Fate vs. Convictions - The Art of Tenacity

Tomorrow night, the Lake Oswego Arts Council will be revealing evidence of my 30-year-old dream - selling my scenic photography. It’s a small display with a huge story, distilled here as a story about balancing my two mindsets.

In 1985, with the Divine Guidance of Peter Gabriel (via audio cassette), I wore ruts into Interstate 84 from Pendleton to Portland as I sought work.

“The place where I come from, is a small town…”

“I’m on my way I’m making it…”

“…So much larger than life…”

NeverAlonge

At 20, his words became my mantra that I would be “The Ansel Adams of Color”. (and yes I know that I’m likely the ONLY photographer that has ever dreamed that).

In 1986 my quest was fulfilled when I was hired by Zupans in the Portland suburb, West Linn. My plan was to work my way into management to gain weekends off to shoot scenics and weddings. My wedding money would then become photo supplies to print the scenics and build my collection. Eventually - no retail!

Within my first year, I had an offer from the buyer at a large postcard printing company who’s name was on the back of every card at every store that sold souvenirs. Their offer - $25 for unlimited usage for cards, calendars etc., all to see my name to barely appear in a size 3 font (mild exaggeration) where only fellow photo enthusiasts would ever read it.

At that point, I had about six years in retail, and a pretty good grasp on the whole “quick nickel/slow quarter” concept of how to make a profit. $25 with no added incentives was an insult. I defiantly refused the offer, knowing that my work was worth more than seeing my name on a card while they made all the profits.

Mirror on the Mountain

Ten years later, in 1995, after the same reaction to art galleries, I came up with the name Prints Charming Photography & Framing to create a business that would allow other artists to sell their work for a more valued cut of the commission. I would offer all of the marketing, framing and visibility to sell their work at a price that would be of value to them as the creative conduit. Actually getting paid enough to cover the cost of film, processing, printing, mounting, spraying, framing and just MAYBE some of the time involved in mastering their craft. It was my intention to defy the idea of “starving artist”.

At the time, I was delving into the idea of fate. I proudly dubbed myself a fatalist, never grabbing the first fortune cookie. After allowing others to pick theirs, I loved the idea of accepting what was left as my own. While I won’t completely condemn the teachings of The Tao and practicing non-attachment, I will say that there are times when I really needed to grow a spine! Being selfless came natural to me, but I took a firm stance when I was being devalued.

I Am

Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time”  would always come on the radio whenever I really needed to hear it. Call it Fate. My portrait mentor Lou had always seen me integrating my ability with people with my passion for scenic images. Both came easy to me, so my gallery vision evolved into a portrait studio instead. On August 1st, Prints Charming Photography opened as a home-based portrait studio.

Fast-forward to April 2015, I began to reevaluate my higher Purpose in life, and what I am to do with my photography. I started to journal more vigorously, determined to find out exactly what I’m here to accomplish between the proverbial parenthesis of birth and death. From that project, I set out to create a personal mission statement which now hangs above my desk.

“Out of the Blue” (caps intended, where Greater Forces are credited) I received an invitation from the Lake Oswego Arts Council to display my scenic work. They were looking specifically at anything I had that was a minimum of 2000 miles away. Who would’ve thought 30 years ago, that I would be saying “Well, I’ve got a few from Japan, The Bahamas, Australia, New Zealand and Kenya, what would you like?” All were scenic images created on the back-side of a people-related photo assignment. I sent a few samples of each, and they selected Kenya, and {gasp} Japan.

I LOVED my Japan collection, but all were shot in film, and none had been printed. I had low resolution scans of the ones they viewed, but nothing big enough to print. Fate or Conviction? After 20+ years of mind-science experimentation, I proved that I could have anything I put my mind to. The trouble is, I also discovered that “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should”. That some times, if it takes too much effort, then fate trumps convictions. 

I used a vendor several years prior, who would scan my medium format negatives, allowing me creative control in Photoshop to then print with today’s means. With two months to go, I left the negatives with him. Over the course of six weeks, I checked in 5 times to get updates on the “machine going down”, “not enough staff” and ultimately them scanning them so small that I could only get them up to 8x10. They offered to rescan them overnight, so that I could still meet my looming deadline, all while I had a similar scenario with my intended printer.

Still too small, and the printer conceding on the Sunday before the Monday deadline, my thoughts eluded to "I have nothing to show for my vision". The next day, I woke up with a burning opposition to that thought.

BULL$#|+, I have nothing! I have a DREAM and I'm not waiting another year to have my first showing!

Peter Gabriel in my head, I found my way back to my mantra "There's always a way..."

I had just completed some work for a company I serve called ArtSpace.com. They send their artists to me to digitize their images. After reading several articles on my camera’s processor vs. scanning, I realized that I had an amazing solution sitting in my camera room.

You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.
— Richard Bach, "Illusions: Handbook for a Reluctant Messiah"

I edited the small images, printed them to their largest 240 dpi size on glossy paper to avoid texture, and then photographed them to be printable on a larger size. I found an alternate printer, same-day mounting, and gutted my studio of the frames that paired best to the images I wanted. 

While the color may be a bit off of my ideals, and I may not sell a thing, I got to throw a little gas on my fire, and re-Mind myself that NOBODY can argue for my limitations. After 30 years, I am having my first showing EVER at 510 Museum and Art Space in downtown Lake Oswego Oregon! If you went, please drop a note below to tell me what you think.

Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they are yours.
— Richard Bach, "Illusions: Handbook for a Reluctant Messiah"
KenyaJapan

So they're not even on the wall here, and it's just a little phone photo, but what one grabs you most? I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Cheers! Brian

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Brian Geraths

Passionate for nature, life, writing and sharing, this site is mutually dedicated to my three favorite vehicles through life - Photography, Writing and Speaking. As professional photographer I was (and still am) in my favored "Observer" mode. As writer, these observations exposed a deeper understanding into ethics, authenticity and leadership. As speaker, I get to be selfish. In giving we gain - big! By helping you to discover your own authenticity, passion and where you too are a leader, I get a huge pang of fulfillment. Yes, I am a giver - the most selfish sort of person that ever was. (that is, once you realize how great the results of giving truly are)