project? Would you like to share with us what it is and tell us how it influences your toy photography?