Cup: Half Empty or Half Full?


It’s always an interesting question. I can positively, and definitely say, I see it both ways. (And in the political spirit of the season) I wholeheartedly admit to flip-flopping, flip-flopping like a pack of teenage girls on the beach, on this issue. One day one way, one day another. So, what I say, here, now, is true for today, tomorrow, we’ll see….

So recently my “daytime” employer, thee who provides me health insurance, bought several new newspapers (new for us.) We went from having 6 weekly papers to 9. The 3 additions are also a significant hike away. This will most severely effect the circulation staff and the photo staff, in my estimation, because we’re the people that have to travel there. No way around it for us. We have to be on scene, we can’t work via phone calls and email.

Of course, my first response is panic. Change causes fear in many people, me included. I believe this is natural, and good. Change is symbolic of food or shelter being at risk, and people want to live. I want to live. I want to live my happy, shiny little life. That has been largely my response, and is going to continue to be part of my response till I see how this all works out.

My belief is that photo doesn’t have the resources to do the job properly. The company’s position is that they’ve added the resources they can, and that will do the job, and otherwise we’ll find a way. (Hmmm…the staff wants more, the management wants to give less than what the staff “needs”…this song sounds familiar, like the song sung at every company everywhere, except maybe Google. I don’t want to work at Google, or own Google, I want to be Google. Someday.) Where it all lands? Who knows? Give it a few weeks to a few months.

To date, what I’ve been seeing is the company believing I should work 70-hour weeks, and that all the photos should just magically get done, somehow. I like to think of it as the “Photo-Fairy”(picture me in a tutu with a wand in one hand with a magically light weight pro-body and lens combo on the end, just taping people and getting photos and floating over traffic.) Now, my publisher expects a lot out of the photo staff, but he’s not inhuman. The problem is, he doesn’t understand photo. He’s a writer, writers never get photo. They’ve never done it, don’t get what’s involved except in rare instances. Alas, my boss (photo editor, PE) and I aren’t good at communicating our workload to the office. We’re always on the road, I only go in when I have to and call when I have something to talk about. They know as little as I show them.

The solution? Better communication, better self-management. I need to realize my days are going to be full. Every day. Previously some days were full, some over-full, some downright slow. As a colleague (Strazzante) once said, (I’m paraphrasing as I don’t remember exactly, but it’s a great sentiment) “I average 40-hours a week, but I don’t work 40-hours any one week.” I’ve had weeks hit 70 hours in 5 days in the past. I never minded that much, as much as I get kind of pissy and bitchy those weeks. Why? Because some point down the road, I’d have a 30-hour week or less, and maybe a few of them. Over a year, I’m guessing I averaged 45, maybe 50 hours a week. I can live with that.

Now those slow weeks are gone. This means, no more sprints, but a constant marathon. I have to work 50 hours a week, but not more, not more because I won’t have the slow week to walk after the sprint. It’s a constant jog. The office won’t be able to see how much I work, they don’t do my job, they don’t know. I have to set this pace, and they have to respect it. That’s all they have to do, is respect the limits I set and listen to what I’m telling them. Hopefully they can accomplish this. I don’t usually give them credit for this, but this is often unfair, as I’m bad at communicating the limits to them, and why.

So hopefully by managing myself better, I can keep the potential bad of this growth at bay. But the good? That had been simmering in my head, but really hit today, and it involves, of all words, bhangra. Yes, bhangra.

See, over the summer, I went to one of the Millennium Park Dance Festival events of band that was recommended to me, Funkadesi. (FYI – they are absolutely awesome.) I learned how to bhangra dance at this event. Good times. Need to do that more. Apparently bhangra is a from of traditionally Indian dancing, I learned this at that point. I need to do more of it, just an FYI.

So today, I’m driving down Devon, in one of our new neighborhoods (I have no idea what neighborhood mind you), and I realize I’m in a heavily Indian neighborhood. “Hmmm…”(he says in his head) “wonder if I can find some bhangra to shoot for these new papers.” That sounds like fun.

Then it hit me. Duh! Okay, we now have some freelance budget, so if I’m booked, it’s not as bad. If I limit myself to the jog, and don’t get burned out, I can take the chance to explore these new neighborhoods, which I’ve been rather interested in since this acquisition was first announced. If I do some research, learn what’s going on, where, and find the visually interesting ideas, as long as I stay ahead of the writers (which is like hurtling a cantalope, not much more than walking) I can save them the effort of finding photo spreads and drop-ins, and create my own. Writers are inherently lazy people (I really rather like writers, and by writer I mean reporter, not real writers, oh yeah, bring it on, and respect them, really, I do, they just don’t plan well, as a group. There are some wonderful, marvelous exceptions. Yeah, and photographers are pre-Madonnas, we are, which is one of the common complaints. That and all women think we’re hot. We are. Just suck it up writers, Photographer equals sexy, don’t be jealous. Don’t be hating.)…where was I? Oh yeah, writers are always behind on their photo requests and don’t like doing them. So if I can find ideas for those imagery needs first, they’ll be happy not having to do that work, and not get in my life with they’re non-photogenic ideas. (I kid you not, “They’re doing this old time radio broadcast. This should be really cool and interesting, let’s get 5 images out of this!” What about “radio” says “visual”? People standing by a mic, one prop person.) This is a good thing. I get to photograph more photogenic subjects and events, and do more of what I want.

I’m a believer in chaos. Chaos is good, just follow me here for a second. In chaos, the people who usually come out the other side in the best condition are those who are best trained, most intelligent, most adaptable, best prepared, and generally, strongest (in which ever form the word “strong” need take.) I’ve been through chaotic times with other companies in the past, I’ve done well, quite well. I believe, if I take control of my situation, I can come out the other side, doing more of what I want, less of the reporter requested schmuck grip and grin, ribbon cutting crap. Maybe I can even book all my Friday and Saturday nights October through March and not ever shoot basketball again. Okay, that might be too much to ask.

I do have about 20% of the city of Chicago to work with. I might, just might, be able to find a way to fill 30, maybe 40 hours a week, with what I want. Okay, that might be high, but you never know.

I’m not sure how true this all is. I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge. I’m not even totally convinced the opportunity is really there. But maybe it is. Just maybe.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow the world be crashing down again. Oh well. (I’m smirking here.)

One Response to “Cup: Half Empty or Half Full?”

  1. Kitten says:

    I think the phrase you’re looking for is “prima donnas” although “pre-Madonnas” provided me with a much more entertaining mental image.

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