Before I was a commercial photographer, I was a professional costume designer, mostly for stage and film.
I’m still not entirely sure how I fell into the field, but I’ve most often said it was the result of a bad love affair, which is partially true and partially a glib answer designed to abruptly end the line of questioning. It was a great career, with the bad consistently outweighing the good, and I hold my time in entertainment as close to my soul.
During those crazy non-photography years, my life was creative, chaotic, stressful, and totally exhilarating. I loved my work, save the one season where my soul was consistently tested -Halloween- or as I called it, “The Day When Everyone Has My Job”.
One of two things would happen every October, starting around the middle of the first week. First, I would get a bunch of calls or emails from non-theatre friends asking me “what my opinion was” on their personal costume idea (You can see where this is going). If they were lucky enough to get me to answer them, the next step in the process was a sure bet. In the same conversation, or maybe later as a message on my answering machine, there would be the ask. “Do you have a _______ I can borrow? (fill in expensive, impossible item here.) Could you hem this tulle gown? Lend me a powdered wig? Find me white Go-Go boots? Get me magenta fishnets? Cut bigger holes in the back of this bear suit so I can go to the bathroom?” (In the woods, I’m guessing.) On and on. If I wasn’t careful, I could spend the entire month just doing the favors that came in daily. It was exhausting, thankless, and while I loved my friends, I hated it.
Until I became a photographer.
Because guess what? Now (almost) EVERYONE has my job (almost) every day. Since our cameras started coming with us everywhere we go, photography has become a preferred method of moment-to-moment communication, and we are all sizing up scenes to capture them in a way that expresses what we want to say. That change in accessibility all the way down the line, from taking photographs to sharing them, has given us all “The Halloween Moment” on a permanent basis. We are ALL photographers. 7 days a week.
And I’m still over here tryna get paid, which might make you think I’d be even more cranky than I was back in the costuming days. Nope. And here’s why.
When everyone is capable of doing something, the act of doing it becomes a common language. Let’s go back to Halloween for a sec. Remember the year you had the best costume ever? The one you were so proud of, felt like a champ in, wore after school for an entire week before the big event to ‘practice in it’, and then went to bed wearing after the big candy haul? I bet you remember what your friends wore that year, or at least who you were with, and how the rest of the evening played out. Wearing costumes brought you together that night – you got a look into other kid’s fantasy worlds, and they saw into yours. I think of today’s digital photography in a similar way. The images we choose to take and share are a way of engaging the world that transcends language and gets to the heart of who we are quickly – understandable in the blink of an eye. I love that everyone and anyone who can get their hands on a camera can speak that way. I want to see what you have to say.
And how do I manage to not feel like a costume designer on Halloween about it all?
For the times when you might need a translator, I’m here. Ready and willing.